Selling the North American Indian:
The Work of Edward Curtis

Created by Valerie Daniels, June 2002

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Mr. Edward S. Curtis's " Picture-opera," called A Vanishing Race, was given in Washington, D.C., January 30 and February 1 under the auspices of the Washington Society of the Archaeological Institute for the benefit of the Cyrene Excavation Fund. Mr. Curtis is widely known as the author of The North American Indian, a monumental work published under the patronage of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, which presents in Mr. Curtis's remarkable photographs, as well as in vivid narrative, the results of his fourteen years of travel and study among the North American Indian tribes. The "picture-opera" is an endeavor to portray, by the harmonious combination of music and pictures and running comment, some of the more striking features in the life of the Indian.

The musical numbers were composed by Henry Gilbert of Boston and were played by an orchestra of twenty-four pieces. Far from being merely adaptations of Indian melodies, they were original compositions manifesting a rich quality of imagination and an unusual sense of orchestral color. The prelude entitled, "The Spirit of Indian Life," is an orchestral interpretation of an Indian folk song. This was followed by a pictorial and musical composition, with appropriate comment, entitled the "Dream of the Ancient Red Man." The dissolving views of the Hunkalawanpi ceremony, "Offering the Skull," portraying the grim, warlike Apaches in their moments of religious fervor, was one of the most effective numbers of the programme. Other numbers deserving of especial mention were entitled, "The Night Scout," "The Mountain Camp," and the "Signal Fire to the Mountain God."

The Washington Society commends A Vanishing Race to other societies of the Institute that may wish to avail themselves of it in enlisting the interest of their communities in the archaeology and ethnology of the North American Indian and in the work of the School of American Archaeology.

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