To learn more about William Edgar Geil, click here for the Accidental Ethnographer Resource Center
A year ago on Round and Square (2 October 2012)—Academic Autobiography: Tristes Tropiques (f)
|[a] Missing puzzle piece RF|
Today's Guest Contributor on Round and Square is Amara Pugens. Amara is from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and recently graduated from Beloit College with a B.A. in history and anthropology and a minor in museum studies. She is currently working with four other Beloit College graduates to digitize, process, and research the William Edgar Geil Collection at the Doylestown Historical Society in Pennsylvania.
The detective in me is very excited. Isn’t it always fun finding lost puzzle pieces? After inputting and scanning all the newspaper clippings in the Geil collection, all five of the Doylestown Historical Society project archivists have moved onto Geil’s personal correspondence. While these letters, postcards and telegrams related to and supported the news article I have already worked with, one particular letter caught my attention and reminded me of an interesting note added to a certain article.
|[b] "Evangelist Geil's Trip" DHS|
One of the first newspaper clippings added to the database was this article. Aside from the “c. 1897” added, we know very little about it, no exact dates, not publisher name and no publication location. The item however held much interest and curiosity. Geil personally wrote on the article, crossing out his title as a “Rev.” Now why would he do that? Was he correcting a mistake or was there animosity? I found a clue hidden in his correspondence.
The letter to [Aunt S.] Emma [Seese] from Geil discussed his travels to Australia and her forwarding his mail. He asked her to “forward all letter mail…do not forward any letter with Rev. on my name but enclose it sealed in another envelope if you cannot rub it out.” Why would Geil ask this of his aunt, and why did it matter? Did Geil not want to read what was in the letters because it would upset or anger him? Did he think the contents would be trivial or unimportant? There seems to be some animosity now. The overall question: what was he thinking? The overall answer: we don’t know, and likely never will. However, this answer should not stop us but encourage us to keep searching.
|[c] Letter dated October 31, 1901 DHS|
There are countless reasons why Geil would not want to be called a reverend. Perhaps he did not want the responsibilities and expectations of one. By rejecting this title and its associated duties, he could easily move between different denominations without causing religious conflicts.
From previous blog posts, however, it is more likely Geil was image conscience and did not like or want to be labeled as a reverend. It is difficult to be called one title when you believe yourself another. It is obvious in his writings and correspondence that he thought of himself as academically important enough to need a title. When he received his honorary degree from Lafayette College, Geil finally acquired the label he wanted. The all important “Dr.” officially established his identity as a professional scientist.
A third and final possibility, which could explain everything or nothing, was that Geil did not like to be called reverend because he was not one—he was never officially ordained by any religious order.
Whatever the reason, it seemed to be an issue for Geil. As I discover more of the secrets of the archive, I hope to uncover more about Geil’s issues with and ideas of his self-image.
|[d] The all important "Dr." DHS|