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A Guide to the Louis Bishop Capron Papers

Finding aid prepared by Vanessa Attia

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
December 2009


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Capron, Louis Bishop, 1891-1971
Title: Louis Bishop Capron Papers
Dates: 1913-1971
Abstract: The Louis Bishop Capron Papers comprise personal correspondence, fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, and photographs of this children's author and amateur ethnographer of the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Indians. Most of the materials pertain to Capron's interest in and friendship with the Seminoles.
Extent: 2.5 Linear feet. 7 Boxes.
Identification: Ms 11
Language(s): English
Access: Researchers should consult with Special Collections staff before using the collection because there are access restrictions. See the Access note for more information.
Online Content Items from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

Louis Bishop Capron was born in Albany, New York in 1891. Capron spent his childhood in Oneonta, where his exposure to local Indian history fostered an interest in folklore and ethnography. He attended Yale University to study chemistry, but received informal anthropological training by sitting in on graduate courses and participating in the Yale-Andover Archeological Survey of the Connecticut River Valley.

Capron moved to Florida in 1925 and worked at the Palm Beach Mercantile Company until 1952. He developed friendships with the Tommie family of the Seminole tribe after meeting them in 1926 during hurricane relief work. This encounter initiated a life-long relationship with the Seminoles that would inform both his work as an author and lay scholar.

Capron's young adult adventure fiction and nonfiction works both detailed the social life and customs of the Florida Seminole Indians. The novels he is best known for include White Moccasins, Golden Arrowhead, and The Red War Pole. He is also noted for his ethnographic work on the significance of medicine bundles and the Green Corn Dances. In 1953 his article on the subject was published by the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnography. Capron's nonfiction works on the Seminoles were also published by National Geographic. Capron died on December 16, 1971.

Sources: Interview by Samuel Proctor, August 31, 1971, SEM 30, Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.; "Louis Capron's First Published Book Is, of Course, On Indians," Palm Beach Post-Times, Sunday, Sept. 12, 1948, in the Capron Papers, Box 1, Biographic Material folder; Henry Marks, Who Was Who in Florida (Huntsville, Ala.: Strode Publishers, 1973); "Obituary, Louis Bishop Capron," The Florida Historical Quarterly 50(1) (July 1971): 461.


Scope and Content

The Capron Papers contain biographical materials and personal correspondence; fiction and nonfiction manuscripts; photographs, negatives, and slides by Capron; and photographs collected by Capron.

Biographical materials in the collection include newspaper clippings, blurbs from book jackets, diplomas, drawings, and personal photographs of Capron and his family. The correspondence (arranged by correspondent) spans the years from 1931 to 1967 and often includes both incoming and outgoing letters. Of special note is extensive correspondence with Smithsonian anthropologist William C. Sturtevant from 1952 to 1963.

The papers feature select typed manuscripts of several of Capron's novels, short stories, and non-fiction works on the Seminoles; several have extensive autograph revisions and outlines. The manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by title. Some also include Capron's rough sketches of suggested illustrations to accompany the text. The manuscripts in the collection are not exhaustive, but include some of his better known works like White Moccasins, The Golden Arrowhead, The Blue Witch, and others. Capron's first novel, The Red War Pole, is not included. Also absent from the collection are materials related to Capron's best known publication with the Smithsonian, "The Medicine Bundle of the Florida Seminole and the Green Corn Dance."

A significant portion of the collection is comprised of photographs taken by Capron-primarily portraits and group shots of Seminole men, women, and children in traditional attire and villages from the 1920s to 1970s. These are arranged into groupings designated by Roman numerals that he assigned. Negatives of these are keyed to their corresponding prints. People of interest featured in the photographs include the Tommie family, Toby Jones' family, John Osceola's family, the Motloe family, Dr. Tiger, and others. Furthermore, a compilation of slides from 1954 to 1967 depict canoe-making, basket-making, individual and group portraits, and landscapes. A number of these slides were incorporated by Tom King, of the UF Oral History Program, into a slide show that was in use in 1980 at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Capron also collected the work of other photographs of the Seminoles, dated from 1926 to 1949. Included in his collection are photographs from the Works Progress Administration, the Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnography, Silver Springs, and other unidentified sources. Among these are photographs of Billy Bowlegs III and other portraits and traditional scenes. They also include color photographs that juxtapose the architecture of traditional chickees with modern houses in the 1960s. In addition, Capron collected illustrated prints, clippings, and postcards of and about the Seminoles that are included in the collection.


