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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: Edward S. Curtis after the North American Indian

This library guide is an overview of the Archives & Special Collection exhibit on Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian.

A Chronology of the Life of Edward S. Curtis: Jack Morgan and the Sale of The North American Indian, Harriet Leitch, and the Death and Rediscovery of Edward S. Curtis, 1932-1970's

 Alaska map     Map of continental U.S.

Map of North America: Showing the research areas, cities, and rail routes important in Edward Curtis's Life by Eric Elias. In Lawlor, Laurie. Shadow Catcher: The Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis. New York, [1994].

1932-1949

1932

  • OCTOBER 22.  The death of Clara Curtis is published in the Seattle Times on October 22, 1932.

1935

  • APRIL 22.  Edmond S. Meany, mountaineer, professor of botany and history at the University of Washington, a great friend and supporter of Edward S. Curtis, and a contributor to The North American Indian, dies on April 22, 1935.
  • MAY.  Jack Morgan sells the ownership and the copyright of The North American Indian, along with the copper- and glass-plate negatives, nineteen complete sets, and thousands of prints and photogravures, to the Boston rare book dealer Charles E. Lauriat during the height of the Great Depression for $1000.

1948-1951

  • Curtis begins a written correspondence with Harriet Leitch, a librarian retired from the Seattle Public Library, and a volunteer with the Seattle Historical Society. In his many letters to Leitch, Curtis reflects on the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition, George Bird Grinnell, Mount Rainier, photographing Princess Angeline and discovering the Tulalip Reservation, Chief Joseph, and J. Pierpont Morgan and The North American Indian.

1949

  • APRIL.  William E. Myers, Curtis’s colleague and collaborator on The North American Indian, dies at the age of seventy-five in Petaluma, California.

Curtis device

1951-Present

1951

  • FEBRUARY - AUGUST.  Curtis has his portrait photographed in February to celebrate his 83rd birthday on February 16, which he sends to Harriet Leitch. His letter to her dated April 10, 1951, describes much of the arc of his life with energy and enthusiasm. In his last letter to Leitch, dated August 4, 1951, Curtis recounts his failing eyesight, difficulty writing due to crippling arthritis, and his address at 8550 Burton Way in Los Angeles, “The most discouraging place I have ever tried to live in.”

1952

  • OCTOBER 19.  Edward S. Curtis dies at the age of eighty-four from a heart attack at the home of his daughter, Beth Curtis Magnuson, in Los Angeles on October 19, 1952. A six-sentence obituary is published in The New York Times on October 20, 1952.

1956

  • SEPTEMBER 28.  Frederick Webb Hodge, editor of The North American Indian, dies at the age of ninety-one on September 28, 1956.

1970's-Present

  • Karl D. Kernberger, a professional photographer, rescues the original copper-plates and over 200,000 photogravures from The North American Indian located in the bookstore of the deceased rare book dealer Charles E. Lauriat in Boston. This revelation sparks a reexamination of the life and work of Edward S. Curtis, which dovetails with the cultural reawakening in native communities that continues today with gallery and museum exhibitions, published works, and art and photography created by contemporary native artists.

Curtis device