The Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs, circa 1895-2001 (bulk 1898-1951) primarily relate to Curtis's work on his opus, the North American Indian (NAI), although other subjects are documented as well. The papers relate closely to the Edward S. Curtis papers at the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections (UW), as that collection was donated by Curtis's daughter Florence Graybill and appears to be part of the same body of materials that was maintained by Curtis, and after his death, by Florence. Occasionally a correspondence exchange or manuscript draft is divided between the National Anthropological Archives and UW. Also found in both collections are notes, mostly dated 1951, in Curtis's handwriting on slips of paper or the document itself that gives an explanation of the document.
The collection includes correspondence, research notes, NAI files and promotional material, writings and memoirs, a small amount of material relating to a complaint regarding his reporting in NAI of certain Pueblo ceremonies, and correspondence and other documents relating to his gold mining interests. Also included are papers of Florence Graybill, who published on Curtis after his death and maintained contacts with various individuals and entities involved in Curtis exhibits, publications, and sales.
The correspondence exchanges are almost exclusively NAI related and document the relationships Curtis had with various influential people, including Gifford Pinchot, Joseph Blethen, Jacob Riis, William Farabee, Smithsonian scholars Frederick Webb Hodge and Matilda Coxe Stevenson, and the immediate and extended family of Theodore Roosevelt. Included are letters of introduction for Curtis as he sought to promote his work.
The research notes consist of a small mixture of writings on field experiences as well as maps used during his fieldwork (the bulk of Curtis's fieldnotes and NAI manuscripts are at the Seaver Center in the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History). The NAI files chiefly contain material promoting the work, such as published reviews, articles, and ephemera, but there are a few North American Indian Inc. business records (the bulk of the business records are maintained at the Pierpont Morgan Library). Of note is a lengthy annual report for the North American Indian, Inc., in which Curtis explains difficulties encountered in the fieldwork and volume publication. Related to his NAI work are letters and other materials documenting a 1934 complaint from Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior on Curtis's reporting of certain Pueblo ceremonies, as well as Curtis's response.
The writings comprise manuscript drafts on various topics. Most are short, stand-alone stories relating to his NAI work, often relaying a story about his own experiences. Similar stories can be found in Florence Graybill's papers, as she published some of them after his death. Also part of the writings are drafts for several chapters of Curtis's unpublished memoir, "As it Was."
Curtis's interest in gold mining is represented in correspondence and other material dating from 1938-1950. Most of the letters are between Curtis and his son Harold. Curtis's invention of a concentrator for separating fine gold from placer tailings is also documented in photographs and drawings.
Florence Graybill's papers pertain to writings, talks, and projects relating to Curtis after his death. Included are publication files for Graybill's biography of Curtis written with Victor Boesen, Visions of a Vanishing Race, as well as other of her articles and book reviews. Graybill's correspondence reveals her commitment to assist scholars and others interested in researching and exhibiting Curtis material, as well as her communication with individuals having a commercial interest in Curtis. Also present are Graybill's lecture notes for talks given, and articles and newspaper features on Curtis written by others.
The photographs in this collection primarily relate to Curtis's NAI work (1898-1927) and are a mix of original and working copy negatives, prints, and transparencies. The original negatives are remarkable in that they reveal some of Curtis's working methods in crafting his images through pencil and other enhancements, as well as showing removal of unwanted items from the image. Also of note are two original logbooks used for recording negatives from approximately 1895-1916. The majority of the prints appear to be silver gelatin prints made for reference; however, there are a fair number of platinum prints as well as several blue-toned silver prints in the collection. There are only a few cyanotypes.
Among the photographs is a deerskin-bound photograph album containing Harriman Alaska Expedition and NAI photographs, representing some of Curtis's earliest Native American subjects. These include images of people from the Puget Sound area as well as from his 1900 trip to the Blackfoot reservation. There are no annotations in the album; however, tucked among the pages are a few small notes of identification in Curtis's handwriting.
Photographs documenting other subjects are also present to a lesser degree. Among these are photographs of Curtis's Seattle photography studio, a 1915 Grand Canyon trip, hop field workers in the Puget Sound area, and Curtis's illustrations for Marah Ryan's book Flute of the Gods. Additionally, the collection contains a number of photographs of Curtis, his children, and portraits of various individuals including Theodore Roosevelt and actor Anna May Wong.
The Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs are arranged into the following 10 series:
Series 1: Biographical information, 1919-1952
Series 2: Correspondence, 1904-1951
Series 3: Research notes, 1900-1930, undated
Series 4: North American Indian, circa 1906-1920
Series 5: Writings, 1906, 1948, undated
Series 6: Complaint regarding Curtis's reporting of Pueblo ceremonies, 1924-1935
Series 7: Gold mining, 1938-1950
Series 8. Florence Curtis Graybill papers, 1948-2001
Series 9: Photographs, circa 1896-1927
Series 10: Duplicate material, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Edward Sherriff Curtis (1868-1952) was an American photographer famous for his photographs of the indigenous peoples of North America. His work was highly influential in shaping a sympathetic yet romantic view of cultures that he and many others believed to be "vanishing." Over the course of 30 years, Curtis visited more than 80 Native American communities and published his photographs and ethnographies in the twenty-volume North American Indian (NAI) (1907-1930).
Curtis was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin, to Ellen and Johnson Curtis in 1868. In about 1874, his family moved to a farm in Cordova, Minnesota. At a young age, Curtis built a camera, and it is possible that he may have worked in a Minneapolis photography studio for a time. In 1887, Curtis and his father moved West and settled on a plot near what is now Port Orchard, Washington, with the rest of the family joining them the following year. When Johnson Curtis died within a month of the family's arrival, 20-year-old Curtis became the head of the family.
