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After 1930

This is part 4 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 spends most of this year and the next in seclusion in order to recover from his exhausting schedule of the past decade. He has no money left from his work on The North American Indian and no hopes of ever recovering the ownership of his photographs or any other part of the project.


Clara Curtis dies in Seattle.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected president in the U.S., promising a New Deal for all to help boost the country out of the Great Depression.


President Roosevelt proposes an "Indian New Deal," with the intent of reversing the government's long-time goal of cultural assimilation of Native Americans into American society. The centerpiece of the plan, the Indian Reorganization Act, was controversial, and only about half of the tribes in the U.S. accepted its provisions.


Jack Morgan sells all the assets of The North American Indian, Inc. to Boston book dealer Charles Lauriat for $1,000. The assets include all Curtis' negatives from the project, the copper plates used to print the photogravures, 19 complete sets of the books, and an estimated 275,000 printed but unbound plates from the books. Over the next three decades, Lauriat sells both the bound and unbound sets of The North American Indian, often for as little at $875.


Asahel Curtis dies in Seattle.

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, prompting the U.S. to enter World War II.


California Natives were awarded $17 million that was promised in treaties nearly a century earlier. $12 million was deducted from what they received for "goods and services already given."



World War II ends.


Edward begins a three-year series of correspondence with Seattle librarian Harriet Leitch. In response to her many questions, he provides many previously unknown details about his life and work.


William E. Myers, Curtis’s most dependable colleague on The North American Indian, dies at the age of 75.


Edward Curtis dies on October 19 at the home of his daughter, Beth. He was 84. His obituary in The New York Times said he was “an authority on the history of the North American Indian.” The last line of the obituary said, “Mr. Curtis was also widely known as a photographer.” His images and work remain mostly unknown for the next 20 years.

edward curtis old


Frederick Webb Hodge, the chief editor of The North American Indian, dies at age 91.


Ralph W. Andrews publishes the first book dedicated to Curtis's life and photography.

Utah becomes the last state to pass laws that supposedly guarantee voting rights for Native Peoples. While voting is now legal for Natives in all states, some western states institute poll taxes, literacy tests, and other roadblocks to prevent Natives from voting. In many areas today, Native People still have to drive as much as 50 miles to get to a polling site.


Santa Fe photographer Karl D. Kernberger finds the massive treasure trove of Curtis assets from The North American Indian in the basement of the Lauriat bookstore in Boston. It had sat there, mostly untouched, since Lauriat died in 1937. Kernberger organizes a small group of investors, and together they purchase the entire lot. Soon after, Curtis images and stories about The North American Indian begin to circulate among dealers, galleries, and museums.


Curtis's daughter, Florence Curtis Graybill, publishes a biography of her father that includes many family stories and insights.


The last of the Indian board schools in America closes.


Two Seattle men find, partially restore, and re-edit a copy of In The Land of the Head Hunters, releasing it with the new title of In the Land of the War Canoes.

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