National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs, circa 1895-2001


Collection ID:
Curtis, Edward S., 1868-1952
circa 1895-2001
bulk 1898-1951
Physical Description:
86 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs, circa 1895-2001 (bulk 1898-1951) primarily relate to Curtis's work on his opus, the North American Indian (NAI), although other subjects are documented as well. The papers relate closely to the Edward S. Curtis papers at the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections (UW), as that collection was donated by Curtis's daughter Florence Graybill and appears to be part of the same body of materials that was maintained by Curtis, and after his death, by Florence. Occasionally a correspondence exchange or manuscript draft is divided between the National Anthropological Archives and UW. Also found in both collections are notes, mostly dated 1951, in Curtis's handwriting on slips of paper or the document itself that gives an explanation of the document.
The collection includes correspondence, research notes, NAI files and promotional material, writings and memoirs, a small amount of material relating to a complaint regarding his reporting in NAI of certain Pueblo ceremonies, and correspondence and other documents relating to his gold mining interests. Also included are papers of Florence Graybill, who published on Curtis after his death and maintained contacts with various individuals and entities involved in Curtis exhibits, publications, and sales.
The correspondence exchanges are almost exclusively NAI related and document the relationships Curtis had with various influential people, including Gifford Pinchot, Joseph Blethen, Jacob Riis, William Farabee, Smithsonian scholars Frederick Webb Hodge and Matilda Coxe Stevenson, and the immediate and extended family of Theodore Roosevelt. Included are letters of introduction for Curtis as he sought to promote his work.
The research notes consist of a small mixture of writings on field experiences as well as maps used during his fieldwork (the bulk of Curtis's fieldnotes and NAI manuscripts are at the Seaver Center in the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History). The NAI files chiefly contain material promoting the work, such as published reviews, articles, and ephemera, but there are a few North American Indian Inc. business records (the bulk of the business records are maintained at the Pierpont Morgan Library). Of note is a lengthy annual report for the North American Indian, Inc., in which Curtis explains difficulties encountered in the fieldwork and volume publication. Related to his NAI work are letters and other materials documenting a 1934 complaint from Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior on Curtis's reporting of certain Pueblo ceremonies, as well as Curtis's response.
The writings comprise manuscript drafts on various topics. Most are short, stand-alone stories relating to his NAI work, often relaying a story about his own experiences. Similar stories can be found in Florence Graybill's papers, as she published some of them after his death. Also part of the writings are drafts for several chapters of Curtis's unpublished memoir, "As it Was."
Curtis's interest in gold mining is represented in correspondence and other material dating from 1938-1950. Most of the letters are between Curtis and his son Harold. Curtis's invention of a concentrator for separating fine gold from placer tailings is also documented in photographs and drawings.
Florence Graybill's papers pertain to writings, talks, and projects relating to Curtis after his death. Included are publication files for Graybill's biography of Curtis written with Victor Boesen, Visions of a Vanishing Race, as well as other of her articles and book reviews. Graybill's correspondence reveals her commitment to assist scholars and others interested in researching and exhibiting Curtis material, as well as her communication with individuals having a commercial interest in Curtis. Also present are Graybill's lecture notes for talks given, and articles and newspaper features on Curtis written by others.
The photographs in this collection primarily relate to Curtis's NAI work (1898-1927) and are a mix of original and working copy negatives, prints, and transparencies. The original negatives are remarkable in that they reveal some of Curtis's working methods in crafting his images through pencil and other enhancements, as well as showing removal of unwanted items from the image. Also of note are two original logbooks used for recording negatives from approximately 1895-1916. The majority of the prints appear to be silver gelatin prints made for reference; however, there are a fair number of platinum prints as well as several blue-toned silver prints in the collection. There are only a few cyanotypes.
Among the photographs is a deerskin-bound photograph album containing Harriman Alaska Expedition and NAI photographs, representing some of Curtis's earliest Native American subjects. These include images of people from the Puget Sound area as well as from his 1900 trip to the Blackfoot reservation. There are no annotations in the album; however, tucked among the pages are a few small notes of identification in Curtis's handwriting.
Photographs documenting other subjects are also present to a lesser degree. Among these are photographs of Curtis's Seattle photography studio, a 1915 Grand Canyon trip, hop field workers in the Puget Sound area, and Curtis's illustrations for Marah Ryan's book Flute of the Gods. Additionally, the collection contains a number of photographs of Curtis, his children, and portraits of various individuals including Theodore Roosevelt and actor Anna May Wong.


The Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs are arranged into the following 10 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical information, 1919-1952
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1904-1951
  • Series 3: Research notes, 1900-1930, undated
  • Series 4: North American Indian, circa 1906-1920
  • Series 5: Writings, 1906, 1948, undated
  • Series 6: Complaint regarding Curtis's reporting of Pueblo ceremonies, 1924-1935
  • Series 7: Gold mining, 1938-1950
  • Series 8. Florence Curtis Graybill papers, 1948-2001
  • Series 9: Photographs, circa 1896-1927
  • Series 10: Duplicate material, undated

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Edward Sherriff Curtis (1868-1952) was an American photographer famous for his photographs of the indigenous peoples of North America. His work was highly influential in shaping a sympathetic yet romantic view of cultures that he and many others believed to be "vanishing." Over the course of 30 years, Curtis visited more than 80 Native American communities and published his photographs and ethnographies in the twenty-volume North American Indian (NAI) (1907-1930).
Curtis was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin, to Ellen and Johnson Curtis in 1868. In about 1874, his family moved to a farm in Cordova, Minnesota. At a young age, Curtis built a camera, and it is possible that he may have worked in a Minneapolis photography studio for a time. In 1887, Curtis and his father moved West and settled on a plot near what is now Port Orchard, Washington, with the rest of the family joining them the following year. When Johnson Curtis died within a month of the family's arrival, 20-year-old Curtis became the head of the family.
In 1891, Curtis moved to Seattle and bought into a photo studio with Rasmus Rothi. Less than a year later, he and Thomas Guptill formed "Curtis and Guptill, Photographers and Photoengravers." The endeavor became a premier portrait studio for Seattle society and found success in photoengraving for many local publications. In 1892, Curtis married Clara Phillips (1874-1932) and in 1893 their son Harold was born (1893-1988), followed by Elizabeth (Beth) (1896-1973), Florence (1899-1987) and Katherine (Billy) (1909-?). Around 1895, Curtis made his first photographs of local Native people, including the daughter of Duwamish chief Seattle: Kickisomlo or "Princess Angeline." Curtis submitted a series of his Native American photographs to the National Photographic Convention, and received an award in the category of "genre studies" for Homeward (later published in volume 9 of the NAI). In 1896, the entire Curtis family moved to Seattle, which included Curtis's mother, his siblings Eva and Asahel, Clara's sisters Susie and Nellie Phillips, and their cousin William Phillips. Most of the household worked in Curtis's studio along with other employees. Curtis became sole proprietor of the studio in 1897, which remained a popular portrait studio but also sold his scenic landscapes and views of the Seattle Area. Curtis also sent his brother Asahel to Alaska and the Yukon to photograph the Klondike Gold Rush, and sold those views as well. Asahel went on to become a well-known photographer in his own right, primarily working in the American Northwest.
Curtis was an avid outdoorsman and joined the Mazamas Club after his first of many climbs of Mount Rainier. On a climb in 1898, Curtis evidently met a group of scientists, including C. Hart Merriam, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot, who had lost their way on the mountain, and led them to safety. This encounter led to an invitation from Merriam for Curtis to accompany a group of over 30 well-known scientists, naturalists, and artists as the official photographer on a maritime expedition to the Alaskan coast. Funded by railroad magnate Edward Harriman, the Harriman Alaska Expedition left Seattle in May of 1899, and returned at the end of July. Curtis made around 5000 photographs during the trip, including photographs of the indigenous peoples they met as well as views of mountains, glaciers, and other natural features. Many of the photographs appeared in the expedition's 14 published volumes of their findings.
In 1900, Curtis accompanied Grinnell to Montana for a Blackfoot Sundance. Here, Curtis made numerous photographs and became interested in the idea of a larger project to document the Native peoples of North America. Almost immediately upon returning from the Sundance, Curtis set off for the Southwest to photograph Puebloan communities. By 1904, Curtis had already held at least one exhibit of his "Indian pictures" and his project to "form a comprehensive and permanent record of all the important tribes of the United States and Alaska that still retain to a considerable degree their primitive customs and traditions" (General Introduction, the NAI) had taken shape and already received some press coverage. With his fieldwork now increasing his absences from home, Curtis hired Adolph Muhr, former assistant to Omaha photographer Frank Rinehart, to help manage the Seattle studio.
In 1904, Curtis was a winner in the Ladies Home Journal "Prettiest Children In America" portrait contest. His photograph of Marie Fischer was selected as one of 112 that would be published and Fischer was one of 12 children selected from the photographs who would have their portrait painted by Walter Russell. Russell and Curtis made an acquaintance while Russell was in Seattle to paint Fischer's portrait, and not long afterwards, Russell contacted Curtis to make photographic studies of Theodore Roosevelt's children for portraits he would paint. Curtis subsequently photographed the entire Roosevelt family, and developed a social connection with the President. Several important outcomes came of this new friendship, including Roosevelt eventually writing the foreword to the NAI, as well as making introductions to influential people.
