The collection consists of photographs relating to American Indians, which were submitted to the copyright office of the Library of Congress in and around the early 20th century. Many of the photographs are studio portraits as well as photographs made as part of expeditions and railroad surveys. It includes images of people, dwellings and other structures, agriculture, arts and crafts, burials, ceremonies and dances, games, food preparation, transportation, and scenic views. Some of the photographs were posed to illustrate literary works, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Hiawatha, while others depict paintings or other artwork.
The collection was formed from submissions made to the Library of Congress as part of the copyright registration process. In 1949, arrangements were made to allow the Bureau of American Ethnology to copy the collection and some negatives were made at that time, largely from the Heyn and Matzen photographs. The project was soon abandoned, however, as too large an undertaking for the facilities of the BAE. In 1957-1958, arrangements were begun by William C. Sturtevant of the BAE to transfer all of the photographs from the Library to the BAE.
Local Call Number(s):
NAA Photo Lot 59
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Library of Congress Copyright Office photograph collection of American Indians, 1860s-1930s (bulk 1890s-1920s)
In 1965, the Bureau merged with the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology to form the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology, and in 1968 the Office of Anthropology Archives transformed into the National Anthropological Archives.
These papers reflect the professional lives of Alice Cunningham Fletcher (1838-1923), an ethnologist with the Peabody Museum of Harvard and collaborator with the Bureau of American Ethnology, and Francis La Flesche (1856-1923), an anthropologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Due to the close professional and personal relationship of Fletcher and La Flesche, their papers have been arranged jointly. The papers cover the period from 1874 to 1939. Included in the collection is correspondence, personal diaries, lectures, field notes and other ethnographic papers, drafts, musical transcriptions, publications by various authors, maps and photographs.
Scope and Contents:
These papers reflect the professional lives of Alice Cunningham Fletcher (1838-1923), an ethnologist with the Peabody Museum of Harvard University and collaborator with the Bureau of American Ethnology, and Francis La Flesche (1856-1923), an anthropologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Due to the close professional and personal relationship of Fletcher and La Flesche, their papers have been arranged jointly. The papers cover the period from 1874 to 1939. Included in the collection is correspondence, personal diaries, lectures, field notes and other ethnographic papers, drafts, musical transcriptions, publications by various authors, maps and photographs.
The papers have been divided into three general categories: the papers of Alice Cunningham Fletcher, the papers of Francis La Flesche, and the ethnographic research of Fletcher and La Flesche. The first two categories represent personal and professional materials of Fletcher and La Flesche. The third section holds the majority of the ethnographic material in the collection.
Of primary concern are Fletcher and La Flesche's ethnological investigations conducted among the Plains Indians, particularly the Omaha and Osage. Fletcher's Pawnee field research and her allotment work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs among the Omaha, Nez Perce, and Winnebago are represented in the collection. A substantial portion of the ethnographic material reflects Fletcher and La Flesche's studies of Native American music. Much of the correspondence in the papers of Fletcher and La Flesche is rich with information about the situation of Omaha peoples in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Also included in the collection are documents related to Fletcher's work with the Archaeological Institute of America and the School for American Archaeology. Additionally, substantial amounts of Fletcher's early anthropological and historical research are found among her correspondence, lectures, anthropological notes, and early field diaries. La Flesche's literary efforts are also generously represented.
The collection is divided into the following 3 series: 1) Alice Cunningham Fletcher papers, 1873-1925; 2) Francis La Flesche papers, 1881-1930; 3) Papers relating to the anthropological research of Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, 1877-1939.
Series 1: Alice Cunningham Fletcher papers is divided into the following 10 subseries: 1.1) Incoming correspondence, 1874-1923 (bulk 1882-1923); 1.2) Outgoing correspondence, 1873-1921; 1.3) Correspondence on specific subjects, 1881-1925; 1.4) Correspondence between Fletcher and La Flesche, 1895-1922; 1.5) Publications, 1882-1920; 1.6) Organizational records, 1904-1921; 1.7) General anthropological notes, undated; 1.8) Lectures, circa 1878-1910; 1.9) Diaries, 1881-1922; 1.10) Biography and memorabilia, 1878-1925.
Series 2: Francis La Flesche papers is divided into the following 6 subseries: 2.11) General correspondence, 1890-1929; 2.12) Correspondence on specific subjects, 1881-1930; 2.13) Publications, 1900-1927; 2.14) Literary efforts, undated; 2.15) Personal diaries, 1883-1924; 2.16) Biography and memorabilia, 1886-1930.
