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Preferred Citation:

Cite As:Joseph Keppler Jr. Iroquois papers, #9184. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

The Joseph Keppler papers reflect the long association Keppler had with the Iroquois peoples, principally the Seneca, of New York State. The earliest papers in the Library date from 1882; they continue through 1944, when Keppler remarried and left New York, giving his papers to the Library of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The collection is calendared chronologically; the papers are arranged by correspondent. Keppler carried on active correspondence with several individuals over a significant period of time. As the collection is primarily their letters to Keppler, this correspondence is a record of events and people at the Tonawanda and Cattaraugus reservations, among others, over the first part of the twentieth century. Well-known correspondents include noted Seneca scholar, Arthur C. Parker; artist, Jesse Cornplanter; and Mohawk poet, E. Pauline Johnson. Other parts of the collection include newspapers clippings on Iroquois subjects, government documents, Seneca vocabulary collected by Keppler, and other miscellaneous documents related to the Iroquois.

Keppler, a political cartoonist for Puck Magazine, was an avid collector of Indian artifacts. This interest led him to an association with George Heye, director of the Museum of the American Indian. Keppler often acted as an intermediary between other collectors and Native artisans, facilitating the expansion of the Iroquois collection of the Museum of the American Indian and others. He played an active role in the lives of many Seneca (and some Onondaga) individuals. At the death of Harriet Converse in 1903, he was chosen by the Seneca as her successor. Both he and those who wrote to him used his Seneca name regularly. Many envelopes in the Keppler papers are simply addressed "Gyantwaka, Puck Building, N.Y.C." His concern for his Seneca friends was manifested on both personal and political levels. Letters to him are full of thanks for monetary gifts and donations of clothing, and bring him up to date with family news as well. He actively promoted Iroquois lacrosse teams, and his connections with the railroad enabled him to procure discount railroad passes for New York Indians, especially those travelling to Canada on Confederacy business. On the national scene, Keppler worked with others to defeat or substantially modify proposed legislation allot the New York State reservations. His papers indicate he was most involved with Seneca issues and people in the first two decades of the twentieth century. He continued his interest in Iroquois people into the 1940s, more or less concluding the period reflected in these papers with the publication in 1941 of Comments on Certain Iroquois Masks by the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.

Iroquoian scholars have often used the Keppler papers in doing research on prominent individuals, such as Arthur C. Parker. They will find the correspondence to Keppler also provides a rich picture of life on the Seneca reservations in the early twentieth century.