In 1891, Curtis moved to Seattle and bought into a photo studio with Rasmus Rothi. Less than a year later, he and Thomas Guptill formed "Curtis and Guptill, Photographers and Photoengravers." The endeavor became a premier portrait studio for Seattle society and found success in photoengraving for many local publications. In 1892, Curtis married Clara Phillips (1874-1932) and in 1893 their son Harold was born (1893-1988), followed by Elizabeth (Beth) (1896-1973), Florence (1899-1987) and Katherine (Billy) (1909-?). Around 1895, Curtis made his first photographs of local Native people, including the daughter of Duwamish chief Seattle: Kickisomlo or "Princess Angeline." Curtis submitted a series of his Native American photographs to the National Photographic Convention, and received an award in the category of "genre studies" for Homeward (later published in volume 9 of the NAI). In 1896, the entire Curtis family moved to Seattle, which included Curtis's mother, his siblings Eva and Asahel, Clara's sisters Susie and Nellie Phillips, and their cousin William Phillips. Most of the household worked in Curtis's studio along with other employees. Curtis became sole proprietor of the studio in 1897, which remained a popular portrait studio but also sold his scenic landscapes and views of the Seattle Area. Curtis also sent his brother Asahel to Alaska and the Yukon to photograph the Klondike Gold Rush, and sold those views as well. Asahel went on to become a well-known photographer in his own right, primarily working in the American Northwest.
Curtis was an avid outdoorsman and joined the Mazamas Club after his first of many climbs of Mount Rainier. On a climb in 1898, Curtis met a group of scientists, including C. Hart Merriam, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot, who had lost their way on the mountain, and led them to safety. This encounter led to an invitation from Merriam for Curtis to accompany a group of over 30 well-known scientists, naturalists, and artists as the official photographer on a maritime expedition to the Alaskan coast. Funded by railroad magnate Edward Harriman, the Harriman Alaska Expedition left Seattle in May of 1899, and returned at the end of July. Curtis made around 5000 photographs during the trip, including photographs of the indigenous peoples they met as well as views of mountains, glaciers, and other natural features. Many of the photographs appeared in the expedition's 14 published volumes of their findings.
In 1900, Curtis accompanied Grinnell to Montana for a Blackfoot Sundance. Here, Curtis made numerous photographs and became interested in the idea of a larger project to document the Native peoples of North America. Almost immediately upon returning from the Sundance, Curtis set off for the Southwest to photograph Puebloan communities. By 1904, Curtis had already held at least one exhibit of his "Indian pictures" and his project to "form a comprehensive and permanent record of all the important tribes of the United States and Alaska that still retain to a considerable degree their primitive customs and traditions" (General Introduction, the NAI) had taken shape and already received some press coverage. With his fieldwork now increasing his absences from home, Curtis hired Adolph Muhr, former assistant to Omaha photographer Frank Rinehart, to help manage the Seattle studio.
In 1904, Curtis was a winner in the Ladies Home Journal "Prettiest Children In America" portrait contest. His photograph of Marie Fischer was selected as one of 112 that would be published and Fischer was one of 12 children selected from the photographs who would have their portrait painted by Walter Russell. Russell and Curtis made an acquaintance while Russell was in Seattle to paint Fischer's portrait, and not long afterwards, Russell contacted Curtis to make photographic studies of Theodore Roosevelt's children for portraits he would paint. Curtis subsequently photographed the entire Roosevelt family, and developed a social connection with the President. Several important outcomes came of this new friendship, including Roosevelt eventually writing the foreword to the NAI, as well as making introductions to influential people.
Key among these introductions was one to wealthy financier John Pierpont Morgan, in 1906. After a brief meeting with Curtis during which he viewed several of Curtis's photographs of Native Americans, Morgan agreed to finance the fieldwork for the NAI project for five years, at $15,000.00 per year. It was up to Curtis to cover publishing and promotion costs, with the publication being sold as a subscription. In return, Morgan would receive 25 sets of the 20-volume publication. The ambitious publication plan outlined 20 volumes of ethnological text, each to be illustrated with 75 photogravure prints made from acid-etched copper plates. Each volume would be accompanied by a companion portfolio of 35 large photogravures. With high-quality papers and fine binding, a set would cost $3000.00. 500 sets were planned. Under Morgan, the North American Indian, Inc. formed as body to administer the monies. Also around this time, Frederick Webb Hodge, Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, agreed to edit the publications.
Curtis then began more systematic fieldwork, accompanied by a team of research assistants and Native interpreters. In 1906, Curtis hired William E. Myers, a former journalist, as a field assistant and stenographer. Over the years, Myers became the lead researcher on the project, making enormous contributions in collecting data and possibly doing the bulk of the writing for the first 18 volumes. Upon meeting a new community, Curtis and his team would work on gathering data dealing with all aspects of the community's life, including language, social and political organization, religion, food ways, measures and values, and many other topics. (See box 2 folder 1 in this collection for Curtis's list of topics.) Curtis and his assistants, especially Myers, brought books and papers to the field relating to the tribes they were currently concerned with, and often wrote from the field to anthropologists at the Bureau of American Ethnology and other institutions for information or publications. In addition to fieldnotes and photographs, the team also employed sound recording equipment, making thousands of recordings on wax cylinders. Curtis also often brought a motion picture camera, although few of his films have survived.
The first volume of the NAI was published towards the end of 1907. Already, Curtis was encountering difficulty in finding subscribers to the publication despite great praise in the press and among those who could afford the volumes. Curtis spent progressively more of his time outside the field season promoting the project through lectures and in 1911, presenting his "Picture Musicale"—a lecture illustrated with lantern slides and accompanied by an original musical score—in major cities. After the initial five funded years, only eight of the twenty volumes had been completed. However, Morgan agreed to continue support for the fieldwork and publication continued.
