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Hyatt, Harry M. (1896–1978). Encyclopedia Of American Folklore

Folklore collector and Episcopal clergyman. Hyatt was the son of an Illinois state senator
and grew up in Quincy, Illinois, on the Mississippi River across from Hannibal, Missouri.
After advanced religious studies at Oxford University, Hyatt became interested in
missionary work and produced a scholarly text on the Coptic Church of Abyssinia in
1928. His wife, Alma, a prominent businesswoman, supported his in terest in folklore fieldwork. With the help of his sister Minnie, who lived in Quincy
(Adams County), Hyatt began the regional folklore collection that he hoped would
exceed the 4,000 entries in a similar Kentucky work. The first edition contained 11,000
entries, while the revised edition contained more than 16,000 items, an effort folklorist
Richard M. Dorson described as the most intensive single collection of American
superstition.
From 1936 to 1940, Hyatt collected materials in the Eastern and Southern states on
hoodoo, conjuration, witchcraft, and rootwork. The hoodoo collection involved beliefs in
witchcraft predominantly among African Americans, and it included interviews with
nineteen hoodoo doctors and more than 1,600 informants. The five-volume collection,
based on more than 3,000 recording cylinders, is more than 5,000 pages in length (Hyatt
1970–1978). Dorson described this collection as the greatest feat of collection in AfricanAmerican folklore.
Hyatt received many honors, including appointment as an officer of the French
Academy. He expressed great pride, as a nonacademic folklorist, in his recognition, in
1972, by the American Folklore Society for his contributions to folklore fieldwork
collection.
John Schleppenbach
References
De Caro, Francis A. 1974. Hyatt’s Hoodoo Odyssey: A Review Article. Louisiana Review 3 (1).
Dorson, Richard M., and Michael Bell, eds. 1979. Harry Middleton Hyatt. Journal of the Folklore
Institute (Special Issue). 16(1–2).
Hyatt, Harry. 1935. Folklore of Adams County, Illinois. Quincy, IL, and New York: Memoirs of the
Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation.
——. 1970–1978. Hoodoo-Conjuration- Witchcraft-Rootwork: Beliefs Accepted by Many Negroes
and White Persons These Being Orally Recorded among Blacks and Whites. 5 vols. Quincy, IL,
and New York: Memoirs of the Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation.

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