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This is part 2 of an outline of Edward Curtis' life along with some key events in North American history that occurred during his time. The Native history timeline is highly selective due to the limited space on these pages.  


Curtis begins to plan a large publishing project after accompanying anthropologist George Bird Grinnell to the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana to photograph the Sun Dance ceremony.


Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as 26th President of the U.S. after President William McKinley is assassinated.

Guglielmo Marconi sends the first wireless radio signal across the Atlantic Ocean.


Chief Joseph, leader of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce People, visits the Curtis Studio in Seattle and has his portrait taken by Curtis.

The Wright Brothers demonstrate the first powered flight in the U.S.

The Wright Brothers demonstrate the first powered flight in the U.S.
Chief Joseph leader of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce People


Curtis is one of the winners of the "Prettiest Children in America" contest in the Ladies Home Journal. As a result, he is invited to photograph President Theodore Roosevelt's sons. Curtis and "Teddy" become close friends.


Albert Einstein publishes his Theory of Relativity. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan are partitioned out of the Northwest Territories to become the eighth and ninth provinces of Canada.


Curtis makes a presentation about his idea of The North American Indian to Wall Street baron J. P. Morgan in New York. After first saying "no," Morgan decides to fund Curtis' fieldwork for 5 years. Curtis will receive $15,000 each year, and in return, he agrees to give Morgan 25 copies of the books and 500 individual prints from the project. Morgan wanted the books to be printed to luxurious standards, but he did not want his money used for the production of the books. This forced Curtis to raise money for the printing and sale of the books entirely on his own.

The San Francisco earthquake destroys about 4 square miles of the city and kills at least 500 people.

The United States takes over the construction of the Panama Canal.


After more than a year of fieldwork in the American Southwest, Curtis and his team produce volumes 1 and 2 of The North American Indian, focusing on Arizona and New Mexico. They receive rave reviews.

Charles Curtis of Kansas (Kaw Nation) becomes the first U.S. Senator with Native ancestry. Later, he served as Vice President under Herbert Hoover. He was not related to Edward Curtis.

Title Page of The North American Indian, focusing on Arizona and New Mexico.


Exhibitions of prints from The North American Indian go on display in New York (NY), Washington (DC), Buffalo (NY). Portland (OR), and the Iowa State Historical Society. Volume 3, about Native People in North and South Dakota, is published.

The Ford Model T appears on the market.


J. P. Morgan forms The North American Indian, Incorporated, a business intended to take over all of the financial aspects of Curtis's project.

Curtis has his own exhibition at the giant Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition in Seattle. Volumes 4 and 5, covering parts of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, are published.

Robert Peary claims to have reached the North Pole.


To meet Morgan's standards for the highest quality, Curtis regularly has greater expenses than income. He writes to his colleague Frederick Webb Hodge, “if I had an earthly thing that was not mortgaged, I should immediately start out to find someone to loan me a few dollars on it.”

Curtis begins a lecture tour of an “Indian Picture Opera,” with hand-painted slides of his photographs and accompanied by a full orchestra. He spends more and more of his time traveling the country giving his presentations and trying to sell subscriptions to The North American Indian.

Opera Program


While filming a whale hunt on the NW coast, Curtis is slapped by a whale's tail. His hip is broken, and he will take several months to recover. As a result of this injury, he’ll walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Volumes 6, 7, and 8, focused on Montana, Washington, and Oregon, are published.

Ishi, generally considered to have been the last Native Person in America to have lived most of his life without contact with European-American culture, was found living near Oroville, California


After five years, only 8 of the planned 20 volumes of The North American Indian have been published. 

The RMS Titanic sinks after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

At the summer Olympics, Jim Thorpe, a member of the Sac and Fox Nations, becomes the first Native man to win a gold medal. Later that year, Thorpe is part of the Carlisle Indian School football team that defeats the U.S. Army team. 


J. P. Morgan dies unexpectedly. Curtis fears that funding for his work will stop, but Morgan's son agrees to continue support for the project.

Joseph K. Dixon, supported by department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker, publishes The Vanishing Race, with 80 photogravures of Native Peoples. Curtis calls the images “fakey imitations” of his own work. 

Volume 9, covering Native Peoples around Puget Sound and the Washingon coast, is published.

The Woman Suffrage Procession, the first suffragist parade in Washington, D.C., takes place the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.

The Armory Show, the first large exhibition of modern art, takes place in New York.


Curtis' film In the Land of the Head-Hunters premiers in New York. It is now recognized as the first feature-length film with a cast comprised entirely of Native Peoples from North America.

Curtis publishes Indian Days of the Long Ago, a trade-edition book for younger audiences with abbreviated and dramatized versions of some of the Native stories he had recorded.


The war creates havoc in worldwide financial markets, and, as a result, only a handful of subscriptions to The North American Indian are sold for the next several years. Volume 10, focused on the coastal First Nations of British Columbia, is published. 

World War I begins in Europe.

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