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Edward Sheriff Curtis

February 16, 1868 - October 19, 1952


Edward Sheriff Curtis was an American photographer and ethnologist born in Minnesota on February 16th, 1868. In 1892, The Curtis family moved to Washington where Curtis opened his first photographic studio in Seattle. By 1905, Curtis’ reputation had grown significantly—his portrait studio in Seattle was very successful, his landscapes had become popular outside of Washington, and he had won national prizes for his genre studies of the Native Americans of the Puget Sound, helping him gain commissions in the East. In 1906 Curtis secured the patronage of wealthy banker J.P. Morgan, to pursue “The North American Indian”— a project with the ultimate goal of producing a comprehensive record of tribes across the United States. This twenty-volume publication is composed of photographs, ethnographic texts, and printed photogravures. Curtis, with the help of his team of research assistants, photographers, editors, etc., produced over 40,000 photographs and interacted with over eighty different tribes. Native Americans had a hand in the construction as well, acting as cultural intermediaries, informants, and translators.

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