Key among these introductions was one to wealthy financier John Pierpont Morgan, in 1906. After a brief meeting with Curtis during which he viewed several of Curtis's photographs of Native Americans, Morgan agreed to finance the fieldwork for the NAI project for five years, at $15,000.00 per year. It was up to Curtis to cover publishing and promotion costs, with the publication being sold as a subscription. In return, Morgan would receive 25 sets of the 20-volume publication. The ambitious publication plan outlined 20 volumes of ethnological text, each to be illustrated with 75 photogravure prints made from acid-etched copper plates. Each volume would be accompanied by a companion portfolio of 35 large photogravures. With high-quality papers and fine binding, a set would cost $3000.00. 500 sets were planned. Under Morgan, the North American Indian, Inc. formed as body to administer the monies. Also around this time, Frederick Webb Hodge, Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, agreed to edit the publications.
Curtis then began more systematic fieldwork, accompanied by a team of research assistants and Native interpreters. In 1906, Curtis hired William E. Myers, a former journalist, as a field assistant and stenographer. Over the years, Myers became the lead researcher on the project, making enormous contributions in collecting data and possibly doing the bulk of the writing for the first 18 volumes. Upon meeting a new community, Curtis and his team would work on gathering data dealing with all aspects of the community's life, including language, social and political organization, religion, food ways, measures and values, and many other topics. (See box 2 folder 1 in this collection for Curtis's list of topics.) Curtis and his assistants, especially Myers, brought books and papers to the field relating to the tribes they were currently concerned with, and often wrote from the field to anthropologists at the Bureau of American Ethnology and other institutions for information or publications. In addition to fieldnotes and photographs, the team also employed sound recording equipment, making thousands of recordings on wax cylinders. Curtis also often brought a motion picture camera, although few of his films have survived.
The first volume of the NAI was published towards the end of 1907. Already, Curtis was encountering difficulty in finding subscribers to the publication despite great praise in the press and among those who could afford the volumes. Curtis spent progressively more of his time outside the field season promoting the project through lectures and in 1911, presenting his "Picture Musicale"—a lecture illustrated with lantern slides and accompanied by an original musical score—in major cities. After the initial five funded years, only eight of the twenty volumes had been completed. However, Morgan agreed to continue support for the fieldwork and publication continued.
Starting in 1910, Curtis and his team worked among the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation on Vancouver Island, and in 1913 began to develop a documentary film project featuring the community in Alert Bay. In 1914, Curtis produced the feature-length film, In the Land of the Headhunters. The film showcased an all-indigenous cast and included an original musical score. Screened in New York and Seattle, it received high praise. However after this initial success, it did not receive the attention Curtis had hoped for, and resulted in financial loss.
Meanwhile, Curtis's prolonged absences from home had taken a toll on his marriage and in 1919 Clara and Edward divorced. The Seattle studio was awarded to Clara, and Curtis moved to Los Angeles, opening a photography studio with his daughter Beth and her husband Manford "Mag" Magnuson. Daughters Florence and Katherine came to Los Angeles sometime later. Curtis continued with fieldwork and promotion of the project, and in 1922 volume 12 of the NAI was published. Also in 1922, Curtis was accompanied during the field season in California by his daughter Florence Curtis Graybill, the first time a family member had gone to the field with him since the Curtis children were very small.
Curtis continued to push the project and publications along, yet never without financial struggle and he picked up work in Hollywood as both a still and motion picture photographer. John Pierpont Morgan, Jr., continued to provide funding for the fieldwork in memory of his father, but with the various financial upsets of the 1910s and 1920s, Curtis had a difficult time getting subscribers on board. In 1926, Myers, feeling the strain, regretfully resigned after the completion of volume 18. Anthropologist Frank Speck recommended Stewart Eastwood, a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, to replace Myers as ethnologist for the final two volumes.
In 1927, Curtis and his team, along with his daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson, headed north from Seattle to Alaska and Canada on a final field season. Harsh weather and a hip injury made the trip difficult for Curtis, but he was very satisfied with the season's work. The party returned to Seattle, and upon arrival Curtis was arrested for unpaid alimony. He returned exhausted to Los Angeles, and in 1930 the final two volumes of NAI were published without fanfare. Curtis spent the next two years recovering from physical and mental exhaustion. Beth and Mag continued to run the Curtis studio in LA, but for the most part, Curtis had set down his camera for good. With the NAI behind him and his health recovered, Curtis pursued various interests and employment; he continued to do some work in Hollywood, including working on The Plainsman, starring Gary Cooper.
