Akeley, Mary L. Jobe (Mary Lenore Jobe), 1878-1966

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1878 - 1966

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Mary L. Jobe (Mary Lenore Jobe) Akeley (born January 29, 1878, Tappan, Ohio— died July 19, 1966, Mystic, Connecticut), explorer, photographer, lecturer, writer, who went on numerous expeditions to the Canadian Rockies before marrying Carl Ethan Akeley, participating in his Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall expedition and being named Special Advisor and Assistant of the African Hall for the Museum of Natural History, after his death in 1926. She is the author of many publications, including Carl Akeley’s Africa, Restless Jungle, and Congo Eden.

Mary L. Jobe Akeley (née Mary Lenore Jobe) was born January 29, 1878 in on a farm in Tappan, Ohio, to Richard Jobe and Sarah Pittis. She was an explorer, photographer, writer, and lecturer (1). She became involved with the American Museum of Natural History in 1924 after her marriage to Carl Ethan Akeley. A participant in his 5th Expedition to Africa, she would then continue his work for the completion of the African Hall, after his death in November 1926, being named her husband’s successor as advisor for the exhibit. In 1929 she published Carl Akeley’s Africa, a detailed account of the Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition.

Akeley went to school in Deersville, Ohio before attending Scio College at age 15 in Alliance, Ohio. She received a Ph.B. in 1897 from the school, and in 1930 received an honorary doctorate. Akeley attended Bryn Mawr College for graduate school from 1901-1903, while also teaching at Temple College in Philadelphia. From 1903-1906, she was Head of the Department of History and Civics at the New York State Normal and Training School of Cortland. In 1909 she received her A.M. from Columbia University. During this time she was also a faculty member of the Department of History at the Normal College of the City of New York, until 1916 (1).

Amidst her studies, Akeley would also embark on her first expeditions to British Columbia. In 1905 and 1907 she botanized for Dr. Charles Shaw of the University of Pennsylvania (1). She would return to British Columbia in 1909 with Professor Herschel C. Parker on an expedition for the Canadian Topographical Survey, where she first began taking photographs. In 1910 and 1912, Akeley once again returned to British Columbia, where she explored Mt. Assiniboine. In 1912, she gave 40 lectures on the exploration of the Canadian Rockies (1). Her next expedition in 1913 would be her first alone to the Canadian Rockies, studying the Athabascan Indians. In 1914, Akeley was asked by the Canadian government to map the headwaters of the Fraser River. Akeley worked with Donald Phillips on the map, appointing him as her guide man. The map was published in 1915 by the American Geographic Society. In this same year, she purchased 45 acres in Mystic, Connecticut in order to establish a girl’s camp. “Camp Mystic” opened in 1916 and would close in 1930 as a cause of the Great Depression. She traveled with Phillips in 1915 and 1917-1918, back to the Canadian Rockies in attempts to climb Mt. Sir Alexander, although she was unsuccessful. In 1925, the Canadian government named a peak in the Canadian Rockies after her, dubbing it “Mt. Jobe” as a tribute to her work (1).

In 1920, Akeley would meet Carl Ethan Akeley at the home of a family friend. They married on October 18, 1924 in New York City. On January 30, 1926, she and her husband left on the Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy expedition, her first to Africa. Carl Akeley died in the Belgian Congo on November 17, 1926, during the expedition. Mary continued in his absence through spring of 1927, completing her husband’s work. For her efforts she was named Special Advisor and Assistant for the African Hall at the American Museum of Natural History and earned the Cross of the Knight, order of the Crown for both her and her husband’s work on the expedition (1).

Akeley remained in her role at AMNH, lecturing, writing, and raising funds for the African Hall, until 1938 (1). She returned to Africa two more times, leading her own expeditions. In June 1935, she departed New York for Transvaal, South Rhodesia and Portugese East Africa, where she took still and moving pictures of wild life, game perserves, and the Zulu and Swali tribes for AMNH, with the camera Carl invented. In 1937, she returned for a final time to the Canadian Rockies. In 1947, she returned a final time to Africa, at the commission of the Belgian government to survey the Belgian Congo African Parks, including the improved Albert National Park. Akeley photographed and filmed wild life on her expedition and also visited her husband’s grave site (1).

Akeley’s health deteriorated from 1959 until her death, due to hip problems and severe arthritis. She was hospitalized numerous times and in and out of nursing homes. She died in a nursing home on July 19, 1966 in Mystic, Connecticut. She never remarried and had no children. Upon her death, Akeley’s 45 acres of land were given to the Thames Science Center in Connecticut, an organization that focused on conservation issues. Now entitled the “Peace Sanctuary” the property remains open for the public. Akeley’s papers and photographs were donated to the American Museum of Natural History, while others are currently housed in the Mystic River Historical Society, after being transferred from the Thames Science Center in 1988 (1). On August 9, 2003, a historical marker was erected in Deersville, Ohio in her memory (2).

