Jeremiah Curtin (1835–1906)
His Life and Work as Linguist, Folklorist, and Translator
Jeremiah Curtin (1835–1906) was one of the outstanding linguistic field-workers of the 19th century, though much of his material remains in manuscript form. His scholarly reputation rests primarily on his activity as folklorist and translator of the works of Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1916), the Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Curtin was born in Detroit and brought up in the wilds of Wisconsin, where his parents, immigrants from Ireland, made a farm. Leaving home at 21, he worked his way through Harvard, learning new languages at every opportunity. After a brief period as a junior diplomat in St Petersburg, he worked as a journalist and eventually joined the Bureau of American Ethnology as a field worker. His assignments took him to the Seneca, to various tribes in Oklahoma and to California and Oregon, where he gathered folktales, myths, and other linguistics materials from many languages of aboriginal America. Returning to Europe on numerous occasions, Curtin gathered and published folklore from Eastern Europe and Ireland; in addition, he continued his studies of the languages of the Caucasus, of India and Persia. Work in Siberia resulted in two volumes about the Mongols. Throughout much of the latter part of his life he continued his translations from the Russian and Polish.
Published online: 01 January 1975
The References include several books by Curtin not mentioned in the article but of relevance to the topic. Ed.
Garth, Thomas Russell
Landar, Herbert J.
Olmsted, D(avid) L(ockwood)