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Garrick Mallery Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Garrick Mallery passes away in 1894.

Garrick Mallery was an American ethnologist.

Mallery was born on April 25th, 1831 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Mallery received an education largely from private tutors until 1846 when he enrolled in Yale College. He graduated from Yale in 1850. Three years later, in 1853, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Pennsylvania. That same year he was admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania and began practicing law. Mallery was gaining a reputation in the legal profession until the American Civil War started.

In the Civil War, Mallery enlisted as a volunteer first-lieutenant in the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. In June of 1862, Mallery was wounded at the Seven Days Battles. He was unable to move and was left on the battlefield where he was captured by Confederate Army. Some time later he was exchanged for Confederate prisoners being held by the Union. After being released, Mallery returned home to Pennsylvania to recover from his wounds. In 1863, he was commissioned as a lieutenant-colonel of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The 13th was assigned to Virginia during the military occupation of the state. During this time he was appointed as the judge advocate of the First Military District. He left the volunteer service in 1866 and immediately was commissioned in the Regular Army as a captain. He would receive promotions up to brevet colonel for meritorious service during the Civil War.

In 1870, Mallery was assigned to the Signal Corps. He was part of the signal corps for almost 10 years. During that time he was stationed in the Dakota Territory. There he first saw the indigenous people speaking with signs and gestures. He also discovered pictographs on rocks, skins and bark. He made a large number of transcriptions of the pictographs and foresaw that the signs, gestures and pictographs would be lost as the American Indian was brought more and more under the control of the civil authorities. Before Mallery began his study of the pictographs they were believed to be per-Columbian in origin with little or no meaning. Eventually he came to realize that they, along with the hand gestures, were a complete system involving mythology and history. He also realized that they were important to the spoken language as well.

When Mallery retired from the Army in 1879, his former commanding officer arranged to have him appointed to the newly formed Bureau of American Ethnology, whose purpose was to transfer records, archives and materials relating to the Indian of North America from the Department of the Interior to the Smithsonian. In that position he wrote several reports that turned into volumes, relating to the gesture language of various Indian cultures. His largest was 807 quarto (a single sheet of paper with four pages printed on front and back) paged report called Picture-writing of the American Indians. The report also contained 1,290 figures. Up to the time of his passing he was working on a follow on report, unfortunately he passed away before he could finish it. At least one of his reports is now considered the first authoritative exposition in the field of Ethnology, a branch of Anthropology which studies and compares different people and their relationship to each other.

One of Mallery's essays was Israelite and Indian. In the essay he compared the two cultures. At the time it was published it stirred up serious controversy.

Mallery passed away on October 24th, 1894.

Mallery was a member of Columbia Lodge No. 91 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.