Starting in 1910, Curtis and his team worked among the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation on Vancouver Island, and in 1913 began to develop a documentary film project featuring the community in Alert Bay. In 1914, Curtis produced the feature-length film, In the Land of the Headhunters. The film showcased an all-indigenous cast and included an original musical score. Screened in New York and Seattle, it received high praise. However after this initial success, it did not receive the attention Curtis had hoped for, and resulted in financial loss.
Meanwhile, Curtis's prolonged absences from home had taken a toll on his marriage and in 1919 Clara and Edward divorced. The Seattle studio was awarded to Clara, and Curtis moved to Los Angeles, opening a photography studio with his daughter Beth and her husband Manford "Mag" Magnuson. Daughters Florence and Katherine came to Los Angeles sometime later. Curtis continued with fieldwork and promotion of the project, and in 1922 volume 12 of the NAI was published. Also in 1922, Curtis was accompanied during the field season in California by his daughter Florence Curtis Graybill, the first time a family member had gone to the field with him since the Curtis children were very small.
Curtis continued to push the project and publications along, yet never without financial struggle and he picked up work in Hollywood as both a still and motion picture photographer. John Pierpont Morgan, Jr., continued to provide funding for the fieldwork in memory of his father, but with the various financial upsets of the 1910s and 1920s, Curtis had a difficult time getting subscribers on board. In 1926, Myers, feeling the strain, regretfully resigned after the completion of volume 18. Anthropologist Frank Speck recommended Stewart Eastwood, a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, to replace Myers as ethnologist for the final two volumes.
In 1927, Curtis and his team, along with his daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson, headed north from Seattle to Alaska and Canada on a final field season. Harsh weather and a hip injury made the trip difficult for Curtis, but he was very satisfied with the season's work. The party returned to Seattle, and upon arrival Curtis was arrested for unpaid alimony. He returned exhausted to Los Angeles, and in 1930 the final two volumes of NAI were published without fanfare. Curtis spent the next two years recovering from physical and mental exhaustion. Beth and Mag continued to run the Curtis studio in LA, but for the most part, Curtis had set down his camera for good. With the NAI behind him and his health recovered, Curtis pursued various interests and employment; he continued to do some work in Hollywood, including working on The Plainsman, starring Gary Cooper.
In 1933 Curtis was publicly criticized by John Collier, the Commissioner for Indian Affairs for some of the statements he had made on certain Pueblo ceremonies in the NAI volume 16, published in 1924. In September of 1934 Curtis received a letter from Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior regarding the claims published in volume 16, demanding a printed apology to be distributed among the text of the book as well as removal of the offending text from any undistributed copies of the publication. Curtis spent months writing and compiling supporting documentation in his defense, which he submitted to Ickes in January 1935. Also in 1935, the Morgan estate liquidated the North American Indian, Inc. and sold the remaining sets of the NAI volumes and unbound pages, photogravures, and copper printing plates along with the rights to the material to Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat for $1000.00.
Curtis's interest in gold prospecting took a front seat in the mid-1930s. While he scouted for potentially profitable mines in Northern California, his friend Ted Shell and possibly his son Harold sought investors. However, nothing ever fully panned out, though Curtis did design and build a concentrator for separating fine gold from placer tailings. He later sold the patent for ten dollars. Eventually, Curtis settled down on a farm outside Los Angeles, moving later to live with Beth and Mag, where he stayed until his death. In the mid to late 1940s Curtis began to write his memoirs. His daughter Florence visited him regularly and typed as Curtis dictated his recollections, and at some point he completed a draft of a memoir titled "As it Was." He also went through his papers and annotated or tucked notes among the correspondence and other material giving a brief explanation of the item or its context. Curtis died at home in 1952.
Prior to his death, Curtis had been out of the public eye for some years, and the NAI had slipped into relative obscurity. The Curtis studio in Los Angeles continued to sell Curtis's Native American photographs, and Florence gave occasional talks on her father, but it wasn't until the early 1970s that Curtis's work saw a renewed interest. This renaissance took place largely in the art photography market, but Curtis's biography and the NAI were also getting treatment in publications. Florence Curtis Graybill partnered with Victor Boesen to produce two narrative histories of Curtis and his work, and these were followed by many others. Florence continued to publish short works on her father for many years, and stayed in touch with numerous people involved in projects both scholarly and commercial that related to Curtis's work.
Davis, Barbara. Edward S. Curtis: the life and times of a shadowcatcher. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1984.
