Northwestern University
Digital Library Collections
Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian
Tables of Contents Search Browse Tribes



Biographical Timeline for Edward S. Curtis

               1868 Curtis is born in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  
1887 Curtis moves with his father from Minnesota to Washington territory, joined by other family in 1888.
1891 Curtis buys into, and later owns a photographic and engraving studio in Seattle, Washington. He develops a reputation for portraits and landscapes.
1890s Curtis photographs various Coastal Salish Indians of Puget Sound area.
1899 Curtis is appointed official photographer for the influential Harriman Alaska Expedition by its chief scientist, C. Hart Merriam.
1900 Curtis expresses interest in a large publishing endeavor after accompanying anthropologist George Bird Grinnell to the Piegan Reservation in Montana to photograph the Sun Dance ceremony.
1903 Chief Joseph visits the Curtis studio and has his portrait taken.

Curtis secures funding from financier J. P. Morgan for fieldwork needed to produce a twenty-volume illustrated text on American Indians west of the Plains, to be sold by subscription and completed in five years.

William E. Myers is hired as researcher and writer for the project, among other staff.


Volume 1 of The North American Indian is published, with a foreword by Theodore Roosevelt.

Curtis seeks additional funding sources.


After five years, only eight of the projected twenty volumes have been completed.

1913 J.P. Morgan dies, but his son agrees to continue support for The North American Indian.
1914 Curtis releases In the Land of the Head-Hunters, the first narrative documentary film of its kind, depicting the "primal life" of Northwest Coast Indians. It fails to raise more funds for his publishing efforts.
1915 With ten volumes of The North American Indian published, U.S. enters World War I. Curtis’s fieldwork and publishing activities decline, with only one additional volume appearing before 1922.
1920 Curtis moves his photography studio to Los Angeles. He attempts to finance fieldwork by working as a still photographer and movie camera operator in Hollywood.

Myers resigns as chief writer and ethnologist. He is replaced by Stewart C. Eastwood.

1927 Curtis's Alaska trip culminates three decades of fieldwork.
1930 Last volume of The North American Indian is published.
1935 Materials remaining from The North American Indian project, including photogravure plates, are sold to the Charles Lauriat Company, a rare book dealer in Boston.

Curtis dies in Los Angeles.





Davis, Barbara A. Edward S. Curtis: The Life and Times of a Shadow Catcher. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1985.

Gidley, Mick. Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian, Incorporated. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Gidley, Mick, ed. Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian Project in the Field. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

Lawlor, Laurie. Shadow Catcher: the Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis. New York: Walker, 1994.




Home | Site Map | User Tips

About the Site |About the Project | About the Work


Northwestern University Library > Digital Library Collections > The North American Indian

Last updated October 28th, 2003
mailto icon
Northwestern University seal

NUcat | Electronic Resources | Library Home | Search | In the spotlight | Help
Northwestern Home | Calendar: Plan-It Purple | Search | Directories
Northwestern University Library · 1970 Campus Drive · Evanston, IL · 60208-2300
Phone: (847) 491-7658 · Fax: (847) 491-8306 · E-mail:
© Copyright 2003 Northwestern University Library. World Wide Web Disclaimerand Policy Statements