In 1933 Curtis was publicly criticized by John Collier, the Commissioner for Indian Affairs for some of the statements he had made on certain Pueblo ceremonies in the NAI volume 16, published in 1924. In September of 1934 Curtis received a letter from Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior regarding the claims published in volume 16, demanding a printed apology to be distributed among the text of the book as well as removal of the offending text from any undistributed copies of the publication. Curtis spent months writing and compiling supporting documentation in his defense, which he submitted to Ickes in January 1935. Also in 1935, the Morgan estate liquidated the North American Indian, Inc. and sold the remaining sets of the NAI volumes and unbound pages, photogravures, and copper printing plates along with the rights to the material to Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat for $1000.00.
Curtis's interest in gold prospecting took a front seat in the mid-1930s. While he scouted for potentially profitable mines in Northern California, his friend Ted Shell and possibly his son Harold sought investors. However, nothing ever fully panned out, though Curtis did design and build a concentrator for separating fine gold from placer tailings. He later sold the patent for ten dollars. Eventually, Curtis settled down on a farm outside Los Angeles, moving later to live with Beth and Mag, where he stayed until his death. In the mid to late 1940s Curtis began to write his memoirs. His daughter Florence visited him regularly and typed as Curtis dictated his recollections, and at some point he completed a draft of a memoir titled "As it Was." He also went through his papers and annotated or tucked notes among the correspondence and other material giving a brief explanation of the item or its context. Curtis died at home in 1952.
Prior to his death, Curtis had been out of the public eye for some years, and the NAI had slipped into relative obscurity. The Curtis studio in Los Angeles continued to sell Curtis's Native American photographs, and Florence gave occasional talks on her father, but it wasn't until the early 1970s that Curtis's work saw a renewed interest. This renaissance took place largely in the art photography market, but Curtis's biography and the NAI were also getting treatment in publications. Florence Curtis Graybill partnered with Victor Boesen to produce two narrative histories of Curtis and his work, and these were followed by many others. Florence continued to publish short works on her father for many years, and stayed in touch with numerous people involved in projects both scholarly and commercial that related to Curtis's work.
Sources Cited
Davis, Barbara. Edward S. Curtis: the life and times of a shadowcatcher. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1984.
Gidley, Mick. The North American Indian, Incorporated. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Curtis is born in Whitewater, Wisconsin
circa 1874
Curtis family moves to Cordova, Minnesota
Moves with his father to Washington territory to be joined by his mother and siblings in 1888
With Rasmus Rothi forms Rothi & Curtis photography studio in Seattle
Marries Clara Phillips
With Thomas Guptill forms Curtis & Guptill Photographers and Photoengravers in Seattle
circa 1895
Becomes interested in photographing the indigenous people of the area
Guptill leaves, Curtis establishes himself as Edward S. Curtis, Photographer and Photoengraver
Meets C. Hart Merriam, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot during climb on Mount Rainier
Receives first place award from the National Photographic Convention in the "Genre Studies" for his photographs of Native Americans
Joins Harriman Alaska Expedition as official photographer at request of C. Hart Merriam and George Bird Grinnell
Accompanies George Bird Grinnell to Blackfoot reservation in Montana for Sundance
Becomes interested in a major project to document Native American tribes
Travels to Arizona to photograph Hopi communities
circa 1902
Travels again to the southwest to photograph Native communities
Holds first formal exhibit of Native American photographs in his studio
Publicly announces intention to produce major publication on Native Americans
Portrait entered in the Ladies Home Journal "Prettiest Children in America" contest is selected for publication and as a result, Curtis is asked to photograph President Theodore Roosevelt's family
circa 1904-1906
Conducts fieldwork among Native communities of the southwest
Meets with J. P. Morgan, who agrees to finance the fieldwork for Curtis's project
Hires William E. Myers as researcher and writer for the project
Volume 1 of NAI is published
Volumes 2 and 3 of NAI are published
Volumes 4 and 5 of NAI are published
Volumes 6, 7, and 8 of NAI are published
Presents and tours the "Picture Musicale"
J. P. Morgan dies, but his son agrees to continue to provide support for NAI
Volume 9 of NAI is published
Releases film In the Land of the Headhunters
Volume 10 of NAI is published
Volume 11 of NAI is published
Edward and Clara Curtis divorce and the Seattle studio is awarded to Clara
Moves to Los Angeles and opens new studio with daughter Beth and her husband, Manford Magnuson
Volume 12 of NAI is published
Conducts fieldwork in California with daughter Florence Curtis Graybill
Volumes 13 and 14 of NAI are published
Volumes 15, 16, and 17 of NAI are published
William E. Myers resigns as chief writer and ethnologist of NAI
Conducts fieldwork in Alaska and Canada for final NAI volume with daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson
Volume 18 of NAI is published
Volumes 19 and 20 of NAI are published
circa 1930-1950
Applies himself to various interests, especially gold mining
Dies in Los Angeles at the home of Beth and Manford Magnuson