Access or Use Restrictions

Access

The collection is open for research. Box 5 is restricted from public access because it contains images of Seminole ceremonies not normally open to public view. Images bearing on death or mortality are also segregated from other photos. Contact curator for more information.


Related or Separated Material

See also the Albert DeVane collection and the Edward T. Keenan papers available at the University of Florida Special and Area Studies Collections. The transcript of an interview with Capron is available online from the University of Florida Oral History Collections. Other recordings of Capron speaking about cattlemen and the Seminoles are available in the Sound Archives.


Administrative Information

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Louis Bishop Capron Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Clara Hunter Capron. A number of photographic prints and slides were acquired from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Processing Notes

Manuscripts from the Florida Fiction collection, originally donated by Clara Hunter Capron, were joined with the Louis Capron Photographs to form a single collection. All correspondence has been re-foldered by correspondent and organized chronologically.

Box 3 contains Capron's photographs of Seminole life and people. This material is arranged in folders according to Capron's original organization, which goes by Roman numeral. Some folders are now under restriction and are housed separately.

There has been some reorganization of the contents of Boxes 3 and 4 in an attempt to group by known or conjectured provenance of photographs that Capron collected but apparently did not take himself. Known provenances for these photos include Tom King, Works Progress Administration, Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnography, Silver Springs, etc.

A number of photographic prints and slides taken and collected by Capron were acquired from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and consolidated into the collection. These slides have been labeled according to the order of Kodak boxes in which they were originally stored, but are housed in folders in Box 4 of the Capron papers. The slides arranged by Tom King, and used for an open house at the Florida Museum of Natural History, have been kept together but were drawn from throughout the slide collection.


Contents List

Biographical Materials and Correspondence


Box
1 "Notes of the Hunting Dance of the Cow Creek Seminole" (two photocopies)
1 Capron, Louis B. - Biographical Materials
1 Photos - Personal
1 Correspondence - Personal
1 Correspondence - Cudrew, Charles. 1937-1944
1 Correspondence - Boyd, Mark. 1954-1955
1 Correspondence - Father Jerome. 1957-1958
1 Correspondence - Griswold, Oliver. 1957
1 Correspondence - Keenan, Edward T. 1959
1 Correspondence - Marsh, Mrs. Phil L. 1961
1 Correspondence - Pratt, Theodore. 1953-1967
1 Correspondence - Sturtevant, William. 1959
1 Capron Diplomas
1 Drawings


Manuscripts


Box
1 Along the King's Road
1 Black Flag
1 Blue Witch
1 Calico Cow
1 "Changing Seminoles"
1 "Fifteen Feet of Safety"
1 "Florida Treasure"
1 "Florida's Emerging Seminoles" (First proof of 1969 National Geographic article with photographs and annotations.)
1 Gator Hammock
1 "Gator Tickling"
1 Golden Arrowhead
1 "Great Cabbage Sweepstakes"
2 "How to Catch an Alligator" (Includes sketches by Capron.)
2 "Hunting Dance" (Includes sketches by Capron.)
2 "Last Wild Indians"
2 "Medicine Lives"
2 "Notes on the Hunting Dance of the Cow Creek Seminole"
2 "Old Time Seminole"
2 "On the Seminole War Path"
2 "Palm Beach Goes Colonial"
2 "Palm Beach Mastodon"
2 "Seminole Medicine"
2 "Seminole Mysteries". 1953
2 "Things You Don't Know About the Seminoles"
2 "Unconquered Seminoles"
2 "White Faced Cow"
2 White Moccasins
2 Bound book of poems authored by Capron (Includes handwritten records of submissions for publication and rejection/publication dates.)
2 St. Nichols, November 1918 issue (Includes "The New Ornerythology" by Capron)
2 The Argosy, October [19]13 issue (Includes "A Widow in Arcadia" by Capron)
2 The Argosy, June [19]29 issue (Includes "With Heart Complications" by Capron)