Series 3: Papers relating to the anthropological research of Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche is divided into the following 12 subseries: 3.17) Alaska, 1886-1887; 3.18) Earth lodges, 1882, 1898-1899; 3.19) Music, 1888-1918; 3.20) Nez Perce, 1889-1909; 3.21) Omaha, 1882-1922; 3.22) Osage, 1896-1939; 3.23) Pawnee, 1897-1910; 3.24) Pipes, undated; 3.25) Sioux, 1877-1896; 3.26) Other tribes, 1882-1922; 3.27) Publications collected, 1884-1905, undated; 3.28) Photographs, undated.
Biographical / Historical:
Alice Cunningham Fletcher (1838-1923) was an ethnologist with the Peabody Museum of Harvard and collaborator with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Francis La Flesche (1856-1923) was an anthropologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology.
Chronology of the Life of Alice Cunningham Fletcher
1838 March 15 -- Born in Havana, Cuba
1873-1876 -- Secretary, American Association for Advancement of Women
1879 -- Informal student of anthropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
1881 -- Field trip to Omaha and Rosebud Agencies
1882 -- Assistant in ethnology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
1882 -- Helped secure land in severalty to Omaha Indians
1882-1883 -- Begins collaboration with Francis La Flesche on the Peabody Museum's collection of Omaha and Sioux artifacts
1883-1884 -- Special Agent, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Omaha Agency
1886 -- Bureau of Education investigation of Alaskan native education
1887-1888 -- Special Disbursing Agent, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Winnebago Agency
1889-1892 -- Special Agent for allotment, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Nez Perce Agency
1890-1899 -- President, Women's Anthropological Society of America
1891-1923 -- Mary Copley Thaw Fellow, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
1892-1893 -- Department of Interior consultant, World's Columbian Exposition
1896 -- Vice-President, Section H, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1897 -- Collaborator, Bureau of American Ethnology
1899-1916 -- Editorial board, American Anthropologist
1900 -- Published Indian Story and Song from North America
1901-1902 -- Advisory committee, Anthropology Department, University of California at Berkeley
1903 -- President, Anthropological Society of Washington
1904 -- Published The Hako: A Pawnee Ceremony with James Murie
1908-1913 -- Chair, Managing Committee of School of American Archaeology
1911 -- Honorary Vice-President, Section H, British Association for Advancement of Science
1911 -- Published The Omaha Tribe with Francis La Flesche
1913 -- Chair Emeritus, Managing Committee of School of American Archaeology
1915 -- Published Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs Arranged from American Indian Ceremonials and Sports
1923 April 6 -- Died in Washington, D.C.
Chronology of the Life of Francis La Flesche
1857 December 25 -- Born on Omaha Reservation near Macy, Nebraska
1879 -- Lecture tour, Ponca chief Standing Bear
1881 -- Interpreter, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
1881-1910 -- Clerk, Bureau of Indian Affairs
1891 -- Informally adopted as Fletcher's son
1892 -- LL.B., National University Law School
1893 -- LL.M., National University Law School
1900 -- Published The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School
1906-1908 -- Marriage to Rosa Bourassa
1910-1929 -- Ethnologist, Bureau of American Ethnology
1911 -- Published The Omaha Tribe with Alice Fletcher
1921 -- Published The Osage Tribe, Part One
1922 -- Member, National Academy of Sciences
1922-1923 -- President, Anthropological Society of Washington
1925 -- Published The Osage Tribe, Part Two
1926 -- Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Nebraska
1928 -- Published The Osage Tribe, Part Three
1932 -- Published Dictionary of the Osage Language
1932 September 5 -- Died in Thurston County, Nebraska
1939 -- Posthumous publication of War Ceremony and Peace Ceremony of the Osage Indians
Additional material related to the professional work of Fletcher and La Flesche in the National Anthropological Archives may be found among the correspondence of the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) and the records of the Anthropological Society of Washington.
Sound recordings made by Fletcher and La Flesche can be found at the Library of Congress. The National Archives Records Administration hold the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), including those relating to allotments in severalty for the Nez Perce by Alice Fletcher. The Nebraska Historical Society has diaries, letters and clippings regarding the La Flesche family, including correspondence of Francis La Flesche and Fletcher. The Radcliffe College Archives holds a manuscript account of Alice Fletcher's four summers with the Nez Perce (1889-1892). Correspondence between Fletcher and F. W. Putnam is also located at the Peabody Museum Archives of Harvard University.