Sarah Ganderup and Gina Rappaport
Processing and digitization of parts of this collection was supported by funding from the Smithsonian Women's Committee and the Small Research Grants program of the National Museum of Natural History.
Processing Information
The Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs arrived at the National Anthropological Archives grouped loosely by format type (paper, photos) and within the papers grouped loosely by theme (i.e. correspondence, writings) which the archivist maintained as series. The photographs (negatives and prints) were unarranged so the archivist imposed subseries for ease of access based on the order of the North American Indian volumes. For photographs unrelated to the North American Indian, several other subseries were imposed.
During the course of processing, the archivist visited several archival repositories with major Curtis holdings, including the Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, the Braun Research Library at the Autry Museum, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and the Getty Research Center. Some material from these collections that closely relates or helps to explain the material at the NAA was photocopied and placed within the collection for researcher convenience.
With respect to the photographs, wherever possible, the archivist maintained Curtis's negative number as the primary unique identifier for the photograph. Where Curtis's numbers were absent, the archivist assigned numbers which include a series designator and an item number. For example, ESC15.1 indicates subseries 15 (volume 15).
The collection was processed over several years by Gina Rappaport and Sarah Ganderup; final processing was completed by Gina Rappaport in May, 2019. The finding aid was encoded by Gina Rappaport, August, 2019.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers and photographs were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Jim Graybill, grandson of Edward S. Curtis, in 2010 and 2011.
Custodial History
The archives of Edward S. Curtis are distributed throughout the holdings of multiple museums, archives, and libraries as well as those of private collectors. As opposed to the photographs, photogravures, and publications that Curtis made for public consumption, his archives consist of unique and mostly unpublished records created or generated during the course of his life and career. These include such material as correspondence, manuscript drafts, financial documents, field notes, ephemera, audio recordings, photographic prints, negatives, lantern slides, and photogravure printing plates, audio recordings, and musical scores. This Custodial History/Provenance note traces the diffusion of these materials, some of which are now held at the National Anthropological Archives, from their original source. For the current location of Curtis materials in other archives, please see the Related Materials note in this guide.
In 1935, the estate of John Pierpont Morgan liquidated the North American Indian, Inc. (the company formed to manage funds from Morgan for Curtis's fieldwork) and sold the remaining sets of the North American Indian (NAI) volumes and unbound pages, photogravures, copper printing plates, and possibly some of Curtis's original negatives along with the rights to the material to Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat for $1000.00. Lauriat bound and sold the remaining loose pages along with the completed sets. However, the bulk of the material remained in the bookstore's basement for many years. In 1972, the NAI material was purchased by Cerro Gordo Associates. Subsequently the original 2220 copper printing plates were purchased by a group of investors who formed the Classic Gravure Corporation (CGC). With the plates, CGC began to make high-quality abridged versions of the NAI with a goal of completing 228 abridged/edited sets to complement the original 272 sets that Curtis produced and to finally round out the 500 sets that Curtis originally had intended. Fewer sets than planned were made, and in 1982, CGC sold the copper plates to the Curtis Collection, another group of investors who planned to print limited edition photogravures. With only minor success in this project, in 1985 the owners of the copper plates decided to break up the set of 2220 plates and offer them for sale individually. No inventory for the original negatives in the NAI Inc. collection has come to light, so it is not clear how many negatives they held; however some do appear to have survived, comprising the negatives that can be found in several repositories other than the NAA, including the Palace of the Governors photo archives at the New Mexico State Museum.
Though the Morgan estate held a large amount of material from NAI, Edward Curtis had a substantial amount of his own NAI material which included papers, photographs, and artifacts as well as numerous prints and photogravures intended for sale. Upon his death in 1952, this material passed to his daugher Beth and her husband, Manford Magnuson, with whom Curtis had lived in his final few years. Some of this material came to the NAA in several donations from Curtis's descendants, but a large amount entered the market through Magnuson. In 1972, Magnuson began to sell his holdings of Curtis archives, starting with a major sale of material to Iris Forrest, a New York dealer in photography. Forrest purchased Curtis's original manuscripts and fieldnotes for the NAI, the manuscript for Curtis's memoir "As It Was," original musical scores for the Curtis "Picture Musicale," lantern slides, newspaper clippings, posters, and ephemera, as well as a large set of photographic prints and photogravures. Magnuson retained Curtis's original negatives, and had no intention of selling them, asking Forrest in a 1972 letter to "please note that I am not selling any of the negatives."
