A lawyer, banker, photographer, adventurer, and author, Edward Larocque Tinker was born 12 Sept. 1881 in New York City. Probably best remembered for his love of the people and culture of Latin America he “was very influential in bringing about a better understanding of the history, art, and culture of Mexico and South America” (Tinker’s Home in the Village of Poquott)) and established a foundation in 1959 to this end.
The Tinker Foundation’s mission “To promote the development of an equitable, sustainable, and productive society in Latin America. Tinker realizes its mission by providing funding to organizations working to address the region’s most pressing challenges” https://tinker.org/
“For more than sixty years, the Tinker Foundation has promoted economic and social development in Latin America by supporting “people, projects, and ideas. Tinker realizes its mission by providing funding to civil society organizations – among them nonprofit entities, research institutes, and universities – working to address the region’s most pressing challenges. The organizations we support use Tinker resources to test promising ideas, extend the impact of proven models, and bring together stakeholders to solve problems in new ways.” As one of a small number of private foundations focused on the entire region, we believe Tinker has a particular responsibility and opportunity to support the exchange of knowledge and approaches within and beyond Latin America. For that reason, we encourage comparative and collaborative work, and support grantees to learn from others’ experiences. https://tinker.org/about-us/
What spurred Tinker’s interest in Latin culture and history?
Known locally as the founder of Tinker National Bank many today may not realize what an interesting life E. L. Tinker led.
He was the son of Louise Larocque and Henry Champlin Tinker, businessman and partner in a New York City brokerage firm. In 1890 Henry acquired property on the northern point of Dyer’s Neck (Poquott) for a summer home. He would eventually build two additional houses on Tinker’s Point, one for his daughter Annie the other for his son Edward.
“Early in his life, Edward developed an inquiring mind, a thirst for adventure, a fondness for Latin America-especially Mexico-and a love of dogs and horses.” (An Inquiring Mind)
Edward graduated from Columbia in 1902. After receiving his law degree from the New York Law School in 1905 he served as assistant district attorney of New York City and in 1911 he opened his own law practice in New York. During this period Tinker who was a proficient horseman, met Buffalo Bill and was able to get a place for himself riding in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden.
“The next night I had one of the grooms at the Riding Club saddle White Chicken [Tinker’s horse] with a Texas saddle that I had had made at Sliver City and lead the horse down to Madison Square Garden,. I took my chaps and cowboy regalia in a suitcase and went down and dressed with the cowboys. Then came the first grand entry…The whole thing was lots of fun. I rode every night for a week until Buffalo Bill’s publicity man wrote an article which appeared on the front page of the New York Times, saying that a young Assistant District Attorney was riding in Buffalo Bill’s show, so I had to quit.” (New Yorker Unlimited)
Tinker in Mexico
When he was 11 years old his parents returned from Mexico with a chamois leather charro suit, a saddle, a bridle, and a pony. This wet Edward’s appetite and in 1912 his restless nature and love of adventure led him to leave his law practice in New York and head to El Paso, Texas. Tinker recounts in his memoirs “El Paso, Texas, which in 1912 was a most exciting place. It was right on the border, the Mexican Revolution was in full swing and the town swarmed with spies, gunrunners, racing touts, adventurers and Secret Service men.” (New Yorker Unlimited). Tinker got work as a time keeper for the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad and was later involved in setting up a railway safety organization.
The time was the days of the Mexican Revolution and while working for the railroad he traveled into Mexico where he met Alvaro Obregon, a lieutenant colonel in the Mexican Army. He got to know Obregon and stayed with his troops through the battle of Cabullona taking and developing photographs and tending to the wounded. He also traveled as an observer in Pancho Villa’s train at the battle of Celaya. (The Memoirs of Edward Larocque Tinker) In his published memoirs, Tinker recounts in great detail his experiences during this time in Mexico.
"I had one final experience with the Mexican Revolution. Coming back to Douglas some few weeks after I had left Obregon, I heard that a Colonel Salvador Alvarado had come into Aqua Prieta in command of 150 Yaqui Indians. This tribe comprised the most indomitable fighters in all Mexico who for generations had battled the entire government in an attempt to hold the land in Sonora that was rightfully theirs....It was a cruel and relentless war and the punishments meted out to the captured Indians were barbarous...Knowing this background of the Yaquis, I was curious to see them, so I went over to Aqua Prieta and asked Colonel Salvador whom I had met when I was with Obregon if I could travel with him for a while. He said he would be delighted to have me...At night I would place my bedroll next to Alvarado's and we would talk in the moonlight. He told me he had been a schoolteacher and had joined the Madero party in planning a revolution, because he thought that only by ousting Diaz and the rich and powerful cientificos surrounding him would the common people of Mexico ever get their rights and a fair share of the country's wealth..." (New Yorker Unlimited)
Tinker as an Author and Diplomat
Edward enlisted in the Navy Ordinance Department in Sept. 1918. He served as an Assistant Inspector of Ordinance in the Fourth Naval District achieving the rank of Lieutenant, Senior Grade. He was discharged July 1919. His sister Annie also served in W.W.I as an Army Nurse (sources: Dept. of the Navy, Naval Historical Center and W.W.I Service Record, Huntington Historical Society)
His first marriage ended in divorce. Edward married his second wife, Frances McKee, of New Orleans, on the 16th of January 1916. Tinker’s first book Lafcadio Hearn’s American Days was written in 1924. He and Frances authored several books on Louisiana and Creole culture. Together they also collected Latin American art, including books, prints, paintings, and artifacts and made donations to various museums. Tinker also wrote several books on the history of the gaucho, the charro and the cowboys of Argentina, Mexico and the United States. From 1937-1942 he wrote a weekly column for the New York Times Book Review. Frances died in 1958. Edward Larocque Tinker died 6 July 1968 at his home in Poquott and is buried in the Caroline Churchyard. The home they built in 1923 in Poquott was torn down ca 1987 for a subdivision after efforts to save it failed.
