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  • Writer's pictureJohn Graybill

Setting the Record Straight!

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

What does your birth date mean to you? For some it’s a day of celebration with family and friends while for the young it may mean lots of gifts and cake. I tried searching on our beloved www and found all sorts of things, none of which I was looking for. I did find some interesting tidbits though and I’ll share at least one of them here.

From I came across “The Meaning of Your Date of Birth Number” which I found intriguing. If your date of birth was say on the 19th of the month, here is what they said: “You are highly ambitious and thrive on independence. Your pioneering, risk-taking nature is balanced with creativity and sensitivity to help you succeed in a wide variety of endeavors.”

I found this to be very interesting, and I found it extremely fitting for Edward S Curtis, who was born February 19, 1868. Wait a minute you say! Everywhere on the internet are claims Edward was born on the 16th. Are they all wrong? Not all, but most…

In the Curtis/Graybill family collection are numerous references to Edward being born on February 19th, 1868. Lets look at a few here.

Edward S Curtis 83rd birthday picture.

One of my favorites is this picture of Curtis taken on his 83 birthday by his son-in-law, Manford E. Magnuson. The inscription is written by my Aunt Beth to her sister, my grandmother, Florence and reads; “Dear Florence, This is dad on his 83 birthday”, and then signed Edward S Curtis Feb 19 1951. That’s Edward’s signature if you are wondering.

One of the other intriguing documents is Curtis’ journal from 1952, and on the page for February 19 we find this inscription in Edward’s own handwriting, “ESCs Birthday”.

I had also contacted the county in which Edward was born seeking a birth certificate. I received a prompt reply from the county stating they only have approximately 5 birth certificates prior to 1877. Nonetheless, I filled out the request form and sent it in with my $20 bucks. Needless to say, their search came up empty handed. So no birth certificate found.

The next closest document to a birth certificate would be a copy of the page showing all the family birth dates from the family bible. You have one of those, right? Well, maybe not, but it was common practice back in the day for families to have these. Shown here is that exact document, and, low and behold, it shows Edward’s date of birth as February 19, 1868.

Not many records have the correct date, and I find this somewhat unsettling. I know how I feel when someone doesn’t know me well enough to get my birthday right. I’ve compiled a list here of a few references which I know have the correct date of birth for great-gramps.

Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian Project in the Field, by Mick Gidley, page 4, first paragraph.

Edward S Curtis in the Land of the War Canoes, by Bill Holm and George Irving Quimby, page 20, first paragraph.

Find A Grave got it right

The Smithsonian also has the correct date of birth listed although it’s a little more difficult to uncover. Click on the link I’ve provided and when the page is done loading click on the self portrait of Curtis, there they have the correct date listed.

Now we know with certainty, Edward Sherriff Curtis was born to Johnson and Ellen Curtis on February 19, 1868. Now you have the rest of the story…

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