Algic Researches is widely regarded as the greatest work of the “Father of American Folklore,” Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Originally published in two volumes in 1839 and never before reprinted, Clearfield Company is pleased to release it in a consolidated edition, complete with a new introductory essay by folklorist W.K. McNeil.
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was an early exponent of Native American culture and the most influential folklorist of his day. A one-time Indian agent and the son-in-law of an influential Chippewa, Schoolcraft eventually secured a position of respect and trust among the Native American tribesmen which in turn provided him “a favored place at an artesian outlet of Indian imaginative lore.” Convinced that oral narratives provided a key for unlocking the mystery of American Indian origins that had puzzled earlier writers, Schoolcraft eventually amassed a large corpus of Indian traditions which he published in numerous articles and books, most notably in Algic Researches. By “Algic,” Schoolcraft referred to that family of American Indian tribes that had become dispersed over a wide area between the Atlantic and the Alleghenies.
Algic Researches is the pivotal work in Native American folklore. Acclaimed in 1839 for its demonstration “of an oral imaginative lore among the aborigines of this continent,” it helped to establish the Indian as the main subject of nineteenth century-folklore scholarship and demonstrated the importance of tales and legends in piecing together the history of Native Americans. The book also advanced the idea of comparative studies in folklore scholarship. Most important, given today’s resurgent interest in Native American mythology, Algic Researches contained accounts of nearly fifty of the elemental myths and legends of the Odjibwa, Chippewa, Ottowa, Shawnee, Maskego, Saginaw, Algonquin, and Sioux.