Sources

    (1) Crowther, Dawn-Starr. 1989. Mary L. Jobe Akeley. Tempe, Ariz. : School of Art, Arizona State University.
    (2) News release of dedication of historical marker in Deersville [AMNH Biographical files].
    Library Name Authority File: n87826827

Chronology

  • 1905: First expedition to British Columbia, Canada, botanizing for Dr. Charles H. Shaw of the University of Pennsylvania (1)., British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1907: Second expedition to British Columbia, Canada, botanizing for Dr. Charles Shaw (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1909: Third expedition to British Columbia. Traveled with Professor Herschel C. Parker in connection with the Canadian Topographical Survey Expedition (1)., British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1910: 1910 Summer. Fourth expedition to British Columbia, exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1912: 1912 Summer. Fifth expedition to British Columbia, exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1913: 1913 Summer. Sixth Canadian expedition and first solo, traveling to the west coast of Canada to study the Athabascan and Gitksan Indians, sanctioned by the Canadian government and the Hudson's Bay Co. (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1914: Seventh Canadian expedition, commisioned by the Canadian government to map headwaters of the Fraser River (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1915: Map of the Fraser River, created by Akeley and her guide man Donald Phillips, is published by the American Geographic Society. , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1915: Eighth expedition to Canada, returning to the area near Mt. Sir Alexander and making an unsuccessful attempt to climb the mountain (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1917 - 1918: 1917-1918 Winter. Ninth expedition to Canadian Rockies, to the same area near Mt. Sir Alexander (1)., British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1926 - 1927: First expedition to Africa with husband Carl Ethan Akeley, to finish groups for the African Hall at the Museum of Natural History. Lead the expedition to completion in 1927, after her husband's death in November 1926., AfricaExternal link.
  • 1927 - 1938: Name Special Advisor and Assistant of African Hall Exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, succeeding late husband Carl Akeley. , New YorkExternal link.
  • 1935 - 1936: Led own expedition to Transvaal, Southern Rhodesia and Portugese East Africa for American Museum of Natural History, capturing still and moving pictures of wildlife, game preserves and Zulu and Swazi Tribes (1). , AfricaExternal link.
  • May 16, 1936: Offical opening of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History. , New YorkExternal link.
  • 1937: Embarked on tenth and final expedition to the Canadian Rockies, dubbing it a "journey of rediscovery" (1). , British ColumbiaExternal link.
  • 1947: Third and final expedition to Africa, twenty years after Carl Akeley's death. Invited by the Institute of Belgian Congo Africa Parks and commissioned by the Belgian government to survey Albert National Parks as well as newly created parks (1). , République démocratique du CongoExternal link.

Terms

localDescription
female
localDescription
enhanced
localDescription
affiliated person
place
AfricaExternal link
(Expedition Site)

Participant in Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition to collect specimens for the African Hall at AMNH. Completed work after Akeley's death in November 1926. Returned to Africa on two more expeditions, in 1935-1936 and 1947.
place
British ColumbiaExternal link
(Expedition Site)

Participant in ten expeditions to the Canadian Rockies from 1905-1937, including the 1914 Exploration of the Northern Canadian Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia, for the Dominon Lands Survey.
place
OhioExternal link
(Birthplace)

Born in Tappan, Ohio in 1878. Attended school in Deersville, Ohio. The town erected a historical marker in her honor in 2003.
place
Mystic, CTExternal link
(Deathplace)

Died in Mystic, CT in 1966. Lived there for a good portion of her life and founded camp Mystic in 1916, after purchasing 45 acres of land in 1914. Closed in 1930, the site now functions as a Peace Sanctuary in Akeley's honor, open to the public.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

spouseOf
Akeley, Carl Ethan, 1864-1926
associated dates: 1924-1926

Married fellow explorer Carl Ethan Akeley on October 18, 1924 in New York.
American Museum of Natural History
participantIn
Camp Mystic
associated dates: 1914-1930

Founder and creator of Camp Mystic in Mystic, CT, a 44-acre summer camp for girl's that ran until the Great Depression forced its closure in 1930.
participantIn
Eastman-Akeley-Pomeroy Expedition
associated dates: 1926-1927

Participated in expedition to Africa with husband Carl E. Akeley. After Akeley's death during the expedition, Mary continued on with her husband's work, completing the expedition in 1927.
participantIn
Expedition to Africa
associated dates: 1935-1936

Lead expedition to Transvaal, Southern Rhodesia, and Portugese East Africa for the American Museum of Natural History, taking both still and moving photographs of the Zulu and Swazi tribes, as well as wildlife and game preserves (1).
employerOf
Phillips, Donald
associated dates: 1914-1918

Guide man of Akeley's on expeditions to the Canadian Rockies (1).
colleagueOf
Pomeroy, Daniel E.
associated dates: 1926-1935

Associative who founded the 1926-1927 Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy expedition to Africa and who remained involved with Akeley's future expeditions.

Related Resources

creatorOf
Mary Jobe Akeley papers, 1859-1940.
associated dates: 1859-1940

Creator: Akeley, Mary L. Jobe (Mary Lenore Jobe), 1878-1966. Extent: 25 boxes (11.25 linear feet) 5 printing plates Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Mss .A342-.A344
subjectOf
Carl and Mary in Africa [videorecording] [1926]
Creator: American Museum of Natural History. Extent: 1 videocassette (8 min.) : si., b&w ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 24
subjectOf
William King Gregory papers, 1889-1948 (bulk 1906-1948).
associated dates: 1906-1948

Creator: Gregory, William K. (William King), 1876-1970. Extent: 86 boxes (41.25 linear feet) Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Mss .G7441
subjectOf
Henry Fairfield Osborn papers, 1877-1935 (bulk 1908-1935).
associated dates: 1908-1935

Creator: Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935. Extent: 128 boxes (66 linear feet) Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Mss .O835

Written by: Sarah Cassone
Last modified: 2019 August 7


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