[KS] Percival Lowell

Robert M Oppenheim rmo at austin.utexas.edu
Thu Apr 16 14:14:47 EDT 2015

Hi Frank and others,

It is always hard to figure out why a research focus DIDN'T have legs, but, there are perhaps a couple of local answers for the USNM:

1) Jenings, who was the one to run with hats at the Smithsonian, dies before the publication of his hats article in 1903.
2) Despite the focus of the 1889 exhibition - which may or may not have accorded with the curators' aims, it may just have been Mason playing to the crowd - hats or clothing more generally was never really theoretically productive for Mason or Hough.  Both were interested in telling grand evolutionary stories; Hough's obsession was the dialectic of the "taming of fire by man" and the "taming of man by fire."  Hats didn't help.
3) So Pyonggyu comes to Washington in the mid-1890s and spurs a new wave of Korean publication on Hough's part, but after that, as far as I know, the string of Korean helpers there ends for a bit.
4) The leading candidate: Mason, Hough, et al. simply became distracted by other things.  A decade or so later, around 1910, you can find a letter from Hough to Frederick Starr happily passing on the torch of interest in Korea and expressing regret that he never was able to do more with it.  He had moved on.


-----Original Message-----
From: Koreanstudies [mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com] On Behalf Of Frank Hoffmann
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:21 AM
To: Korean Studies Discussion List
Subject: Re: [KS] Percival Lowell

In the light of what Robert M. Oppenheim just wrote, how can it be that there is not a single academic study about hats then -- after that single attempt by Jenings in 1904 to summarize what those early travelers had observed? I have not seen any anthropologist, and certainly no art historian going beyond Lowell's Bostonian insights from the 1880s. Given the emphasis on hats in *many* of the early travelogues, and given the outstanding attention (!) and sophistication
(!) Korean men put into their hats -- Jenings talks about 65 styles for men alone -- hat styles probably tell us more about cultural, social, and economic change than e.g. changes in what we consider fine arts. 
Yet, all discussion replies on that lead back to the pre-1900s. And "Korean studies"?


On Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:26:49 +0000, Robert M Oppenheim wrote:
> Dear Hyung, all,
> Hats were also an obsession of the first U.S. National Museum
> (Smithsonian) exhibition of Korean items, which was up by 1889 and 
> possibly before based on Bernadou's, Jouy's, and possibly Allen's 
> materials.  Indeed Otis Mason, the main curator, quipped to a reporter 
> that "Korea is the land of hats."  Probably the ultimate source of 
> both the trope and the obsession - or at least this is my guess - is 
> in fact Lowell.  Lowell's book and Bernadou's collection basically 
> arrive at the USNM at the same moment and, on Mason's part, there is 
> this dynamic where Bernadou's materials both act as material 
> confirmation of what Lowell had said and overcome Lowell's purplish 
> prose and flights of fancy.  Still, the short answer is even the 
> "professionals" of the era had more time for Lowell than one might 
> expect, given their otherwise materialist/empiricist bent.
> And yes, then later there is Fo(r)ster Jenings.  Jenings got a lot of 
> help from So Kwangbom, who had remained a "friend of the museum" from 
> his first sojourn in DC in exile in the late 1880s (So, So Chaep'il, 
> and Pyon Su all assisted Mason and Walter Hough, and it seems clear 
> that So Kwangbom was the most closely associated) through his return 
> in 1896.  No idea if So had a hat thing too.
> Rob

Frank Hoffmann

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