12 photographs and 71 large photogravures of Native American Indians by Edward S. Curtis. The photographs are signed by Curtis. The photogravures are all images found in the portfolios of plates that supplement Curtis’s 20-volume work, The North American Indian. The ones in this collection were acquired from more than one source, and their provenance is unknown in some cases. It is probable that some were once part of original editions of The North American Indian and others are later reprints.
“Born in Wisconsin, 1868; died in Los Angeles, California, October 19, 1952. Older brother of Asahel Curtis. Edward moved to the Puget Sound area with his ailing father, 1887, and built a cabin in Port Orchard. He formed a photography partnership with Rasmus Rothi in Seattle, 1891; partner with Thomas Guptill, 1892-97. Curtis photographed Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle (namesake of Washington’s metropolis and the leader of the Suquamish Indians of the Puget Sound area), 1895 or 1896. Thus began Curtis’ fascination and later obsession with photographing Native Americans. Curtis befriended such notables as C. Hart Merriam, George Bird Grinell, Gifford Pinchot, and John Muir. Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan, were his patrons, the former supporting and the latter financing Curtis’ monumental work, The North American Indian. The set of twenty volumes and accompanying portfolios were illustrated with beautiful gravures on three kinds of paper; Japanese tissue, vellum and Holland. Adolf Muhr managed Curtis’ studio during his frequent and lengthy trips throughout the West to photograph Indians. Muhr sold large numbers of Curtis’ work to keep the cash flowing and the family alive. Imogen Cunningham was one of Curtis’ technicians. When Muhr died in 1913, management of the studio passed to Ella McBride and Curtis’ daughter, Beth. Edwin Johanson was the chief studio photographer and the studio began selling “Curt-tones,” also known as goldtones or orotones, stunning images with gold highlights. In 1916, Curtis’ wife divorced him and was awarded nearly all their property. Curtis made films, produced books and continued work on The North American Indian, completing it in 1930. He was exhausted and went into seclusion to regain his health. After a long rest in Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, Curtis began mining, and eventually settled with his daughter, Beth, in Whittier, California.”
--Mautz, Carl. Biographies of Western Photographers: A Reference Guide to Photographers Working in the 19th Century American West. Nevada City, CA: Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997.
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Acquisition Note: Source: Mr. William R. Lemley. Gift
Curtis, Edward S. The North American Indian: Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska. 1907 – 1930. 20 volumes + 20 portfolios of loose plates. [McCracken has original edition in Rare Book Collection: TR 647 .C87 1907, and reprint from Johnson Reprint Corporation in Main Collection: TR 647 .C87 1978. The entire work can be found online from Northwestern University Library at http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/]
For additional publications about Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, please search the McCracken Research Library’s Catalog at: http://wyld.state.wy.us/bbhc/
Preferred Citation: Edward S. Curtis Collection, MS 53, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West.