Photogravure material in this exhibit is on loan courtesy of the Foundation for the Preservation of American Indian Art and Culture
Born in Wisconsin in 1868 into a family of limited means, Edward S. Curtis started his career as a studio portrait photographer in Seattle, Washington. Later, thousands of his photographic portraits of American Indians were self-published as photogravures in twenty-volume sets in The North American Indian book series. Three hundred sets were completed during his life. His goal was to produce a comprehensive ethnographic record of the North American Indian beyond what anyone else had ever achieved. In 1898, while on a mountaineering trip on Mount Ranier, he had the good fortune to rescue a party of climbers which included the anthropologist and naturalist George Bird Grinnell. It was Grinnell who in 1900 invited Curtis to join him on an expedition to witness a Sun Dance ceremony in Montana, further boosting Curtis’s interest in documenting what he saw as a people’s way of life that was quickly disappearing. The Brinton Museum’s show includes 75 photogravures encompassing portraits of Crow Chiefs, Northern Cheyennes and the Lakota peoples.