Tinker received a number of awards and honors during his lifetime for his works on Latin American and Creole cultures from governments and universities in France, Mexico, Spain, and Argentina. On several occasions he represented the U.S. and hosted dignitaries from these countries. His dissertation on the study of the Creole culture in Louisiana, Les Ecrits de Langue Francaise en Louisiane au xix Siecle, earned him the degree of Docteur de l’Universite de Paris in 1933. In that same year, the French Government conferred on him the Palmes Academiques. In 1934 and 1937 he received gold medals from the French Academy and in 1939 was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Under the Auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace he spent 1943 as Profesor Extraordinario at the National Universite of Mexico and in 1954 the State Department sent him to Argentina and Uruguay as an exchange lecturer. In 1955 he received the degree of Doctor of Filosofia y Letras from the Univeritay of Madrid. In 1949 Middlebury College awarded him the Doctorate of Laws, honoris causa. His work toward furthering cooperation between the countries of the Americas was recognized again by the Argentine Government in 1959 when he was awarded the decoration La Orden de Mayo al Merito. (from Foes of Friendship). In 1963 he received an honorary degree from Columbia “Doctor of Letters, for grace and style of authorship and always finding in man the charm and dignity of the common things men share.” (New York Times, June 5, 1963)
In 1959 E. L. Tinker donated his collection of cowboy artifacts including books, pictures and cowboy gear from North and South America to the University of Texas at Austin. Concerning the donation to be housed in the Hall of the Horsemen of the Americas in a new library “Dr. Tinker said he hoped the new hall would serve as “a link, as a kind of bridge” to better understanding between North and South Americans and their common defense of, and search for, liberty and justice” (New York Times, 13 Sept. 1959, p. 124 col. 3).
Additional items from his collection of material on Louisiana and Latin America including art, books, prints, paintings, and artifacts has been donated to various institutions. Additional repositories of E. L. Tinker material include: The Tinker Foundation, New York City; American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA; Columbia University; and several repositories in Louisiana.
The Three Village Historical Society has in its collection over 500 images taken by Edward Tinker over his lifetime including such topics as New York City, Mexico, New Orleans, Poquott, Setauket, the North Atlantic Fleet anchored off Tinker Point and Port Jefferson in 1917, etc.
The June 1953 issue of Think magazine featured an article by Edward Tinker “Spanish Art in New York”. The article described the “invaluable collection of art treasures, representing every period of Iberian culture” of The Hispanic Society of America (New York City) founded and endowed by Archer Milton Huntington. Today, known as the The Hispanic Society Museum & Library, located between 155th and 156th Streets west of Broadway, “The Museum and Library collections, which cover nearly every aspect of art and culture in Spain, as well as Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines into the 20th century, are unparalleled in their scope and quality outside of Spain.” Visit the society at https://hispanicsociety.org/
Works by Edward L. and Frances Tinker
Bibliography of the French Newspapers and Periodicals of Louisiana (1933)
Centaurs of Many Lands (1963)
Corridos and Calaveras (1961)
Creole City: Its Past and Its People (1953)
The Cult of the Gaucho and the Birth of a Literature (1948)
Foes of Friendship
Gombo, the Creole Dialect of Louisiana (1936)
The Horsemen of the Americas and the Literature They Inspired (1953)
Lafcadio Hearn’s American Days (1924)
Les Cenelles (1930)
Les Ecrits de Langue Francaise en Louisiane au xix Siecle (1932)
Life and Literature of the Pampas (1961 )
Los Jinetes de las Americas y la Literatura por Ellos Inspirada (1953)
The Machiavellian Madam of Basin Street & Other Takes of New Orleans
Martin Fierro, Don Segundo Sombra, Ambassadors of the New World
New Yorker Unlimited: The Memoirs of Edward Laroque Tinker
Old New Orleans-- The Sixties: Widows Only (1930)
Old New Orleans-- The Seventies: Strife (1930)
Old New Orleans-- The Eighties: Closed Shutters (1930)
Old New Orleans-- The Nineties: Mardi Gras Masks (1930)
The Palingenesis of Craps (1933)
The Splendid Spectacle of Portuguese Bull Fighting
New Yorker Unlimited: The Memoirs of Edward Larocque Tinker, University of Texas at Austin, 1970.)
Tyler, Beverly C., An Inquiring Mind-Thirst for Adventure, The Three Village Herald.
Tyler, Beverly C., Tinker’s Home in the Village of Poquott, The Three Village Herald.
Tyler, Beverly C., The Memoirs of Edward Larocque Tinker, The Three Village Herald.