MASON, OTIS TUFTON

Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III


Otis Tufton Mason (1838-1908), PhD, L.L.D., was born the fifth of eight children, on April 10, 1838, at Eastport, Washington County, Maine, son of John Mason (1799-1888), and Rachel Lincoln Mason (1810-1889).

Otis Tufton Mason was a remarkable American anthropologist who studied Native American Indian basketry, travel habits, and ethnological aspects of human culture especially in numismatics. He was possibly related to Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., since his own brother was named Ebenezer Erskine Mason (1829-1910), who was born the same year as E. L. Mason, Jr., born at Portland, Maine.

He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, son of John and Rachel (Lincoln) Mason; grandson of Tufton and Sarah (Gilman) Mason; great-grandson of Jeremiah Gilman, Lieutenant-Colonel First New Hampshire Militia..

He married Sarah Elizabeth Henderson  (1835-1900). They had five children : John H. Mason (1863-1864), George E. Mason (1866-1879), Emily Tufton Mason (1868-1904), and William R. Mason (1874-1875).

In 1861, he graduated Columbia University, now George Washington University.

He was from 1861 to 1884 He was professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, now George Washington University, in charge of the preparatory school. In this way he was thrown in personal contact with many men who have since grown up and are among the now solid business men of Washington DC..

In 1862, he received his M.A., Columbia University, now George Washington University.

In 1870, he graduated with a Ph.D., Columbia University, now George Washington University.

In 1878, he graduated with a L.L.D., Columbia University, now George Washington University.

In 1880, he was a member of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia.

He was curator of Ethnology, in the United States National Museum, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

In 1902, he was made head curator of Anthropology, the United States National Museum, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

The Popular Science Monthly, July  (1892)
Prof. Otis T. Mason is in charge of the ethnological treasures at the United States National Museum. He is a most systematic worker, and his card catalogue of references to literature of ethnography is well worthy of study. His annual summaries of anthropological progress are exceedingly valuable. More than any other American ethnographer he has carefully studied casing, display, and labeling. Where, as in the Eskimo series, the material from any given region or tribe is large in amount and varied in character, the arrangement is geographical. In general, however, the idea in the arrangement is to show culture history. This idea, so admirably carried out in Oxford, is scarcely found elsewhere in American museums. Some of the series are excellent; the development of the knife, the history of musical instruments, the history of fire-producing instruments are good. Some cases tell the story of a whole technique; thus the case of Guadalajara (Mexico) pottery shows by specimens and by small figures of potters at work every step in the manufacture. A point that Prof. Mason particularly wishes to emphasize is the way in which primitive man works. Thus he is not content with securing the various fire-making machines, but he must have Mr. Hough demonstrate their use by actually making fire with them. So he has encouraged Mr. Maguire to illustrate how stone tools were made by making them.

In 1893, he published : North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers (The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.)

He died of paralytic stroke on November 5, 1908 at Washington DC., and is buried there in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Bibliography :

Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington DC, The Smithsonian Institution, Vol. III (1885)
The Evening Star, Thursday, November 5, 1908

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