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This is part 3 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.  


Clara Curtis files for divorce from Edward, citing his prolonged absences and non-support of his children. Volume 11, about First Nations in western British Columbia, is published.


The Curtis Studio in Seattle moves to a new address at 4th and University Streets.


Germany signs an armistice on November 11, ending World War I.

Over the next two years, a massive flu pandemic kills as many as 50 million people worldwide. 

In Canada, women gain the right to vote in federal elections.



Clara Curtis's request for a divorce is granted. She is awarded total ownership of the Curtis Studio and all its contents. Edward Curtis is devastated.

The U.S. suffers social and economic turmoil much of this year, as returning soldiers find few jobs waiting for them. In Seattle, 60,000 workers go on strike for better wages and work hours.


Edward and his adult daughter Beth move to Los Angeles, where they jointly open a new studio. All work on The North American Indian continues from that location.

American women are granted the right to vote in federal elections.

In the U.S., the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the manufacture, sale, import, and export of alcohol.

WWJ in Detroit begins broadcasting as the first commercial radio station in America.


To supplement the income from the Los Angeles studio, Curtis begins working as a still and film photographer for Hollywood movies, including Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.


Curtis becomes active in the Indian Welfare League. He and author Marah Ellis Ryan publish a pamphlet for the League entitled First Americans. In their introduction, they wrote, “...we, the white people and our fathers before us, have robbed him [the American Indian] of his heritage, his land, water, timber, minerals, religion and liberty.” 

Volume 12, about the Hopi and Walapi Peoples, is published, six years after volume 11 appeared.

First Americans


Desperate for money to complete his work, Curtis sells the rights, negative, and master print of his film In the Land of the Head-Hunters to the American Museum of Natural History in New York for $1,500. The museum subsequently lost the film, and it was thought to be gone forever until a damaged copy was found in Illinois in 1947.

Volumes 13 and 14, covering many of the Native Peoples of central and northern California, are published. 

The U. S. Congress passes the Indian Citizenship Act, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born in the territorial limits of the country.


Now frantic in his search for funding, Curtis begins to assign his copyright for The North American Indian to The North American Indian, Incorporated. Over the next five years, he gives up all rights to the publication in return for final funding from the Morgan family.


Volumes 15, 16, and 17, focused on southern California and New Mexico, are published.


Curtis and his daughter Beth travel to Alaska to carry out the fieldwork for the final volume of The North American Indian.

Charles Lindbergh completes the first New York to Paris nonstop solo flight.


Volume 18, focused on some of the First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, is published.


The Wall Street Crash of 1929 triggers the Great Depression, a decade-long period of high unemployment, poverty, and economic deflation in the U.S. and Canada.


The final two volumes of The North American Indian are published. They cover some of the Native Peoples in Oklahoma and the northern Alaska coast. In the introduction to volume 20, Curtis writes, “…great is the satisfaction the writer enjoys when he can at last say to all those whose faith has been unbounded, it is finished.”

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