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INVENTORY OF THE AUGUSTUS AND ALICE DIXON LE PLONGEON PAPERS, circa 1840-1937, bulk 1860-1910
2004.M.18  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The collection documents the archaeological excavations, fieldwork, research, and writings of the nineteenth-century photographers, antiquarians, and amateur archaeologists Augustus and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, the first persons to systematically excavate and photograph the Maya sites of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal (1873-1886). The couple's pioneering work in documenting Maya sites and inscriptions with photography, which in many cases recorded the appearance of sites and objects that have subsequently been damaged or lost, was overshadowed in their own lifetimes by their theories of Maya cultural diffusion, and in particular by their insistence that the Maya founded ancient Egypt. The Le Plongeon's work, and evidence of their wide-ranging interests, is found in manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, and photographs. The collection also contains papers belonging to Maude and Henry Field Blackwell, who inherited the literary estate of the Le Plongeons.
Background
Augustus Henry Julian Le Plongeon was born on Jersey, Channel Islands on May 4, 1826. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris he embarked on a series of adventures in the Americas, beginning with an attempt to sail to Chile with a friend in the late 1840s. Wrecked off the coast, they made their way to Valparaiso, Chile, where Le Plongeon took a position at a local college. When gold rush fever reached Chile, he joined the exodus to northern California. By 1850 Le Plongeon was working as a surveyor and city planner in Marysville, California. To finance further travels he sold the land that he had received in payment for his services, going first to England, where he reportedly badgered Henry Fox Talbot into teaching him his new method for making photographic negatives on paper. From England Le Plongeon went to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to experiment with Talbot's techniques in tropical climates, and then traveled to Mexico, Australia, China, and the Pacific Islands. He returned to California at the end of 1851, established a photography studio in San Francisco, and also entered the medical profession, perhaps by apprenticing himself to a local doctor. By the 1860s Le Plongeon had appended the title Doctor in front of his name.
Extent
39.4 linear feet (63 boxes)
Restrictions
Contact Library Reproductions and Permissions.
Availability
Open for use by qualified researchers.