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A Santa Fe Treasure Trove

The Laboratory of Anthropology at Museum Hill in Santa Fe has the complete collection of The North American Indian. Published at the beginning of the 20th century, the twenty-five volume series featured over 2,000 original photos. Each volume contained at least seventy-five photos and two hundred pages of text, which Curtis compiled. Today, this remarkable series can be found in public and private collections around the world and is valued at over a million dollars.

Edward Sheriff Curtis was an ethnologist and photographer. He was born in 1868 in Whitewater, Wisconsin. At the age of 32, married and with a family, he decided to embark on the biggest adventure of his life. His mission was to preserve the dignity of the proud people that he first encountered in 1900. President Theodore Roosevelt and the royal crowns of both England and Belgium encouraged him to document his work. His belief in himself and the urgency of his project helped him obtain financial support from  J. P. Morgan. In 1906, the financier J. P. Morgan provided Curtis with $75,000 to produce a series on Native Americans. This work was to be in 20 volumes with 1,500 photographs. Curtis received no salary for the project that ended up lasting thirty years. Under the terms of the arrangement, Morgan received 25 sets and 500 original prints as repayment.

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