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Henry Christy : biography

26 July 1810 - 4 May 1865

Henry Christy (26 July 1810 – 4 May 1865) was an English banker and collector, who left his substantial collections to the British Museum.

Early life

Christy was born at Kingston upon Thames, the second son of William Miller Christy of Woodbines, a Quaker banker who started out in hat manufacture with interests in Stockport, before becoming a financier.Humphrey Lloyd. The Quaker Lloyds in the Industrial Revolution 1660-1860 (2006), p. 285; .

Trained to business by his father, Henry Christy became a partner in the house of Christy & Co. in Gracechurch Street, and succeeded his father as a director of the London Joint-Stock Bank. He was still a board member of the bank at the end of his life, despite other activities.The Bankers' Magazine, and journal of the money market (1865), p. 180; . Henry contributed to the success of the family firm, known as W. M. Christy & Sons Ltd. once his father took it over. Samples of textiles he brought home from the Ottoman Empire provided the idea for looped cotton towelling, taken up by his brother Richard, and amenable to mechanical manufacture with a technique devised by an employee. Christy also innovated with woven silk rather than beaver for the manufacture of top hats.Jonathan C. H. King, First Peoples, First Contacts: native peoples of North America (1999), p. 218;

Travels and collecting

In 1850 Christy began to visit foreign countries. Among the fruits of his first expedition to the East were an extensive collection of Eastern fabrics, and a large series of figures from Cyprus, which are now in the British Museum.

After the Great Exhibition of 1851, Christy began the study of tribal peoples. In 1852, and again in 1853, he travelled in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The public collections of antiquities at Stockholm and Copenhagen were a revelation to him, and from this time he collected objects from contemporary and prehistoric periods. The year 1856 was devoted to America. Travelling over Canada, the United States, and British Columbia, Christy met Edward Burnett Tylor in Cuba, and they went on together to Mexico, where Christy made many purchases. Their Mexican travels were described by Tylor in his Anahuac (London, 1861).

In 1858, the antiquity of man was proved by the discoveries of Boucher de Perthes on flint implements in France; Christy joined the Geological Society that year. He went with the French palæontologist Edouard Lartet in the examination of the caves along the valley of the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne River, in the south of France. Remains are embedded in the stalagmites of these caves. Thousands of specimens were obtained, some of them being added to Christy's collection. The sites they investigated included Le Moustier, the Abri de la Madeleine, both important type sites.

Interests

Christy was a philanthropist, active in the Great Famine and other causes. With other Quakers Christy took the approach of buying seeds for other vegetable crops, to reduce the potato monoculture. With committee members Robert Forster and Samuel Fox, he also lobbied the government for practical help in improving Irish fisheries. He was one of the founders of the Aborigines' Protection Society.Richard King, Obituary of Thomas Hodgkin, M.D., Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London , Vol. 5, (1867), pp. 341-345. Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3014240 He was also a committee member of the British and Foreign School Society.Hume Tracts, Fortieth report of the British and Foreign School Society (1845), p. 6. Contributed by: UCL Library Services. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/60211083

Christy was also involved in numerous learned societies. He belonged to both the Ethnological Society of London and the Anthropological Society of London, representing different strands arising from early ethnology.George W. Stocking, Jr., What's in a Name? The Origins of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1837-71), Man, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Sep., 1971), pp. 369-390; Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2799027; , at p. 372. He became a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1856,Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (1855-63), p. v; . and joined the Geological Society in 1858. He took part in both the archaeological societies of the period, and the Royal Geographical Society.Andrew L. Christenson, Tracing Archaeology's Past: the historiography of archaeology (1989), pp. 158–9; He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and sponsored the application for membership there of Augustus Lane Fox (later Pitt Rivers), the other major British collector of the time in the ethnographic field.Mark Bowden, Pitt Rivers: the life and archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL, FRS, FSA (1991), p. 48;

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