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Frederic Huntington Douglas was born in Evergreen, Colorado on
October 29, 1897, the son of
Canon Charles Winfred Douglas and Josepha Williams. He was educated
in public and private schools in the United States and Europe, and
received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado in
1921. For the next five years he did graduate work in Fine Arts at the
University of Michigan and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, with
the intention of becoming a painter. He was an accomplished musician.
In 1926 he married Freda Bendix Gillespie. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas
settled in Denver, where his association with the Denver Art Museum
commenced with an appointment in 1930 as Curator of Indian Art. Douglas
served as Director of the Museum from 1940 to 1942, and later as a
Trustee. From 1947 until his death on April 23, 1956, he was Curator of
In his 26 years in the museum world, Douglas built
an outstanding collection of American Indian art at Denver, and was
repeatedly called upon to lend his extraordinary talent in exhibition
techniques to other museums throughout the country. After a tour of duty
(1942-1945) in the Pacific Islands with the Army Medical Corps, he
expanded his interests to include the collecting of Oceanic arts.
Together with native art collections, Douglas gathered a reference
library in anthropology unsurpassed in the Rocky Mountain Region. He
gave his collections to the Denver Art Museum; the library, presently
housed at the Chappell House branch of the Museum, was left to the
Denver Public Library.
In June 1948, Douglas was awarded an
honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Colorado, and in
1956 that University gave him its Recognition Medal. The accompanying
citation stated what was perhaps his greatest contribution: having
brought to thousands of laymen an awareness of ‘‘the true aesthetic
merit of the cultures of peoples too often measured by our own standards
and relegated to positions popularly considered as ‘inferior’ and
‘primitive’ . . . [and] having made countless people conscious of the
equality of men throughout the world, regardless of the superficial
barriers of time and geographic distances. . . .”
All who had the
good fortune to know Eric Douglas appreciate fully his contributions to
the field of ethnology, but cherish the memory of association with him
for other, less tangible, reasons. He had unbounded imagination,
curiosity, humor, and enthusiasm, which made every project he undertook
a new and exciting experience, both for himself and those working with
him. He gave unselfishly of his time and means; his collections and
library were always at the disposal of interested students, to whom he
unfailingly supplied stimulating ideas and encouragement. For his
associates the daily scene is considerably less lively without the
freshening presence of his original mind and vivid personality.