Little, James Edward
Born in Torquay, England in 1876, James Little became an antique and curio dealer. While never venturing into the South Seas he became adept at forging Polynesian artefacts by stealing and copying artifacts from museums around England. Many of these forgeries were subsequently sold to many museums and collectors all round the world. Little covered his tracks by selling authentic items as well as fakes, trading on the ignorance of buyers.
Little enlisted in the British Army, Royal Engineers as a private soldier in 1915 and saw service overseas. He was discharged from the army in 1919 for health reasons. After a period in a Bath hospital, Little remained in Bath as an antique dealer. His past caught up with him in 1939 when he was found guilty of stealing artifacts and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. He returned to Torquay on his release and lived there in poverty until his death in 1953.
The collection comprises fifty letters, mostly from Little to W.H. Skinner, regarding purchases by the latter of materials now in the Taranaki Museum. The collection of letters has been extracted from the Taranaki Museum correspondence and relate how and when fake items were purchased by W.H. Skinner for the Taranaki Collection. The items concerned have remained in the collection and are referred to as the Little Fakes.
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1. Letter (on letterhead). To W.S (sic) Skinner from E. Little, offering human skull bone tiki, finger bone necklet and two cloak pins. 6 Apr.1909. A18.606 necklet A46.621 tiki.
2. Letter. To W.S. Skinner from E. Little, offering a carved box and hani (taiaha). 9 Mar.1910.
3. Letter. To W.S. Skinner from E. Little, offering a Marquesan stilt step, carved Marquesan and Tongan clubs, an amulet made from a human jaw bone and sending a carved New Zealand feather box. 13 May 1910.
4. Letter. To W.S. Skinner from E. Little, offering a war whistle. 3 June 1910.
5. Letter. To W.S. Skinner from E. Little, discussing the hani sent and offering a whalebone mere. 7 July 1910.
6. Letter. To Mr Skinner from Augustus Hamilton, Dominion Museum, Wellington discussing the possibility of the flutes being fakes and sending photographs of flutes to Edge-Partington. Enclosed is a extract from Edge-Partington's letter. 30 July 1910.
7. Letter. To Mr Skinner from Augustus Hamilton, Dominion Museum, Wellington asking to withdraw his offer to buy a Marquesan stilt rest from E. Little. 30 July 1910.
8. Letter. To W.S. Skinner from E. Little, discussing damage to a box in transit and disposal of a Marquesan stilt step. Offers a Marquesan club. 4 Aug.1910.
9. Letter. To Skinner from Little re the posting of the Marquesan stilt step and war whistle and offering a Hervey bailer. 16 Aug.1910.
10. Letter. To Skinner from Little discussing the authenticity of artifacts. 5 Sept.1910.
11. Letter. To Mr Skinner from A. Hamilton, Dominion Museum, Wellington, raising suspicion on the authenticity of bone specimens sent from England. 7 Sept.1910.
12. Letter. To Skinner from Little refuting allegations of forgery and the damage his reputation sustained. 15 Sept.1910.
13. Letter. To Skinner from A. Hamilton, Dominion Museum discussing the 'double figure' being an exact copy of a carving at Exter Museum and casting suspicion on the authenticity of a bone patu. 15 Sept.1910.
14. Draft of letter. To the Minister of International Affairs, Wellington explaining the need to export Maori curios sent to Skinner by Mr Little. 6 Oct.1910.
15. Letter. To Skinner from A Hamilton, Dominion Museum arranging a permit. 13 Oct.1910.
16. Letter. To W.H. Skinner from Little dismissing claims of forgeries and describing the sale of a carved ax shaft to a collector named Oldman . 12 Apr.1911.
17. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a genuine old model of a Maori canoe and a dogs teeth necklace. 28 July 1911.
18. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering three Marquesan stilt steps and a tewhatewha. 9 Dec.1911.
19. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a Maori whistle. 22 Feb.1912.
20. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a small carved New Zealand box. 9th July 1912. Notation on letter by Skinner re letters sent to Little.
21. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a Maori whistle. 18 Apr.1912.
22. Letter. To Skinner from Little enclosing jade Maori ear drops, axe heads and a necklace of dogs teeth. 27 Oct.1913. Notation by Skinner on letter re sale of items.
23. Letter. To Skinner from Little enclosing a Maori green jade tiki with original cord and human bone toggle plus a necklace. 17 Nov.1913.
24. Letter. From W.H. Skinner to Edward Little on receipt of jade items. 11 Dec.1913.
25 Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a jade tiki and mere. 6 Jan.1914.
26. Letter. From W.H. Skinner to E. Little accepting tiki and dogs tooth necklace. 12 Jan.1914.
27. Letter. To Skinner from Little on receipt of postal order as payment. 27 Jan.1914.
28. To Skinner from Little re jade mere includes Skinner's notation offering mere to Chas. Teschemaker. 18 Feb.1914.
29. Draft letter. From Skinner to Little offering eight pounds eight schillings for the greenstone tiki. 25 Feb.1914.
30. Letter. To Skinner from Little acknowledging receipt of postal order for jade tiki and dogstooth necklace. 6 Mar.1914.
31. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a jade blade of a war adze (toki). 11 Mar.1914.
32. Letter. To Skinner from Little acknowledgement of payment for jade tiki. 3 Apr.1914.
33. Telegram. From Churchward to Skinner accepting mere for Charles Teschemaker. 25 May 1914.
34. Letter. To Skinner from Little acceptance of payment of fifteen pounds for mere. 25 June 1914.
35. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering war adze head of jade and jade tiki. 14 Oct.1914.
36. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a Maori wood figure. 16 Oct.1914.
37. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering a Maori chief's tattooed head. 26 Oct.1914.
38. Letter. To Skinner from Little enclosing a green jade tiki for approval. 17 Nov.1914.
39. Letter. To the Curator, Dominion Museum, Wellington, from Skinner, regarding duty to be paid on the Maori cheif's tattooed head. 5 Dec.1914.
40. Letter. To Skinner from (?), Gisborne, thanks for offer of Maori cheif's tattooed head. 19 Dec.1914.
41. Draft letter. From Skinner to Little re payment for a green jade tiki. 20 Jan.1915.
42. Letter. To Skinner from Little acknowledging payment for tiki. 9 Mar.1915.
43. Letter. To Skinner from Little offering two New Zealand adze and Fiji cannibal fork. 23 Mar.1915.
44. Letter. To Skinner from Little querying receipt of adze and fork and notifying Skinner that Little is under military orders to France. 24 Feb.1916.
45. Letter (on YMCA letterhead). To Skinner from Little giving his military address. 4 Sept.1916.
46. Letter. To Skinner from Edith Little acknowledging receipt of letters for Edward Little. Undated. Notation from Skinner on posting of money order dated 10 Oct.1916.
47. Letter (on Church Army letterhead). To Skinner from Edward Little advising of change of his wife's address and promising details of a skeleton of a Dodo. 6 Oct.1916.
48. Letter. From Edith Little to W.H. Skinner confirming receipt of money order. 29 Dec.1916.
49. Letter. To Skinner from Edward Little regarding breakages of posted items and comment on the lack of pieces available for purchase. 26 Nov.1919.
50. Draft letter. From Skinner to E. Little re preserved head, Kaka or parrot perch, jade tiki and adze. Undated.
51. Letter. To Skinner from E. Little (on Church Army Recreation Unit letterhead). Advising of wife's change of address and offering a war adze/toko with jade blade. Undated.
52. Letter. To Skinner from Edith Little, confirming receipt of money. 23 Nov.19-?
53. Receipt for registered letter, W.H. Skinner to Edward Little. Jan.1914?
54. Typescript. Article by Christopher Legge, Chicago on Little fakes. Undated.
B. Copy of letter. To Rigby Allen from Dave ? Otago Museum, Dunedin. Re a note on Little fakes held in the W.H. Skinner collection. Undated.
Photocopies of letters 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 (copied 7.01.03)