Gidley, Mick. The North American Indian, Incorporated. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
1868 -- Curtis is born in Whitewater, Wisconsin
circa 1874 -- Curtis family moves to Cordova, Minnesota
1887 -- Moves with his father to Washington territory to be joined by his mother and siblings in 1888
1891 -- With Rasmus Rothi forms Rothi & Curtis photography studio in Seattle
1892 -- Marries Clara Phillips With Thomas Guptill forms Curtis & Guptill Photographers and Photoengravers in Seattle
circa 1895 -- Becomes interested in photographing the indigenous people of the area
1897 -- Guptill leaves, Curtis establishes himself as Edward S. Curtis, Photographer and Photoengraver
1898 -- Meets C. Hart Merriam, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot during climb on Mount Rainier Receives first place award from the National Photographic Convention in the "Genre Studies" for his photographs of Native Americans
1899 -- Joins Harriman Alaska Expedition as official photographer at request of C. Hart Merriam and George Bird Grinnell
1900 -- Accompanies George Bird Grinnell to Blackfoot reservation in Montana for Sundance Becomes interested in a major project to document Native American tribes Travels to Arizona to photograph Hopi communities
circa 1902 -- Travels again to the southwest to photograph Native communities
1903 -- Holds first formal exhibit of Native American photographs in his studio
1904 -- Publicly announces intention to produce major publication on Native Americans Portrait entered in the Ladies Home Journal "Prettiest Children in America" contest is selected for publication and as a result, Curtis is asked to photograph President Theodore Roosevelt's family
circa 1904-1906 -- Conducts fieldwork among Native communities of the southwest
1906 -- Meets with J. P. Morgan, who agrees to finance the fieldwork for Curtis's project Hires William E. Myers as researcher and writer for the project
1907 -- Volume 1 of NAI is published
1908 -- Volumes 2 and 3 of NAI are published
1909 -- Volumes 4 and 5 of NAI are published
1911 -- Volumes 6, 7, and 8 of NAI are published Presents and tours the "Picture Musicale"
1913 -- J. P. Morgan dies, but his son agrees to continue to provide support for NAI Volume 9 of NAI is published
1914 -- Releases film In the Land of the Headhunters
1915 -- Volume 10 of NAI is published
1916 -- Volume 11 of NAI is published
1919 -- Edward and Clara Curtis divorce and the Seattle studio is awarded to Clara Moves to Los Angeles and opens new studio with daughter Beth and her husband, Manford Magnuson
1922 -- Volume 12 of NAI is published Conducts fieldwork in California with daughter Florence Curtis Graybill
1924 -- Volumes 13 and 14 of NAI are published
1926 -- Volumes 15, 16, and 17 of NAI are published William E. Myers resigns as chief writer and ethnologist of NAI
1927 -- Conducts fieldwork in Alaska and Canada for final NAI volume with daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson
1928 -- Volume 18 of NAI is published
1930 -- Volumes 19 and 20 of NAI are published
circa 1930-1950 -- Applies himself to various interests, especially gold mining
1952 -- Dies in Los Angeles at the home of Beth and Manford Magnuson
The National Anthropological Archives holds additional Curtis papers and photographs in MS 2000-18, the Edward Curtis investigation of the battle of Little Bighorn and Photo Lot 59, the Library of Congress copyright prints collection.
The Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University holds Curtis's wax cylinder audio recordings from 1907-1913.
The Braun Research Library at the Autry Museum of the American West holds the Frederick Webb Hodge papers (1888-1931), which contain substantial correspondence from Curtis. The Braun also holds a small amount of Curtis papers and photographs, including some of Curtis's cyanotypes.
The Getty Research Institute holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1900-1978), which include the original manuscript scores for the Curtis Picture Musicale and film In the Land of the Headhunters.
The Palace of the Governors at the New Mexico History Museum holds original Curtis negatives pertaining to the southwest.
The Pierpont Morgan Library holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1906-1947), which contain the records of the North American Indian, Inc., as well as Curtis's correspondence to librarian, and later library director, Belle Da Costa Greene. The library also holds a large collection of Curtis's lantern slides, used in his Picture Musicale.
The Seattle Public Library holds correspondence of Curtis to Librarian Harriet Leitch (1948-1951), pertaining to his career.
The Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History holds collection GC 1143, which contains Curtis's field notes as well as manuscript drafts for the North American Indian.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian holds NMAI.AC.080, the Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs, as well as NMAI.AC.053, the Mary Harriman Rumsey collection of Harriman Alaska Expedition photographs.
The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections holds the Edward S. Curtis papers (1893-1983). Additionally, the Burke Museum holds papers and photographs of Edmund Schwinke, which relate to Curtis's work with the Kwakwaka'wakw community.
Artifacts collected by Curtis that were a part of this donation comprise Accession No. 2058745 in the collections of the Department of Anthropology in the National Museum of Natural History.
The papers and photographs were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Jim Graybill, grandson of Edward S. Curtis, in 2010 and 2011.
Viewing of the photographic negatives and transparencies requires advance notice and the permission of the Photo Archivist.
Access to the Edward S. Curtis papers and photographs requires an appointment.
Processing and digitization of parts of this collection was supported by funding from the Smithsonian Women's Committee and the Small Research Grants program of the National Museum of Natural History.
Records of the Field Offices for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872
This collection is comprised of digital surrogates previously available on the 34 rolls of microfilm described in the NARA publication M1900. These digital surrogates reproduced the records of the Alabama Office of the Assistant Commissioner, his staff offices, and subordinate field offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872. These records consist of bound volumes and unbound records, containing materials that include letters and endorsements sent and received, monthly reports, applications of freedmen for rations, and other records relating to freedmen's claims and homesteads.
The volumes reproduced in this microfilm publication were originally arranged by type of record and thereunder by volume number. No numbers were assigned to series consisting of single volumes. Years later, all volumes were arbitrarily assigned numbers by the Adjutant General's Office (AGO) of the War Department after the records came into its custody. In this microfilm publication, AGO numbers are shown in parentheses to aid in identifying the volumes. The National Archives assigned the volume numbers that are not in parentheses. In some volumes, particularly in indexes and alphabetical headings of registers, there are a number of blank numbered pages that have not been filmed.
The volumes consist of letters and endorsements sent and received, press copies of letters sent, registers of letters received, fair copies of letters received, letters and orders received, registers of freedmen issued rations, special orders and circulars issued, registers of bounty claimants, reports, registers of contracts, registers of complaints, registers of patients, registers of disbursements, account books, miscellaneous records, and monthly reports forwarded to the Assistant Commissioner. The unbound documents consist of letters sent and received and endorsements sent, reports, applications for relief, labor contracts, rosters of officers and employees, court records, special and general orders and circulars received, and miscellaneous records. The unbound records also contain monthly reports; oaths of office; applications of freedmen for rations; and records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads.