Photographs and Slides


Box
3 Seminoles - Section I Folder 1, Sam Tommie and Family '41
3 Sam Tommie
3 Mamie Tommie (Sam's wife)
3 Shadie Tommie (Daughter of Sam and Mamie)
3 John Fewell
3 Seminoles - Section I (continued) Folder 2, Sam Tommie and Family '41
3 Sam Tommie
3 Mamie Tommie (Sam's wife)
3 Shadie Tommie (Daughter of Sam and Mamie)
3 John Fewell
3 Seminoles - Section I (continued) Folder 3, Sam Tommie and Family '41, (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section II Folder 1, May 1926
3 Toby Johns' wife and kid
3 Toby Johns' mother and mother's sister
3 Sam Jones Family
3 Widow Lady
3 Kids
3 John's girl and sister's kids
3 Seminoles - Section III Folder 1, "Indians - Ft. Pierce, May - 1926"
3 Toby Johns' wife and kid
3 Toby Johns' mothers [Annie Johns] and mother's sister
3 Sam Jones Family
3 Kids
3 Johns' girl and sister's kids
3 [Lois Johns]
3 Seminoles - Section III Folder 2, "Indians - Ft. Pierce, May - 1926" (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Wanda Smith
3 Juanita Smith
3 Seminoles - Section IV Folder 1, "John Osceola's Camp Miami September '46" - John Osceola and daughters
3 Seminoles - Section IV Folder 2, "John Osceola's Camp Miami September '46" (NO NEGATIVES)
3 John Osceola's daughters
3 John Osceola's son
3 Seminoles - Section V Folder 1, "Congo Billie, Dr. Tiger, Henry Billie, and Abraham Lincoln Clay"
3 Seminoles - Section V Folder 2, "Congo Billie, Dr. Tiger, Henry Billie, and Abraham Lincoln Clay" (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Henry Billie
3 Congo Billie
3 Dr. Tiger
3 Seminoles - Section VI Folder 1, Children and Starfire man watching woman work
3 Seminoles - Section VI Folder 2, Children and Starfire man watching woman work (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section VII Folder 1, "Visitors 1948..."
3 Annie Jones
3 Sally Maeltoe
3 Ada Smith
3 ___ Jones
3 Lois Smith
3 Tom Smith
3 Scott Jones
3 Fort Pierce
3 Seminoles - Section VII Folder 2, "Visitors 1948..." (NO NEGATIVES) - Lois Smith
3 Seminoles - Section VIII Folder 1, "Baptist Mission School, Lakeland, September, '46" - Josie Billy
3 Seminoles - Section IX, Dania Indians September - 1946, Mission Kindergarten
3 Moses Jumper
3 Ben and Tody Tommie
3 Seminoles - Section X, Sutsi - Shally, Dorothy, Motloe Family 1949
3 Sutsi - Shally
3 Dorothy
3 Shally - Dorothy
3 Satsee
3 Jack's Geneva and Gina
3 August 1949
3 218 Westminster
3 Motloe Family 1949
3 Sally
3 Satsee
3 Geneva
3 Dorothy
3 Mandi Johns
3 Seminoles - Section XI Folder 1, Sam Tommy, Pneumonia Camp, Range Line Rd. - Delray Jan. 1937, Sam's Hunting Camp
3 Seminoles - Section XI Folder 2, Sam Tommy, Pneumonia Camp, Range Line Rd. - Delray Jan. 1937, Sam's Hunting Camp (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XII Folder 1, Cleaning Gopher, Tom Smith's Camp
3 Seminoles - Section XIII Folder 1, Cleaning Gopher, Sam Tommie and Family
3 Seminoles - Section XIV Folder 1, Johns girl and hog fire, Blue fields, Sam Tommie, Old Spanish Trail
3 Seminoles - Section XIV Folder 2, Johns girl and hog fire, Blue fields, Sam Tommie, Old Spanish Trail (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XV Folder 1, Alligator Hunt w/ Sam [Tommie] June '36
3 Seminoles - Section XV Folder 2, Alligator Hunt w/ Sam [Tommie] June '36 (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XVI Folder 1, Alice Jimmy
3 Seminoles - Section XVII Folder 1, Alice Jimmy and Father
3 Seminoles - Section XVII Folder 1, Charlie Micco
3 Seminoles - Section XIX Folder 1, Sewing Machines
3 Seminoles - Section XIX Folder 2, Sewing Machines (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XX Folder 1, Cattle Round-up, Brighton, Pie-eating contest, woman and children
