The New International Encyclopædia/Morgan, Lewis Henry

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The New International Encyclopædia
Morgan, Lewis Henry
Edition of 1905. See also Lewis H. Morgan on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MORGAN, Lewis Henry (1818-81). An American ethnologist, born near Aurora, N. Y., November 21, 1818. He was graduated from Union College, New York, in 1840, and after a course in law, completed in 1844, he formed a successful partnership with his classmate, afterwards Judge George F. Danforth, in the city of Rochester. No sooner had he left college than he organized a society of young men in Aurora to be styled ‘The Grand Order of the Iroquois.’ The limits of the Grand Order were to be the territory anciently occupied by the Iroquois, and branch societies were to be established wherever an Iroquois tribe was known to have lived, with chapters standing for the Indian gentes. To show his profound interest in the organization, young Morgan went and lived among the existing tribes, in order to master their social organizations and forms of government. Morgan's scientific interests assumed a more substantial form in the now celebrated work, The League of the Iroquois (1851), in which the author, unconscious of the immense diffusion of the system, traced the social organization, government, daily occupations, and customs of this wonderful league. During this early period Morgan also studied and described the Iroquois art products and implements of daily life in the cabinet of natural history in Albany.

In 1856 Morgan made the acquaintance of Henry and Agassiz, who warmly urged him to continue his studies. In 1858, during a visit to Marquette on business, Morgan discovered, in visiting a camp of Ojibwa, that their system of kinship, list of gentes, and gentile organization were essentially the same as among the Iroquois. This was the revelation that determined Morgan's enduring fame. In 1869 the Smithsonian Institution published the result of eight years' uninterrupted research, travel, and correspondence, his System of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, a work essential to all studies on primitive sociology. His Ancient Society (1877) was a comprehensive and philosophical work, the result of twenty years' pursuit of a unique and engrossing inquiry. The author in this work divides on certain classific concepts the progress of culture into seven stages — Lower Savagery, Middle Savagery, Upper Savagery, Lower Barbarism, Middle Barbarism, Upper Barbarism, and Civilization.