From June 1866 to January 1868, Assistant Commissioner Swayne also served as the military commander of Alabama. He therefore created and received records in both capacities. The dual function of the Assistant Commissioner resulted in a succession of changes in the official headings used on correspondence and issuances. The title "Office of the Assistant Commissioner" was changed in June 1866 to "Headquarters, District of Alabama," and in August 1866 to "Headquarters, Subdistrict of Alabama." The heading "District of Alabama" was used again from March 1867 until superseded by "State of Alabama" in February 1868.
The dual function of the office is also reflected in the recordkeeping practices for that period. Although the Assistant Commissioner generally maintained separate records for each of his capacities, in the case of letters and endorsements sent the records were frequently combined. Wherever they were separable, the records created by the Assistant Commissioner in his military capacity were placed with the Records of United States Army Continental Commands, 1821–1920, RG 393.
[The following is reproduced from the original NARA descriptive pamphlet for M1900.]
HISTORY AND ORGANIZATION
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865 (13 Stat. 507). The life of the Bureau was extended twice by acts of July 16, 1866 (14 Stat. 173), and July 6, 1868 (15 Stat. 83). The Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War. In May 1865, President Andrew Johnson appointed Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard as Commissioner of the Bureau, and Howard served in that position until June 30, 1872, when activities of the Bureau were terminated in accordance with an act of June 10, 1872 (17 Stat. 366). While a major part of the Bureau's early activities involved the supervision of abandoned and confiscated property, its mission was to provide relief and help freedmen become self–sufficient. Bureau officials issued rations and clothing, operated hospitals and refugee camps, and supervised labor contracts. In addition, the Bureau managed apprenticeship disputes and complaints, assisted benevolent societies in the establishment of schools, helped freedmen in legalizing marriages entered into during slavery, and provided transportation to refugees and freedmen who were attempting to reunite with their family or relocate to other parts of the country. The Bureau also helped black soldiers, sailors, and their heirs collect bounty claims, pensions, and back pay.
The act of March 3, 1865, authorized the appointment of Assistant Commissioners to aid the Commissioner in supervising the work of the Bureau in the former Confederate states, the border states, and the District of Columbia. In Alabama, operations began in July 1865 when Brig. Gen. Wager Swayne took command as Assistant Commissioner. Bvt. Brig. Julius Hayden succeeded Swayne and served from January to March 1868. Col. Oliver L. Shepherd served from March to August 1868, and Col. T. H. Ruger held the position of Assistant Commissioner for only a few days in August before the arrival of Bvt. Lt. Col. Edwin Beecher later in that month. In January 1869, in accordance with an act of July 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 193), Bureau operations in Alabama were terminated except for the educational functions and the collection of claims. Colonel Beecher remained in Alabama as superintendent of education and held that position until the office was closed in July 1870. The majority of Bureau officers and agents in Alabama were active duty military officers, and for the first two years of the Bureau's existence in Alabama, the agency doubled as the military command for the district. Brig. Gen. Swayne, for example, served as Assistant Commissioner and District Military Commander for Alabama from 1866 to 1868. As a consequence of the wide use of military officers to staff the Bureau, the agency constantly struggled with issues of continuity as well as a lack of personnel to staff the various field offices. At one point at the end of 1866, the Bureau could only staff eight stations in Alabama due to a critical shortage of qualified personnel.
While the work performed by Assistant Commissioners in each state was similar, the organizational structure of staff officers varied from state to state. At various times, the staff could consist of a superintendent of education, an assistant adjutant general, an assistant inspector general, a disbursing officer, a chief medical officer, a chief quartermaster, and a commissary of subsistence. Subordinate to these officers were the assistant superintendents, or subassistant commissioners as they later became known, who commanded the subdistricts. The major subordinate field offices for the Bureau at Alabama included headquarters at Demopolis, Eufaula, Garland, Greenville, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Opelika, Selma, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, and Tuskegee. Under the direct supervision of the subassistant commissioners were the civilian and military agents. Occasionally, the Bureau retained military officers in a civilian capacity after the termination of their military service. For a list of known Alabama subordinate field office personnel and their dates of service, see the Appendix.
The Assistant Commissioner corresponded extensively with both his superior in the Washington Bureau headquarters and his subordinate officers in the subdistricts. Based upon reports submitted to him by the subassistant commissioners and other subordinate staff officers, he prepared reports that he sent to the Commissioner concerning Bureau activities in areas under his jurisdiction. The Assistant Commissioner also received letters from freedmen, local white citizens, state officials, and other non–Bureau personnel. These letters varied in nature from complaints to applications for jobs in the Bureau. Because the assistant adjutant general handled much of the mail for the Assistant Commissioner's office, it was often addressed to him instead of to the Assistant Commissioner.
In a circular issued by Commissioner Howard in July 1865, the Assistant Commissioners were instructed to designate one officer in each state to serve as "General Superintendents of Schools." These officials were to "take cognizance of all that is being done to educate refugees and freedmen, secure proper protection to schools and teachers, promote method and efficiency, correspond with the benevolent agencies which are supplying his field, and aid the Assistant Commissioner in making his required reports." In October 1865, a degree of centralized control was established over Bureau educational activities in the states when Rev. John W. Alvord was appointed Inspector of Finances and Schools. In January 1867, Alvord was divested of his financial responsibilities, and he was appointed General Superintendent of Education.
