The following is an outline of Edward Curtis' life, along with some key events in North American histories that occurred during his time. The Native history timeline is highly selective due to the limited space on this page. Click here for more detailed information.
Wall Street tycoon J. P. Morgan agrees to fund the initial fieldwork for The North American Indian. He promises $75,000 over 5 years in exchange for 25 sets of the books and 500 individual prints. In late spring, Curtis heads to Arizona to take his first images of the Apache People.
Congress passed the Dawes Act, with the intent to extinguish tribal sovereignty and open up remaining Native lands for appropriation by white settlers
Curtis' father dies three days after the rest of his family joins them in Washington Territory. Edward is now the head of the household.
After Curtis is injured in a lumbermill accident, he mortgages the family home
and buys a part-interest in a Seattle photography studio.
Curtis marries Clara Phillips in Seattle.
Curtis' son Harold (Hal) is born.
Sometime during this year or early the following year, Curtis takes his first photos of the Coast Salish People who lived in and near Seattle.
Curtis' daughter Elizabeth (Beth) is born.
The Wounded Knee Massacre marks the end of most armed resistance by Native Peoples in the U. S.
The Spanish Flu wreaks havoc on the world, resulting in as many as 50 million deaths around the globe.
Curtis starts 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 assasinated.
Chief Joseph visits the Curtis Studio in Seattle and has his portrait taken.
The Wright Brothers demonstrate the first powered flight in the U.S.
Curtis is a winner in the “Prettiest Children in America” contest, resulting in an invitation to photograph President Roosevelt's children. Encouraged by Roosevelt, he begins to develop a plan for what would soon become The North American Indian.
Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull lead an army of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians to a massive victory over General George Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Curtis tries to find a publisher for his "grand idea," but he is told his plan is too ambitious and would cost too much.
Curtis opens his own studio in Seattle. It quickly becomes the most popular place in Seattle for fashionable portraits.
Curtis publishes an article about Alaska using photographs taken by his brother, Asahel, but he took credit for the photos. Asahel never forgave him, and the two rarely spoke after this.
Curtis is appointed the official photographer for the Harriman Alaska Expedition. He spends two months with scientists while photographing Native People and Alaska landscapes.
The Spanish-American War begins.
The U.S. Supreme Court holds that racial segregation is not unconstitutional, stating that “separate but equal” laws do not imply the inferiority of one race to another.
After overthrowing the monarchy of Queen Liliʻuokalani, the U.S. “annexes” Hawaii.
Curtis' daughter Florence is born.