Skip to main content

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




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.

First expedition to British Columbia, Canada, botanizing for Dr. Charles H. Shaw of the University of Pennsylvania
Second expedition to British Columbia, Canada, botanizing for Dr. Charles Shaw
Third expedition to British Columbia. Traveled with Professor Herschel C. Parker in connection with the Canadian Topographical Survey Expedition
1910 Summer
Fourth expedition to British Columbia, exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide
1912 Summer
Fifth expedition to British Columbia, exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide
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.
Seventh Canadian expedition, commisioned by the Canadian government to map headwaters of the Fraser River
Map of the Fraser River, created by Akeley and her guide man Donald Phillips, is published by the American Geographic Society
Eighth expedition to Canada, returning to the area near Mt. Sir Alexander and making an unsuccessful attempt to climb the mountain
1917-1918 Winter
Ninth expedition to Canadian Rockies, to the same area near Mt. Sir Alexander
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
Name Special Advisor and Assistant of African Hall Exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, succeeding late husband Carl Akeley
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
1936 May 16
Offical opening of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History
Embarked on tenth and final expedition to the Canadian Rockies, dubbing it a "journey of rediscovery"
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

Biographical Note

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).


(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].


Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Mary Jobe Akeley papers

Identifier: Mss .A342-.A344

Mary Jobe Akeley papers, 1859-1940, reproduction

Identifier: Archives Microfilm #76
Scope and Contents

Microfilm of Mary Jobe Akeley papers (1859-1940) relating to Mary Jobe Akeley and her husband Carl E. Akeley.

Dates: Other: 1987

Carl and Mary in Africa

Identifier: Film Collection no. 24
Scope and Contents Filmed during the AMNH Eastman-Pomeroy-Akeley East African Expedition, 1926. In the opening sequence, Carl Ethan Akeley (associate in the AMNH Department of Mammalogy, and associate curator and adviser in the AMNH Department of Preparation) watches artist William R. Leigh painting habitat studies for the background of the klipspringer group, one of the dioramas now in the museum's Akeley Hall of African Mammals. At the campsite, located in the Lukenia Hills 40 miles east of Nairobi, Leigh...
Dates: 1926

William King Gregory papers, 1889-1948 (bulk 1906-1948)

Identifier: Mss .G7441
Scope and Contents The collection consists of administrative, scientific, academic and personal papers, and correspondence. Papers include Gregory's general correspondence with universities, colleges and scientists about his research topics and publications; correspondence with museums about purchasing replicas of fossils; and with students seeking employement. Other papers include lecture notes prepared for zoology classes emphasizing evolution, 1925-1926 and 1939; and manuscripts and notes for his...
Dates: 1889-1948; Majority of material found within 1906-1948

Mary Jobe Akeley photographs

Identifier: PPC .A426
Scope and Contents

Field photographs taken by Mary Jobe and Carl Akeley which include the Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy and other African expeditions, portraitures, and American Museum of Natural History lab views of Carl Akeley's taxidermy.

Dates: 1896-1930s