Main content

Hiram M. Hiller Personal Papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives [Contact Us]3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104-6324

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Hiram Milliken Hiller, Jr. was born in 1867 in Kahoka, Missouri to Colonel Hiram Milliken Hiller and Sarah Bell Hiller. He graduated from Parson’s College, Iowa, in 1887 and from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1891. While at the University of Pennsylvania, he became friends with William Henry Furness III and Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., the two men who would become his traveling companions. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Hiller spent 1893-1894 working in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. In 1895, he made the first of a series of voyages to the East with Furness and Harrison. From 1895-1901, Hiller visited Borneo, Japan, Sri Lanka, Siberia, and other locations in Asia. Hiller, Harrison, and Furness studied the cultures of the indigenous people of these places, and collected ethnographical, archaeological, zoological, and botanical specimens. Many of these objects now reside at the University Museum. Hiller conducted ethnographical studies of the Dayaks of Borneo, the Nagas of Assam, India, and the Ainu of Japan.

In 1902, Hiller married Blanche Hayes of Bellefonte, PA. From 1902-1907, Hiller managed a sugar plantation in Cuba owned by Alfred C. Harrison, Sr. In 1907, Hiller returned to Pennsylvania, where he settled down in Chester as a practicing physician. He died in 1921.

In 1987, Adria Katz, Keeper of Collections for the Oceania Section of the University Museum, contacted the Hiller family in Kahoka, Missouri for information about their ancestor to use in a planned exhibit, “The Dayaks: People of the Borneo Rainforest.” The Hillers offered to send “Aunt Lida’s voluminous records.” Katz selected the most relevant documents from this collection and photocopied them, with the permission of the Hiller family. The letters were returned to the Hillers in 1989. In 1991, the Hiller family papers became a part of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, collection number 3856. The documents in our collection are the copies made by Katz.

These letters span the period from October 1895 to May 1907, with the years 1896-1902 the most significantly represented. Most of them are from Hiram Hiller, Jr. to family members in Kahoka, particularly his mother Sarah and his sister Lida Hiller (Lapsley). There are also many letters to his brothers Charles, Sam, and George. Several of the letters are from various family members, a few are from Harrison, and one is from Furness.

The letters are arranged in chronological order in one archival box. They are all photocopies of the original documents, and are in excellent condition and for the most part very readable. Most describe some aspect of Hiller’s travel or preparations for travel with many letters from Borneo, Japan, India, Burma, and places along the way. The letters from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also depict Hiller’s close relationship with the Harrison and Furness families. Because of his relationship with these prominent families and his fame as a traveler, Hiller took part in many important social events in Philadelphia. His descriptions of Philadelphia life and society, as written for his family in Missouri, are as vivid as his descriptions of the tribesman of Borneo.

University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
Finding Aid Date

Collection Inventory

October 1895-December 1896.
Box 10
January 1897-June 1897.
Box 10
June 1897-November 1897.
Box 10
March 1898-October 1898.
Box 10
January 1899-March 1899.
Box 10
March 1899-July 1899.
Box 10
July 1899-March 1900.
Box 10
March 1900-August 1900.
Box 10
August 1900-January 1901.
Box 10
January 1901-April 1901.
Box 10
April 1901-November 1901.
Box 10
January 1902-May 1907.
Box 10

Print, Suggest