Ethnographic photographs from the collection have been catalogued by tribe in Photo Lot 24.
Glass plate negatives from the collection have been catalogued by tribe in the BAE glass negatives collection (Negative Numbers 4439-4515).
The papers of Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche have been received from an undocumented number of sources. Portions of Fletcher's ethnographic papers were donated to the archives by Mrs. G. David Pearlman in memory of her husband in 1959.
The Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche papers are open for research.
Access to the Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche papers requires an appointment.
Contents: (a)- Vocabulary, 11 pages in printed schedule (1863) issued by the Smithsonian Institution (1863). Marked "Imperfect" by the collector. Contains 209 terms. (b)- A copy of the Macgowan vocabulary, by Gibbs, 6 pages.
Biographical / Historical:
D. J. Macgowan , M. D., was Surgeon to the Indian Council, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Includes: "A preliminary report concerning an ethnohistoric investigation of the Wichita Indians of the southern plains" (230 pages); "An ethnographic investigation of the Wichita Indians of the southern plains (140 pages, meant to replace pages of the preliminary report); "A pilot study of Wichita Indian archeology and ethnohistory" (275 pages).
NAA MS 7032
Manuscript 7032, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Portraits of American Indians made by Charles Milton Bell in his Washington, DC studio. Depicted individuals include Red Cloud, Oglala; Spotted Tail, Brule; Quanah Parker, Comanche; Nawat, Arapaho; Scabby Bull, Arapaho; Wolf Robe, Cheyenne; D. W. Bushyhead, Cherokee; John Jumper, Seminole; Plenty Coups, Crow; Rushing Bear, Arikara; Gall, Hunkpapa; John Grass, Sihasapa; Lean Wolf, Hidatsa; Chief Joseph, Nez Perce; and Lone Wolf, Kiowa; as well as people associated with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. The collection also includes copies of some images by other photographers, including G. G. Rockwood and F. T. Cummins.
Charles Milton Bell (circa 1849-1893) was the youngest member of a family of photographers that operated a studio in Washington, DC, from around 1860-1874. Charles Milton Bell established his own studio on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1873 and it rapidly became one of the leading photography studios in the city. Bell developed the patronage of Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, who sent American Indian visitors to the studio to have their portraits made. Bell also made photographs of Indians for the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of American Ethnology.
Local Call Number(s):
NAA Photo Lot 80, NAA MS 4661
Location of Other Archival Materials:
Copy prints previously filed in MS 4661 have been relocated and merged with Photo Lot 80. These are also copy prints of Bell negatives that were acquired from Boyce and form part of this collection.
Additional C. M. Bell photographs held in National Anthropological Archives Photo Lot 4420, Photo Lot 24, Photo Lot 60, Photo Lot 81-44, Photo lot 87-2P, and Photo Lot 90-1.
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Charles Milton Bell photographs of American Indians, circa 1874-1890
The Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs for The North American Indian include photogravure printing plates and associated proofs made from Curtis photographs and used in the publication of The North American Indian volumes 1-9 and 12-19. The bulk of the images are portraits, though there are also images of everyday items, ceremonial artifacts, and camps.
Scope and Contents:
The collection comprises 183 photogravure plates (101 folio and 82 octavo) and 96 associated proofs used in the printing of The North American Indian volumes 1-9 and 12-19. The original photographs used to make the photogravures were made circa 1903-1926 and the photogravure plates were made in 1907-1930. The bulk are portraits, though there are also images of everyday items, ceremonial artifacts, and camps. About half of the proofs in the collection are originals used for Curtis's publication, though the collection also includes proofs made in the process of later publication by the Classic Gravure Company (circa 1980). Vintage proofs include handwritten notes, likely made by Curtis Studio employees in Seattle and Los Angeles. Many of the photogravure plates do not have matching proofs; in particular, there are no proofs for the octavo plates.
The plates and proofs are arranged by the volume of The North American Indian in which they were published. They are described in this finding aid by the caption and plate number with which they were published.
Biographical / Historical:
Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) was an American photographer best known for his monumental and now-controversial project, the twenty-volume publication The North American Indian. Here he sought to document in words and pictures the "vanishing race" of American Indians.
