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Frank T. Siebert Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Siebert

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists almost entirely of incoming correspondence, the bulk being 32 letters from his mother and 128 letters from a woman named Melba M. Weber, plus a few others from acquaintances and family, and from physicians and hospitals concerning employment and medical issues. Also, a miscellany of items such as receipts for association dues, an unidentified poem, a tiny baby photo, and three letters relating to his Indian studies. Unfortunately, the collection does not reflect his involvement in Indian linguistics or book collecting, but is chiefly concerned with Siebert’s relationship (or lack of it) over a fifteen-year period with Melba Weber.


  • Creation: 1926-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940 - 1956



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Frank T. Siebert Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Frank T. Siebert Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Frank T. Siebert

Physician, linguist and book collector.

Frank T. Siebert, a physician, became widely recognized as a pre-eminent authority in the field of American Indian languages, particularly of the Penobscot of Maine. Trained as a pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1930s, by the 1960s Siebert was deeply involved in linguistic studies and the amassing of a large and unequalled library of books and manuscripts concerning the American Indian.

By all accounts, Siebert was a difficult and unlikable man. Described as abrasive and paranoid, he became increasingly reclusive as he aged, living in Penobscot to learn the disappearing language of the tribe in order to produce a dictionary of it. He published extensively in scholarly journals, focusing mostly on the languages and legends of various tribes, and he never stopped his fanatical search for rare publications on these subjects.

At his death in 1998, Siebert’s collection had never been seen by his colleagues in anthropology and linguistics, by the dealers and collectors from whom he bought books, or by his family. His library sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 1999 for over twelve million dollars.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Correspondence and other materials of physician, linguist, and book collector Frank T. Siebert. Mostly incoming correspondence to Siebert from his mother and a woman friend that he courted over a period of about fifteen years, with a few letters from friends and relatives, physicians, medical schools and associations. Included are three letters concerning his Indian research. Also, a small collection of memorabilia consisting of a poem, some receipts for professional dues, a tiny unidentified baby photograph and other miscellany.


The material is arranged in one box, with personal correspondence preceding professional correspondence and then miscellaneous items.

Collection Stack Location

1 31 2


Gift, Richard Lamm, 2008.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2008.

Inventory of the Frank T. Siebert Papers, 1926-1987, bulk 1940-1956
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States