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Letter to Dr. Wetmore of the Smithsonian Institution
Title : Letter to Dr. Wetmore of the Smithsonian Institution Letter to Dr. Wetmore of the Smithsonian Institution View More Images
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Creator : Mountford, Charles P.
Source : PRG 1218/17/8
Date of creation : 1948
Format : Letter
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Copyright :

The letter written by Dr. Wetmore is reproduced courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. It may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires written permission from Smithsonian Institution and the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Description :

Letter from C.P. Mountford to Dr. Alexander Wetmore, in which he gives an account of the attempt to replace him as Leader of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. 29 July, 1948.

This is followed by Dr Wetmore's reply to Mountford.

Soon after arriving at Yirrkala the Expedition received an official visit from a party comprising the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Arthur Driver, the acting Director of the Department of Information, Kevin Murphy, and the United States' consul in Adelaide, Elvin Seibert. Mountford and Deputy Leader Frank Setzler were summoned into a tent, where an intense discussion ensued.

According to this letter Mountford sent to Wetmore two weeks after the incident, the visiting officials had 'accused me of mismanagement (though all their accusations were based on incidents caused by the stranded Phoenix), made insulting remarks about my status as a scientist, and forbade me to carry out research work.... Mr Murphy then offered the control of the scientific personnel to Mr. Setzler... to my surprise Setzler did not refuse the position.' 

The next day the American scientists met, and Mountford's wife Bessie records in her diary that it was their influence that led to Setzler belatedly refusing the leadership offer.  'Never have I seen a man so utterly defeated as Frank S. He later confessed to Monty that never in his life had he been given such a drubbing: that he had never realized just how awful a thing he had done.'  (PRG 487/1/2 p. 260)

Shortly thereafter, Bessie typed a telegram from Setzler to Kevin Murphy of the Department of Information  '... after conferring with my American colleagues I find it impossible to accept the position you offered me. Regards Frank Setzler.' 

Related names :

Setzler, Frank M.

Wetmore, Alexander, 1886-1978

Coverage year : 1948
Region : Northern Territory
Further reading :

American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948). Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 1956-1964

Lamshed, Max. 'Monty' : the biography of C.P. Mountford, Adelaide : Rigby, 1972

Mountford, Bessie Ilma, Diary: Expedition to Arnhem Land, 1948, PRG 487/1

National Geographic Magazine, vol. 96, no. 6, 1949, pp. 745-782, 'Exploring Stone-age Arnhem Land' by Charles P. Mountford.

Internet links :
Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre - Yirrkala Community



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