Born in Wisconsin in 1868, Edward Curtis grew up on his family's farm in Le Sueur County, Minnesota, from 1874 to 1887. In 1887, he and his father Johnson Curtis settled on a plot near what is now Port Orchard, Washington, and the rest of the family joined them the following year. When Johnson Curtis died within a month of the family's arrival, the burden of providing for his mother and siblings fell to 20-year-old Edward, and Edward set out to do so through his photography. In 1891, Curtis moved to the booming city of Seattle and bought into a joint photo studio with Rasmus Rothi. Less than a year later, he formed "Curtis and Guptill, Photographers and Photoengravers" with Thomas Guptill; the enterprise quickly became a premier portrait studio for Seattle's elite. In 1895, Curtis made his first "Indian photograph" depicting Princess Angeline, daughter of the chief for whom Seattle had been named. The following year he earned his first medal from the National Photographic Convention for his "genre studies."
In 1899, Edward Curtis joined the Harriman Alaska Expedition as official photographer, a position which allowed him to learn from anthropologists C. Hart Merriam and George Bird Grinnell while documenting the landscapes and peoples of the Alaskan coast. This expedition and the resulting friendship with Grinnell helped to foster Curtis's ultimate goal 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 North American Indian). Curtis made several trips to reservations from 1900 to 1904, including a trip with Grinnell to Montana in 1900 and multiple trips to the Southwest, including the Hopi Reservation. He also hired Adolph Muhr, former assistant to Omaha photographer Frank A. Rinehart, to manage the Curtis studio in his absence, a decision which would prove more and more fruitful as Curtis spent less and less time in Seattle.
In 1906, Curtis struck a deal with financier J. P. Morgan, whereby Morgan would support a company – The North American Indian, Inc. – with $15,000 for five years, by which time the project was expected to have ended. Systematic fieldwork for the publication began in earnest that summer season, with Curtis accompanied by a team of ethnological researchers and American Indian assistants. Arguably the most important member of Curtis' field team was William Myers, a former newspaperman who collected much of the ethnological data and completed most of the writing for the project. The first volume, covering Navajo and Apache peoples, was published at the end of 1907, but already Morgan's funding was incapable of meeting Curtis's needs. Despite heaping praise from society's elite, Curtis spent much of his time struggling to find people and institutions willing to subscribe to the expensive set of volumes. After the initial five years, only eight of the proposed twenty volumes had been completed. Fieldwork and publication continued with the support of J. P. Morgan, but Curtis's home life suffered because of his prolonged absences.
In 1919, Curtis's wife Clara was awarded a divorce settlement which included the entire Curtis studio in Seattle. Exhausted and bankrupt, Edward Curtis moved with his daughter Beth Magnuson to Los Angeles, where they operated a new Curtis Studio and continued work on the volumes; volume 12 was published
in 1922. The constant financial strain forced Myers to leave the North American Indian team after volume 18 (fieldwork in 1926) and Curtis made his last trip to photograph and gather data for volume 20 in 1927. After the final volumes were published in 1930, Curtis almost completely faded from public notice until his work was "rediscovered" and popularized in the 1970s.
Curtis's "salvage ethnology," as scholar Mick Gidley describes it, was mildly controversial even during his life and has become ever more so as his legacy deepens. In his quest to photograph pre-colonial Indian life through a twentieth-century lens, he often manipulated and constructed history as much as he recorded it: he staged reenactments, added props, and removed evidence of twentieth-century influences on "primitive" life. Curtis's work continues to shape popular conceptions of American Indians and so, while problematic, his legacy--his vision of American Indian life--continues to be relevant.
NMAI also holds Edward Curtis photographs documenting the Harriman Expedition (1899) as well as platinum prints and photogravures of the images published in The North American Indian.
The Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives holds Edward Curtis prints submitted for copyright (Photo Lot 59) as well as many of his original negatives, photographs, and papers.
Steve Kern donated photogravure plates to the Center for Creative Photography and the Seattle Art Museum at the same time that he donated this set to MAI.
This collection was donated by Steven and Arlene Kern to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, in 1984.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: email@example.com).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadcast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indians of North America -- Pictorial works Search this
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs for The North American Indian, Box and Folder Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
This collection was processed with funding from the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Indians of North America -- Southern States Search this
Scope and Contents:
Much of this material is relevant to the Dakotas. Includes: miscellaneous notes on Dakota history, bands, and sign for "Dakota," Autograph Document. Approximately 100 pages. (Box 2); account of the Battle of Little Big Horn by He Dog, Red Feather, and Whirling, Autograph Document. 7 pages. (Box 3); "The Custer Battle with the Sioux, Autograph Document. 10 pages. (Box 3); notes on sign language in general, its history and distribution, Autograph and Typescript Document, 1 box (Box 4).