An act of Congress, approved July 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 193), ordered that the Commissioner of the Bureau "shall, on the first day of January next, cause the said bureau to be withdrawn from the several States within which said bureau has acted and its operation shall be discontinued." Consequently, in early 1869, with the exception of the superintendents of education and the claims agents, the Assistant Commissioners and their subordinate officers were withdrawn from the states.
For the next year and a half, the Bureau continued to pursue its education work and to process claims. In the summer of 1870, the superintendents of education were withdrawn from the states, and the headquarters staff was greatly reduced. From that time until the Bureau was abolished by an act of Congress approved June 10, 1872 (17 Stat. 366), effective June 30, 1872, the Bureau's functions related almost exclusively to the disposition of claims. The Bureau's records and remaining functions were then transferred to the Freedmen's Branch in the office of the Adjutant General. The records of this branch are among the Bureau's files.
Constrained by limited resources, Southern opposition, and the politics of Reconstruction, the Bureau faced an enormous challenge in its efforts to assist the freedmen and refugees. Its relief efforts, without question, saved thousands of southerners from starvation. Its attempts to assist freedmen to become self–sufficient, to provide public education, administer justice, and, to a lesser degree, to provide land, all worked with varying degrees of success to lessen the difficulties during the transition from slavery to freedom. One of the Bureau's greatest legacies is the body of records it created and received during the course of its operations. These records are arguably some of the most important documents available for the study of the Federal Government's policies, efforts to reconstruct the South, and Southern social history and genealogy.
THE FREEDMEN'S BUREAU IN ALABAMA
The Freedmen's Bureau's major activities in Alabama generally resembled those conducted in other states. The Bureau issued rations to both freedmen and white refugees, supervised labor contracts between planters and freedmen, administered justice, worked with benevolent societies in the establishment of schools, and assisted freedmen in locating land.
Shortly after accepting the position of Assistant Commissioner in Alabama, Brig. Gen. Swayne requested permission from the Freedmen's Bureau headquarters in Washington, DC, to set aside 1,225 acres of land on the Broward Plantation near Montgomery for freedmen. The plantation had been abandoned shortly before the end of the war and was confiscated by Federal authorities. Montgomery Home Colony, established on some of this land, became the largest of several "home colonies" set aside to provide services for the freedmen. Home colonies were also established at Talladega, Mobile, Garland, Butler County, Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis, and Huntsville. The colonies were not self–sufficient communities of freedmen like those found in South Carolina or Louisiana. Instead, the colonies were distribution centers where the Bureau disseminated rations, clothes, seeds, and tools; processed claims; provided medical care; and organized services for the infirm, orphans, and the elderly. The central functions of these colonies were organized around a freedmen's hospital. The freedmen's hospital at Montgomery offered services to all races. From November 1866 to August 1867, it treated 168 refugees (whites), five of whom died. During the same period, the hospital treated 6,058 freedmen, of whom 162 died.
From 1865 to 1867, Alabama suffered repeated and massive crop failures due to drought or frost conditions. During the same period, the state was swept by a series of epidemics, with smallpox proving the most deadly disease affecting the freedmen. In addition to medical care, one of the most important duties for the Bureau in Alabama was the issuance of rations to refugees and freedmen to stave off malnutrition and starvation.
The Alabama Bureau also expended great resources and energy mitigating contract disputes between freedmen and white landowners as well as attempting to overturn draconian "black codes" enacted by the Alabama State Legislature and signed by the Governor. In his 1866 annual report to the Washington, DC, headquarters of the Bureau, Swayne complained that white landowners rampantly defrauded freedmen of benefits spelled out in their labor contracts.1 However, Swayne complained most extensively in this report about a particular set of "black codes" passed by the Legislature late in 1865 as vagrancy laws. These codes were passed shortly before Christmas after widespread complaints by white landowners that freedmen refused to work during the Christmas week. Apparently, freedmen expected to continue the tradition of time off from work at Christmas dating back to the antebellum years. Brig. Gen. Swayne charged that these laws returned freedmen to a state of slavery. First, he pointed to the authorized use of chain gangs in which freedmen worked with no compensation for even the most minor offenses. Second, the newly established probate courts often worked against freedmen. They were responsible for settling contract disputes between freedmen and white landowners. However, one component of the law passed by the Legislature stipulated that freedmen were not allowed to testify against whites or serve on juries. In cases where the courts found in favor of the white landowners, the presiding judge had the option of forcing freedmen into uncompensated labor for the white landowners or impressing freedmen's children as free laborers for the litigant. The black codes also authorized county officials to impress orphaned children as laborers on local plantations. Swayne was able to convince the Alabama Legislature to eventually overturn most of these codes. In districts where he could not force the probate courts to fairly enforce the law, he set up special freedmen's courts to hear complaints.
However, Swayne was unable to convince the Legislature to overturn provisions of the vagrancy laws that allowed widespread arrests of freedmen. The code authorized local and state law enforcement officials to summarily arrest those freedmen without contract papers who were allegedly causing "disturbances" in public places and roads. The normal punishment under this penal code was forced labor on nearby plantations. Finally, in March 1867, the Bureau saw this law overturned through the Military Reconstruction Bill for the District of Alabama (14 Stat. 429).
The Freedmen's Bureau in Alabama had a major impact in providing education for freedmen from 1866 to 1869. Due to its limited budget and resources, the Bureau was unable to directly establish and operate the great number of freedmen schools needed. However, the successive Assistant Commissioners proved very adept at finding other means for establishing these schools. They successfully implemented a three–way partnership program in which a wide variety of Northern relief societies flooded the state with resources to build schools, money for books and teachers, or volunteer members who instructed the freedmen for no fee. The freedmen were often responsible for actual maintenance of facilities as well as contributions of money and resources for upkeep of the local schools. Bureau agents oversaw the education program and provided land and protection for the schools. The results of this program were impressive. At the beginning of the school year in October 1866, there were 3,100 freedmen in classes taught by 68 teachers. By June 1867, these figures had grown to just under 10,000 students instructed by 150 teachers.