Also around 1972, G Ray Hawkins, a Los Angeles dealer in photography, put an ad in the newspaper that he was seeking the work of photographers such as Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and Curtis. Shortly thereafter he received a call from Magnuson, who was touched that Hawkins had listed Curtis's name with the other famous photographers. Through this connection, Hawkins purchased a number of items from Magnuson's collection, including most of Curtis's cyanotypes (the cyanotypes now found in collections both public and private came into the market primarily through Hawkins). Hawkins also purchased some silver prints which included a set of the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) Hamatsa photographs that Hawkins subsequently sold to the Canadian Museum of History.
In 1975, Iris Forrest wrote to the Smithsonian Institution offering to sell the Curtis material she had purchased from Magnuson. Her letter was routed to the National Anthropological Archives. The offer included:
"typed (and much handwritten) notes for the North American Indian including proof prints from the printer, work prints, correspondence relating to the work. I also have memorabilia, movie projector, colored slides used in lecturing, poster, [a] sound machine . . . an unpublished manuscript: As It Was, and several articles written for newspapers or magazines, I also have over 900 photographs all originals except for 181 which are gravures and the rest of the photos are silver, platinum, glass, and bromides."
Forrest asked $325,000.00 for the lot, but was willing to sell the items separately. Herman J. Viola, Director of the NAA, replied to Forrest that while the archives was certainly interested in the materials, it did not have funds for such a purchase. Not long after this, Iris Forrest connected with Lois and Jim Flury, Seattle dealers in Curtis photographs and NAI volumes. Forest gave the Flurys terms that provided they would first purchase all of the manuscripts and field notes, they would have exclusive rights to purchase from Forrest's collection before she opened it up to other dealers. According to Lois Flury, the manuscript material had included silver prints attached to pages of related notes, but she removed them to sell separately. She then sold or donated the manuscripts and field notes to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, where they comprise Collection GC1143 in the Seaver Center for Western History Research. Forrest continued to sell items from her initial purchase from Magnuson until 1993, but always retained the manuscript "As It Was," planning to publish it one day. Forrest died in 2016.
The negatives retained by Magnuson included those that Curtis was able to bring to Los Angeles following his divorce, photographs made once he had moved to California, and possibly more negatives brought by Curtis's daughter Katherine when she moved to Los Angeles following Clara Curtis's death. Though Magnuson never intended for his set of negatives to be sold, approximately 200 of them entered the market following a theft around 1975. Magnuson believed that photographer Jean-Antony du Lac, who sold reproductions of Curtis's photographs under the designation "The Curtis Project," had stolen the negatives while a house guest. In 1987, a friend of Magnuson visited the Flury gallery in Seattle, where he learned that the Flurys had purchased some 200 original negatives from du Lac. These negatives were subsequently sold by Jim Flury to one or more dealers and collectors. Magnuson gave his remaining negatives and transparencies to his nephew, Jim Graybill. Also in 1987, Curtis's daughter Florence Curtis Graybill donated several boxes of Curtis's papers to the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections. Included were some of her own papers documenting to her literary activities relating to her father.
In 1988, Curtis's son Harold donated Curtis's manuscript detailing his research into the Battle of Little Bighorn to the Smithsonian Institution as his father had "asked that I see to it that these papers of historical value eventually be put into the hands of a responsible institution." The manuscript is now at the NAA. In 2010, Jim Graybill donated his grandfather's negatives and in 2011, his remaining papers, to the NAA. Also in 2011, Graybill donated a set of artifacts including baskets, pottery, and textiles to the Smithsonian which were accessioned into the anthropology collections of the National Museum of Natural History.
Sources Cited
Brutico, Angelo. Personal communication with the archivist.
Flury, Lois. Personal communication with the archivist.
Hawkins, G Ray. Personal communication with the archivist.
Magnuson, Manford. Copy of lLetter to Iris Forrest.
Separated Materials
Artifacts collected by Curtis that were a part of this donation comprise Accession No. 2058745 in the collections of the Department of Anthropology in the National Museum of Natural History.

