Curtis, Edward S. (1868-1952) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Name: Curtis, Edward S. (1868-1952)
Historical Note: Edward Sheriff Curtis was a photographer of the American West and of Native American peoples. Curtis' goal was not just to photograph, but to document, as much Native American traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared. Curtis made over 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Indian language and music. He took over 40,000 photographic images from over 80 tribes. He recorded tribal lore and history, and he described traditional foods, housing, garments, recreation, ceremonies, and funeral customs. He wrote biographical sketches of tribal leaders, and his material, in most cases, is the only recorded history. Much of the material and information he collected was made into a book, The North American Indian, and in 1935 the rights and remaining unpublished material were sold by the Morgan estate to the Charles E. Lauriat Company in Boston for $1,000 plus a percentage of any future royalties. This included 19 complete bound sets of The North American Indian, thousands of individual paper prints, the copper printing plates, the unbound printed pages, and the original glass-plate negatives. Lauriat bound the remaining loose printed pages and sold them with the completed sets. The remaining material remained untouched in the Lauriat basement in Boston until they were rediscovered in 1972. Curtis died on October 19th, 1952 at the age of 84 of a heart attack in Whittier California.