Photos Show Native American Life In Early 1900s (Photos)


A collection of photographs taken by Edward Curtis over the course of 20 years in the early 1900s provides a glimpse into Native American life a century ago.

Curtis traveled throughout North America taking pictures of various tribes with the support of financier J.P. Morgan, according to Mashable.

His fascination with Native American life began in 1895, when he photographed Princess Angeline, the daughter of Duwamish chief Seattle, who gave his name to the city.

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Morgan was interested in collecting information about the lives of Native American tribes, and he planned together with Curtis a 20-volume series called the "The North American Indian."

During his travels, Curtis also took wax cylinder recordings of Native American songs and chants.

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Somewhat more controversially, Curtis sometimes doctored his images by removing signs of modern life so as to give the pictures a more traditional look. This included removing signs of western civilization to make the pictures show what he imagined a pre-Columbian way of life to have been like.

Curtis feared that the Native American population was dying out. The New York Times reported that a census at the time put the total population at 237,000, down from an estimated 10 million four centuries earlier.

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Curtis worked hard to complete the project. According to the Times, he worked 16-hour days, often seven days a week.

Unfortunately for Curtis, he lost the rights to the pictures to Morgan after the project’s completion and was left virtually bankrupt.

However, his work was praised at the time, with the New York Herald describing the first volume of "The North American Indian" as “the most gigantic undertaking since the making of the King James edition of the Bible.”

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Sources: Mashable, The New York Times / Photo credit: Edward Curtis/Mashable

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