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Tlingit House Post and Gable Figure

Tlingit House Post and Gable Figure

The totemic house post and gable figure shown here are among the most striking items on display in the Museum of Anthropology’s exhibit hall. These architectural pieces, which are common to the traditional plank houses made by southeastern Alaskan tribes such as the Tlingit and Haida, have an interesting history. They are examples of some of the many items collected from native Alaskan villages by John Brady, who was governor of the territory from 1897 to 1906, and brought to Missouri for the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. The posts and gable figure were used on a clan house that was part of the fair’s Alaska display, which Brady exhibited in hopes of promoting immigration to the territory. Most of the display items were returned to Alaska after the fair, but the two corner posts and gable figure from the clan house were acquired by the University of Missouri and subsequently became a part of the Museum of Anthropology’s collections.

All three of these pieces, which are believed to have been collected in a Tlingit village, are of cedar. They are carved and painted to represent totemic figures, which serve to distinguish the owner’s lineage or clan. The two posts were placed at the front corners of the house to provide support and decoration; the tops are carved into seated anthropomorphic figures. The gable figure represents the head of a raven, one of the important emblems of the Tlingit and related tribes.

References and Related Links

Patrick, Andrew. 2002. The most striking of objects: the totem poles of Sitka National Historical Park. Anchorage, AK: U.S. Department of the Interior.

The 1904 World’s Fair online exhibit at the Missouri Historical Society.

Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska.

Text prepared by Mary French, winter 2006.
Photos by Daniel S. Glover.

spirit tablet
house post
gable figure
gable figure
1904 World's Fair photo
1904 World's Fair photo