3 Seminoles - Section XX Folder 2, Cattle Round-up, Brighton, Pie-eating contest, woman and children (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XXXVII Folder 1, Ada Gopher
3 Seminoles - Section XXXVIII Folder 1, Martha Willie
3 Seminoles - Section XXXIX Folder 1, Seminole Miscellaneous 1936 [studio photographs]
3 Seminoles - Section XXXIX Folder 2, Seminole Miscellaneous 1936 [studio photographs] (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XI Folder 1, Unidentified Families
3 Seminoles - Section XI Folder 2, Unidentified Families (NO NEGATIVES) - Gopher Family?
3 Seminoles - Section XLI Folder 1, Misi Tiger, Old Mrs. Annie
3 Seminoles - Section XLI Folder 2, Old Mrs. Annie, Unidentified women, chickee construction (NO NEGATIVES)
3 Seminoles - Section XLII Folder 1, Unidentified man in camp, Unidentified woman in camp, Miscellaneous
3 Seminoles - Section XLIII Folder 2, Miscellaneous (NO NEGATIVES) - Connie Frank
3 Photos - Seminoles (King Collection) 1970s [King Collection photos incorporated into collection of Louis Capron]
3 Photos - Seminoles #16 (WPA Collection) [WPA photos incorporated into collection of Louis Capron]
3 Photos - Seminole #15 (Randle/Randall/WPA Collection)
3 Seminoles -- 1920s - early 1930s? (WPA) [Unidentified photographer incorporated into collection of Louis Capron]
3 Seminoles - 1920s - early 1930s? (WPA) [Unidentified photographer incorporated into collection of Louis Capron]
3 Photos - Seminole (Corse/WPA Collection)
3 Peebles Collection
4 Photos - Seminole (Ft. Lauderdale News/Miami Herald) [Newspaper photos incorporated into collection of Louis Capron]
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/out credit - Old, Traditional, and New Housing c. 1960s)
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/out credit - Housing and Construction/Living conditions c. 1960s I)
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/out credit - Housing and Construction/Living conditions c. 1960s II)
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/out credit - Construction, Crafts, Events, etc.)
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/out credit - Feb. and March 1961/Dress and Activities)
4 Photos - Seminole (Misc. w/ credit)
4 Seminoles - Provenance unknown, Misc.
4 Misc. - Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnography
4 Silver Springs Seminole Indian Village
4 Silver Springs Postcards [photographic fronts] and Tamiami Trail postcard
4 Misc./Unidentified Individuals - [Sam Tommie?], Billy Bowlegs in 1948
4 Women, Children, and others
4 Unidentified children and other scenes
4 Polaroids of Mrs. Ingram Billie, Billy Osceola, Joe Dan Osceola
4 Prints from Capron's Collection
4 Milly Francis scene
4 Nocoshimatt-tash portrait
4 Diorama, Seminole Room, Ft. Marion
4 Florida, 1838
4 Indians in ambush
4 Capture of Indian chiefs
4 Seminoles - clippings/postcards
4 Slides (These folders are designated by their original box numbers)
4 Box 1, Seminoles, 1954[?]
4 Box 2, Seminoles, 1962
4 Box 3, Seminoles, 1967
4 Box 4, Seminoles, 1967
4 Box 5, Cow Creek Corn Dance, July 8, 1967
4 Box 6, Seminoles
4 Box 7, Seminoles, 1969
4 Box 8, Seminoles, 1958
4 Box 9, Seminoles
4 Box 10, Seminoles
4 Box 11, Key West
4 Box 12, Seminoles, 1955[?]
4 Box 13, Seminoles
4 Box 14, Seminoles
4 Box 15, Seminoles
4 Box 16, Seminoles
4 Box 17, Musa Isle
4 Box 18, East Florida Herald, 1835-1836
4 Tom King Slideshow, October 1980, "Indian Slideshow for Museum Open House - Duplicate Slides"
5 Photographs Restricted
6 Negatives (keyed to positives)
7 Negatives (keyed to positives)


Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Andrews, Charles.
Boyd, Mark.
Griswold, Oliver.
Seminole Indians -- Social life and customs.
Sturdevant, William.



For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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