Horatio Emmons Hale

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Horatio Emmons Hale

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of David Hale and Sarah Josepha Hale
Brother of David Emerson Hale; Frances Hale; Sarah Josepha Hammond and William George Hale

Managed by: Private User
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About Horatio Emmons Hale


Horatio Emmons Hale (May 3, 1817 – December 28, 1896) was an American-Canadian ethnologist, philologist and businessman who studied language as a key for classifying ancient peoples and being able to trace their migrations. He was the first to discover that the Tutelo language of Virginia belonged to the Siouan family, and to identify the Cherokee language as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages. In addition, he published a work Iroquois Book of Rites (1883), based on interpreting the Iroquois wampum belts, as well as his studies with tribal leaders.

After his marriage to a Canadian woman in 1855, Hale moved to Ontario. He continued to publish articles in American scholarly journals, while living in Canada for the rest of his life.

Early life and education

Horatio E. Hale was born in Newport, New Hampshire, the son of David Hale, a lawyer, and of Sarah Josepha Hale (1790–1879), a popular poet. Besides editing Godey's Ladies' Magazine for many years and publishing some ephemeral books, she is the author of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb". She also famously campaigned for the creation of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving, and for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Hale attended common schools in his town. With an early interest in American Indian languages, he studied Oriental languages and graduated in 1837 from Harvard University.


He served as the philologist for the United States Exploring Expedition (1838–1842), which was led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The Hale Passages of Puget Sound were named in recognition of his service to the expedition. The expedition went on to Polynesia. Of the reports of that expedition, Hale prepared the sixth volume, Ethnography and Philology (1846), which is said to have laid the foundations of the ethnography of Polynesia. He continued to travel and study abroad.


Marriage and family

After marrying the Canadian Margaret Pugh of Goderich Township, Hale was admitted to the Chicago bar in 1855. The following year the Hales moved to Clinton, Ontario, Canada, where he administered the estate of his father-in-law. He began to involve himself locally in real estate development and other business and educational endeavours.

Native American studies

Hale returned to his study of First Nations and Native Americans. He was mentored by the Iroquois chiefs George Henry Martin Johnson and John Fraser, whom he met while visiting the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation. In addition he traveled to the United States to consult with other native informants. Hale documented the oral history and rituals of the Iroquois Confederacy. He was assisted in interpreting the group's wampum belts, which recounted their history. His work resulted in his publishing Iroquois Book of Rites (1883). He also studied the Iroquois languages, determining that Mohawk was the oldest and that the Laurentian languages were also Iroquoian.

Hale made many valuable contributions to the science of ethnology, attracting attention particularly by his theory of the origin of the diversities of human languages and dialects—a theory suggested by his study of child-languages, or the languages invented by little children. He also emphasized the importance of languages as tests of mental capacity, demonstrating that Native American languages were complex and had a high capacity for classification.

He used language as a criterion for the classification of human groups. He was the first to discover that the Tutelo language of Virginia belonged to the Siouan family, as well as the first to identify the Cherokee language as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages.

Besides writing numerous magazine articles, Hale read a number of valuable papers before learned societies. These include:

Hiawatha and the Iroquois Confederacy (1881) (available at Project Gutenberg)
Indian Migrations as Evidenced by Language (1882)
The Origin of Languages and the Antiquity of Speaking Man (1886)
The Development of Language (1888)
Language as a Test of Mental Capacity: Being an Attempt to Demonstrate the True Basis of Anthropology (1891)



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Horatio Emmons Hale's Timeline

Age 79