For thirty years, from about 1900 to 1930, Edward S. Curtis traveled the vast region west of the Mississippi armed with a variety of cameras. He made thousands of photographs of the more than 80 Native American tribes he sought out along the way.
His was a singular vision: to preserve in some way what he could plainly see was “a vanishing race.” From the tribes living under the relentless sun of the Southwest desert to those at home in the glacial Arctic, Curtis created some of the most memorable and haunting portraits ever made of Native Americans confronted by the twentieth century.
Curtis received funding for several of his expeditions from J. Pierpont Morgan. President Teddy Roosevelt wrote the foreword to the twenty-volume set of photogravures and texts that Curtis finally published by the end of his research. With a studio in Seattle, Curtis also sold a limited number of his goldtone photographs to help support his immense project. Today those goldtones remain some of the most striking and rare examples of his work, prized for both their aesthetic and ethnographic value.