Dubuque’s copy of The North American Indian collection by Edward S. Curtis, given to the library in 1909 by Mrs. Hiram Pond Ward, includes 20 volumes of encyclopedic text and photographs documenting traditional Indian life, tribal lore, history, traditional foods, housing, garments, recreation ceremonies and funeral customs. In total he took over 40,000 photographic images of over 80 tribes. Additionally, the collection includes 722 sepia- toned, large-format photogravure prints. Only 272 complete sets were sold of 300 sets printed.
In 1999, the collection of photogravures was loaned to the Museum from the library for exhibition and better long-term storage conditions. In October, a local group, Dubuque Cultural Preservation Committee, purchased the entire Curtis collection ensuring that the collection will remain in Dubuque for the community to continue to enjoy.
Warrior and Rider, featured the horse and its importance to Native American life. From work to play to battle, the horse was an integral and indispensable part of many Native American tribes. Curtis took these photographs between 1895 and 1928, recreating beautiful and moving images from a time long past. Two of the books were also on view, Volumes 4 and 8, showing additional horse-themed image and text.
Edward S. Curtis was born near Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1868. In 1874, his family moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota and Curtis built his own camera from parts his father brought home from the Civil War. At the age of 17, he became apprenticed to a St. Paul photographer and at 19 became a partner with a photographer in a Seattle studio. Curtis died of a heart attack in 1952 at the home of his daughter Beth in Los Angeles.