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.
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.
39.4 linear feet
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