A native of Michigan, Fred B.
Kniffen was born in 1900 and grew up in the upper Midwest. He studied at the
University of California at Berkeley under cultural geographer Carl Sauren and
anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, and did his doctoral work on a combination of
geography and anthropology. The work he accomplished for his doctoral degree
provided the basis for his interest and expertise in folk geography.
Mr. Kniffen joined the teaching
staff at Louisiana State University in 1929, and lectured on geography and
anthropology. Later in his career at LSU he obtained the title of Boyd Professor
Emeritus. Today LSU has commemorated a laboratory in his name, the Fred B.
Kniffen Cultural Resources Laboratory.
In his many years at LSU, Mr.
Kniffen was a pioneer in what he called Folk Buildings, old buildings that are a
unique part of a region's landscape. A Folk Building's type, form, and structure
can be used to trace a people's cultural origins. He was regarded as Louisiana's
foremost authority on the subject of indigenous cultures and is considered the
founder of American folk geography.
Mr. Kniffen passed away in 1993. In
his long, distinguished career, he managed to write some 125 articles and books,
all covering his exceptional range of interests. Two of his articles were
published in the Louisiana History journal.
He received an honorary presidency
to the Association of American Geography, the same group that presented him with
an Honors Award in 1978. The Pioneer America Society presents a book award in
his honor, the Fred B. Kniffen Book Award. The award is given to the best new
book published about the North American cultural landscape.
The various subjects of his writing
include folk houses, covered bridges, outdoor folk ovens, log construction, and
other items of traditional material culture. In his book The Indians of
Louisiana, Mr. Kniffen follows the journeys of the first Indians to come
to Louisiana and the cultural impact they had on the region.