Edward S. Curtis was born on February 19, 1868, on a farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin. Curtis left school in the sixth grade and soon built his own camera.
In 1906, J. P. Morgan provided Curtis with $75,000 to produce a series on Native Americans. This work was to be in 20 volumes with 1,500 photographs. Morgan’s funds were to be disbursed over five years and were earmarked to support only fieldwork for the books, not for writing, editing, or production of the volumes. Curtis received no salary for the project, which was to last more than 20 years. Under the terms of the arrangement, Morgan was to receive 25 sets and 500 original prints as repayment.
Eventually 222 complete sets were published. Curtis’s goal was not just to photograph but also to document as much of Native American traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared. He wrote in the introduction to his first volume in 1907, “The information that is to be gathered … respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost.” Curtis made over 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Native American language and music. He took over 40,000 photographic images of members of 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. His material, in most cases, is the only written recorded history.
On October 19, 1952, at the age of 84, Curtis died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, in the home of his daughter, Beth.
Now, you can see Curtis’ work in the Valley at Buffalo Collection, 7044 E. Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale, Arizona. There will be a VIP showing on Thursday, October 21st, 2021 from 5 to 8 pm. R.S.V.P. recommended as space will be limited.
If you would like more information about this topic, call Michael Levenberg at (480) 946-3903, or email Michael@BuffaloCollection.com.
Buffalo Collection brings you exquisite Native American art, ruggedly beautiful Buffalo Leather ranch furniture and handcrafted décor. The collection is defined by classic yet contemporary designs, infused by the spirit of the American West.