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Liddle, Carl Lester [1897-1968]
[Header Hunters of the Amazon] [Ecuador]. Collection of Manuscript Material of American Explorer Carl Lester Liddle
A unique collection of manuscript material from one of the America’s youngest official explorers, who in 1924 ventured through the heart of the Upper Amazon Jungle in Oriente, Ecuador, and lived among the famous Shuar [Jibaro] Jivoroan Head Hunters. Author of “Tunchi” (1933) co-written with David Thibault, a tale of adventure with facts supplied by Liddle from his time in the Amazon.
Includes a carbon copy of an original typed manuscript, with Liddle’s notes and corrections to text taken from his quite possibly unpublished prose tale, “Long Shadows of Yacu-Mama” Ch. I: 19 p.p., Ch. III: 22 p.p.; his account of the “Head Hunters of Ecuador,” 35 p.p.; “Phrases Mas Usadas” 14 p.p., a glossary of [Jibaro] Jivoroan and Castellano phrases; a large collection of holographic letters (20 pcs.) signed, typed letters (17 signed, 2 unsigned); 26 photographs (11 signed, 15 with notes in his hand) of Amazon and local Natives; “Tunchi” New York: The Century Co., 1933. Original dust jacket, in green cloth. 312 p.p. Signs of wear and Large chips to extremities of jacket. Light rubbing to boards, but in very good condition.
Liddle saw his first shrunken head looking back at him from the window of a New York store. “I wanted to know what amazing process it was made, and how it was preserved. And, with strange stories about divine nectar drugs, dreams beds, crystal charms of Indian witch-doctors, I was lured onward.” [Culver Alumnus, April 1928). A spellbound Liddle first traveled to Chile, then heading for the romantic valleys and enchanting rivers of Ecuador on commission from Ecuadorian Government and the University of Quito. He was led by an escort of 50 people in his expedition, along with his host and guide, Huanga.
Liddle spent the large part of eight months observing Shuar people, conducting an extensive ethnography of their customs, superstition, religious beliefs and rituals, drug use, and head hunting, documented in Liddle’s typed account, “Head Hunters of Ecuador.” Headhunting was practiced during intertribal wars. On the eve of battle, Shuar warriors would retire to their dream hut to take turns consuming Natema, a powerful hallucinogenic drug Liddle referred to as ‘Dream Nectar,’ that he sent to New York for analyses. The drug causes ‘weird dreams’, which are interpreted as prophecies or signs for success or failure in the trance like state.
Superstitious about photography, the Shuar believed that once an image was taken could steal a person’s soul. Liddle was able to penetrate this belief, and cultivate a trust and friendship among the Shuar people, who became comfortable around Liddle and his camera. The photographs in this collection show local natives of the region on the mountain trail to Pastaga River in Oriente, and beautiful photos of the Pano and Misagualli Rivers. The photos also show local huts and structures in the hamlet of Papallacta, a village in the Napo province; while on the Llanganati trail, now a National Park just north of the Shuar territory, Liddle stopped to photograph locals panning for gold.
A natural storyteller, Liddle worked as an air humorist, hosting a show called “Air twists of Current Events” for the National Broadcast Company in New York, and wrote editorials for the New York Evening Post. He was also the press secretary of the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, and the American stage and film actress, Jeanne Eagels. Liddle used his first hand experience in the Amazon as a backdrop for his adventure tales like “Dancing Souls of Death,” “The Famous Napo Trail,” “The Haunted Caverns” and “The Head Reducing Fiesta” published in the pulp magazines The Danger Trail, between 1926-7, and his co-written novel with David Thibault in 1933, “Tunchi.” While in Ecuador, he penned a number of letters to his editor in New York, Mrs. Granville Meixell, and gathered in this collection. In one handwritten letter, dated April 1st, 1924, Liddle expresses his excitement about his writing, hinting at new story ideas: “Just wait until you see the wild stories I am going to write about this next trip. Jules Verne will wiggle over in his grave, and Kipling will wonder how he missed the Amazon for India.”
Following his explorations, Liddle presented his findings to the American Museum of Natural History, which included a collection of jewels, weapons, and ceremonial dress. This amazing collection of ephemera formerly belonged to the late William Jamieson (1954-2008).