Digital Content

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Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
Viewing of the photographic negatives and transparencies requires advance notice and the permission of the Photo Archivist.
Access to the Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs requires an appointment.

Related Materials
The National Anthropological Archives holds additional Curtis papers and photographs in MS 2000-18, the Edward Curtis investigation of the battle of Little Bighorn and Photo Lot 59, the Library of Congress copyright prints collection.
The Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University holds Curtis's wax cylinder audio recordings from 1907-1913.
The Braun Research Library at the Autry Museum of the American West holds the Frederick Webb Hodge papers (1888-1931), which contain substantial correspondence from Curtis. The Braun also holds a small amount of Curtis papers and photographs, including some of Curtis's cyanotypes.
The Getty Research Institute holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1900-1978), which include the original manuscript scores for the Curtis Picture Musicale and film In the Land of the Headhunters.
The Palace of the Governors at the New Mexico History Museum holds original Curtis negatives pertaining to the southwest.
The Pierpont Morgan Library holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1906-1947), which contain the records of the North American Indian, Inc., as well as Curtis's correspondence to librarian, and later library director, Belle Da Costa Greene. The library also holds a large collection of Curtis's lantern slides, used in his Picture Musicale.
The Seattle Public Library holds correspondence of Curtis to Librarian Harriet Leitch (1948-1951), pertaining to his career.
The Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History holds collection GC 1143, which contains Curtis's field notes as well as manuscript drafts for the North American Indian.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian holds NMAI.AC.080, the Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs, as well as NMAI.AC.053, the Mary Harriman Rumsey collection of Harriman Alaska Expedition photographs.
The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1893-1983). Additionally, the Burke Museum holds papers and photographs of Edmund Schwinke, which relate to Curtis's work with the Kwakwaka'wakw community.

More Information

Selected Bibliography

Selected Bibliography
Curtis, Edward S. The North American Indian: being a series of volumes picturing and describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska. Cambridge: The University Press, 1907-1930.

Other Finding Aids

Other Finding Aids
The two negative logbooks have been transcribed into a spreadsheet which is available upon request.

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