1 Annual Report of the Assistant Commissioner, Montgomery, AL, October 31, 1866, Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1870 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M809, Roll 2), Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Record Group (RG) 105, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Freedmen's Bureau Personnel in Alabama:
This list provides the names and dates of service of known Freedmen's Bureau personnel at selected subordinate field offices in Alabama. Additional information regarding persons assigned to various field offices might be found among the Bureau's Washington headquarters
station books and rosters of military officers and civilians on duty in the states and other appointment–related records.
Aug.–Dec. 1865 -- Subassistant Commissioner Capt. A. C. Haltonstall
Jan. 1866–Feb. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Bvt Maj. C. W. Pierce
Feb.–May 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Lt. A. J. Bennett
June 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner C. L. Drake
July–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner R. A. Wilson
Sept.–Nov. 1865 -- Subassistant Commissioner A. L. Brown
Nov. 1865–ca. June 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner T. W. Mostyn
ca. June 1866–Feb. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. F. McGogy
Feb.–June 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner Samuel Gardner
June–Sept. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner William H. Peck
Sept.–Nov. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner Samuel Gardner
Nov.–Dec. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. A. Hart
Dec. 1867–July 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Samuel Gardner
Aug.–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. F. McGogy
Sept. 1865–Jan. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner T. M. Goodfellow
Jan. 1866–Jan. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. B. Callis
Jan.–Feb. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Robert Harrison
Mar.–Nov. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner D. C. Rugg
HUNTSVILLE AND ATHENS
Apr.–Sept. 1868 -- Claims Agent J. W. Wilis
Sept. 1868–Jan. 1872 -- Claims Agent John Wager
May–Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner and Agent Robert Harrison
Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner and Agent William McKibbin (Agent)
Apr.–Aug. 1865 -- Subassistant Commissioner George Harmount
Oct. 1865–Apr. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner George Robinson
Apr.–May 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner G. A. Washbum
May–Aug. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner L. J. Whiting
Sept.–Oct. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner Joseph Logan
Nov. 1866–Sept. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner George Tracy
Sept. 1867–Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner James Gillette
Aug.–Sept. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner John Hyde
Sept.–Nov. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner E. H. Weirman
Nov.–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Frank Towle
Oct. 1865–Dec. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner George A. Harmount
Dec. 1866–Aug. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner L. J. Whiting
Aug. 1867–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. C. Hendrix
June 1867–June 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner R. T. Smith
July–Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner John Bannister
Aug.–Sept. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner D. B. Smith
Sept.–Oct. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner G. W. Kingsbury
Oct.–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner D. B. Smith
Mar.–June 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner Samuel S. Gardner
June–July 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner F. D. Ogilby
July–Aug. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner Samuel S. Gardner
Aug. 1866–Jan. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner George Shorkley
Jan.–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Charles C. Bartlett
Oct.–Nov. 1865 -- Subassistant Commissioner D. P. Cilley
Dec. 1865–Apr. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner T. Humphrey
Apr. 1866–Feb. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner R. Tlieune
Feb. 1867–June 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner J. F. McGogy
June–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner George P. Sherwood
Jan.–Apr. 1866 -- Subassistant Commissioner Jesse W. Cogswell
Apr. 1866–Apr. 1867 -- Subassistant Commissioner W. H. Peck
Apr. 1867–Dec. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Robert Blair
May–June 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner Henry Sweeney
June–Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner W. H. Heilman
Aug. 1868 -- Subassistant Commissioner John Raines
Sept.–Nov. 1865 -- Assistant Superintendent Andrew Geddes
Nov. 1865–Apr. 1866 -- Assistant Superintendent Spencer Smith
See also Freedmen's Bureau Digital Collection
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HP ; Mfg. Div. ; Stanford Park Div. ; Gebruder Hau Maschinenfabrik GMBH & Co. KG ; Hau-Welco Mfg. Co. (Livonia, MI) ; Hau / Simex (Pontiac, MI) ; Sanborn Div. (Waltham, MA) ; F & M Scientific Div. (Arondale, PA) Search this
