-Written by Archivist Geoff Rossano
Between 1906 and 1930 eminent Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis traveled the length and breadth of the American west compiling a massive portfolio of images of American Indians, the largest such effort ever undertaken. The work was underwritten by financier/philanthropist J. P. Morgan and ultimately resulted in a 20 massive volume set titled The North American Indian containing more than 1,400 images. Several thousand [nearly 40,000] more photographs were taken but never published.
With a text written by Smithsonian Institution anthropologist Frederick Hodge and a forward by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Curtis volumes were part of a massive, nation-wide, effort to document the customs, society, and habitat of the “Vanishing Race.” This campaign drew on authors and historians, artists and photographers, anthropologists and sociologists, philanthropists, universities and museums, and several government agencies.
In addition to the nearly 300 complete bound sets assembled, a great number of the original photographs were printed and sold in a variety of sizes and formats. They and later reproductions are available in limited numbers to the present day and represent a priceless view of America’s native peoples at the beginning of the modern age.
In 2002 the family of student John “Jay” Anderson ’00, donated these extraordinary images to Salisbury School in appreciation of their son Kim’s experience here. For many years, they hung in the classroom of Senior Master Ralph Menconi. Following Mr. Menconi’s retirement, Sam Simmons occupied the room. With his departure, the photographs were relocated to the Archives and have just been re-hung in The Michael S. Sylvester ’59, P’85, ’02 Alumni and Parent Center on the ground level of Spencer Hall. Salisbury School is proud to own these magnificent examples of American photography, history, and culture and we are deeply appreciative of the Anderson family’s generosity.