Audio oscillators ; ultrasound imaging equipment ; cardiac imaging systems ; electronic instruments and systems ; patient monitoring system ; test instruments ; analytical and chromotography supplies ; packet with information about defibrillators that includes business card ; "Hau" polishing equipment ; calculators ; "HP-35 Pocket Calculator" catalogue, order form, and "capability study" ; office printers ; LaserJet printers ; "ThinkJet" printer ; computers ; "The Portable" computer ; catalogue and mock-up sheet for "HP 2005A Real-time Executive System" computer ; thermometers ; precision waveguide equipment ; signal generators ; frequency meters ; medical instrumentation ; etc. circa 1970s publications ; 1975 electronic instruments and systems catalog ; digital multimeter ; LED displays ; LED lamps ; isolators ; detectors ; computer system manuals ; measurement system : frequency , time , multimeter ; oscilloscopes ; HP orders ; etc. Annual Report (1987) ; "Hewlett Packard Journal" publication (June 1967) and (Vol. 25, No. 9, May 1974) ; Hewlett-Packard's "Measuring for Medicine and the Life Sciences" publication (Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1966), (Vol. 1, No. 2, August 1966), (Vol. 1, No. 3, November 1966), (Vol. 1, No. 4, February 1967), (Vol. 2, No. 1, May 1967), (Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1967), (Vol. 2, No. 3, November 1967), (Vol. 5, Nos. 1 & 2, May-Aug. 1970), (Vol. 6, No. 2, February 1972) ; book titled "Hewlett-Packard Instrumentation: Electronics, Medicine, Chemistry, 1967" ; "Sanborn Division 50th-Anniversary, 1917-1967" catalogue with information about the company's early and more recent history ; Sanborn Division products ; F & M Scientific Division ; publication "The Programmer" (Vol. 1, No. 3, December 1965), announcing the joining of Hewlett-Packard and F & M Scientific ; publication "Facts & Methods for Scientific Research" (Vol. 6, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 1965) and (Vol. 8, No. 3, June-Jul. 1967) ; article titled "Safety in Medical Electronic Equipment Design: Electrical Shock Hazard Protection" by Thomas W. Pickett of Hewlett-Packard Co. (August 1967) ; bench supplies ; general purpose power supplies ; high voltage DC power supplies ; dual tracking power supplies ; OEM modular power supplies ; precision voltage & current sources ; bipolar power supply/amplifiers ; digitally programmable power sources ; multiprogrammers ; photodetectors ; transistor power supplies ; microvolt-ammeters ; function generators ; electronic counters ; external network interface ; optocouplers ; fiber optics ; emitters ; high frequency vacuum tube voltmeters ; distance meter ; electronic total station
Trade catalog, price lists, manual, samples, photographs and histories
Black and white images
Types of samples:
427 pieces; 12 boxes
Type of material:
Palo Alto, California, United States
Topic (Romaine term):
Biotechnology and biochemical equipment and supplies Search this
AC Electronics, Milwaukee, WI ; AC Spark Plug, Flint, MI ; Adam Opel AG, Germany ; Allison Engineering Co., Indianapolis, IN ; Buick Motor Co., Flint, MI ; Buick Motor Div., Flint, MI ; Cadillac Motor Car Co., Detroit, MI ; Cadillac Motor Div., Detroit, MI ; Central Foundry Div., Saginaw, MI ; Chevrolet Motor Div., Detroit, MI ; Chevrolet Motor Co., Detroit, MI ; Cleveland Diesel Div., Cleveland, OH ; Cleveland Diesel Engine Div., Cleveland, OH ; Dayton Engineering Lab Co. (DELCO), Dayton, OH ; Delco Hyatt ; Delco-Light Co., Dayton, OH ; Delco Appliance Div., Rochester, NY ; Delco Marine, Dayton, OH ; Delco Products, Dayton, OH ; Delco Radio, Kokomo, IN ; Delco-Remy, Anderson, IN ; Detroit Diesel, Detroit, MI ; Diesel Equipment, Grand Rapids, MI ; Domestic Engineering Co., Dayton, OH ; Eastern Aircraft Div., Bloomfield, NJ ; Electro-Motive Div., La Grange, IL ; Euclid Road Machine Co., Hudson, OH ; Euclid Crane & Hoist Co. ; Fabricast Div., Bedford, IN ; Fisher Body Co., Warren, MI ; Frigidaire, Dayton, OH ; General Motors Sales Corp., Rochester, NY ; General Motors Truck Co., Pontiac, MI ; Guardian Refrigerator Co., Detroit, MI ; GM Acceptance Corp., New York, NY ; GMC Truck-Coach, Pontiac, MI ; Guide Lamp Div., Anderson, IN ; Harrison Radiator Co., Lockport, NY ; Hummer ; Hyatt Roller Bearing Co., Harrison, NJ ; Hydra-Matic, Ypsilanti, MI ; Hyatt Roller Bearing Co., Harrison, NJ ; Inland Mfg. Co., Dayton, OH ; Lovejoy Mfg. Co., Boston, MA ; Moraine Products Div., Dayton, OH ; Motors Holding Div., Detroit, MI ; Motors Insurance Corp., New York, NY ; New Departure Mfg. Co., Bristol, CT ; Oakland Motor Car Co., Detroit, MI ; Olds Motor Car Co., Lansing, MI ; Olds Motor Works, Lansing, MI ; Oldsmobile Motor Div., Lansing, MI ; Packard Electric Co., Warren, MI ; Pontiac Motor Div., Pontiac, MI ; Remy Electric Co., Anderson, IN ; Reliance Engineering Co., Lansing, MI ; Rochester Products Div., Rochester, MI ; Rumely Products Co., Chicago, IL ; Saginaw Steering Gear, Sagniaw, MI ; Saturn Corp. ; Sunnyhome Electric Co. ; Ternstedt Div., Detroit, MI ; United Delco, Detroit, OH ; United Motors Service Div., Detroit, MI ; Terex Div., Hudson, OH ; Winton Engine Co., Cleveland OH ; Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. ; Vanxhall Motors Ltd., United Kingdom Search this
Fifteen envelopes OVERSIZE. Organized by companies and divisions. Some German language materials. Includes 1942 Annual Report to Employees, "War Tugs Tell Their Tales of the Sea", "Three R's of General Motors War Products Training Program", "Delco War Products All Over the World", "Century of Buick" with CD
Trade catalog, price lists, manual, photographs and histories
Black and white images
1738 pieces; 118 boxes
Type of material:
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Topic (Romaine term):
Automobiles and automotive equipment (including trucks and buses) Search this
Reading Lines ; Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co. ; Philadelphia Grain Elevator Co. ; Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Co. Search this
"Reading Railroad Magazine", April 1955, Vol. 19, No. 11 ; Port Richmond grain elevator ; "Annual Report, 1954" ; for history of the railroad, there is a good online site: http://www.readingrailroad.org/ ;