Selling the North American Indian:
The Work of Edward Curtis

Created by Valerie Daniels, June 2002

Scribner's Magazine Articles

Scribner's Magazine published its first issue in January 1887. From the beginning its publishers aspired to be in competition with "quality" magazines, such as the Atlantic Monthly, the Century and Harper's New Monthly Magazine. In order to compete, the put out a fully illustrated literary monthly that sold for $0.25 in comparison with their $0.35. After a few years, it boasted a circulation of over 200,000, making it the most popular literary magazine in America.

Scribner's was also a good platform for artists, because it contained and average of 25 full-page images per issue. The artists publishing in Scribner's were quickly gaining nearly as much fame as the writers. Scribner's illustrations evolved alongside technological developments in photography, and by 1893 two-thirds of its pictures were half-tones, more than any other leading literary magazine.

The tone of Scribner's was conservative, and its readership was largely upper middle class. However, several articles appeared that treated social issues, most notably Jacob A. Riis's "How the Other Half Lives" in 1889. Another leading contributor was Theodore Roosevelt, who contributed articles on social reform as well as travel accounts, such as "Rough Riders" in 1899. Like several older magazines, Scribner's often featured such travel accounts. The combination of a conservative tone and readership with a concern for social reform and interest in travel accounts made Scribner's an excellent platform for articles by Edward Curtis, and his stunning photography fit right in with Scribner's emphasis on illustrations.

Curtis contributed four articles to Scribner's, illustrated by photographs from The North American Indian. In 1906 he wrote two articles in a series called "Vanishing Indian Types." In 1909 he published two additional articles, "Indians of the Stone Houses" and "Village Tribes of the Desert Land." Through the articles Curtis was trying to urge readers to understand the differences between the Native American cultures he was describing, as well as pointing out that these cultures were rapidly disappearing. Like the central paradox in all of Curtis's work, there was an equal mix of criticizing government policy for its part in the vanishing of traditional cultures and praising tribes that have been able to adapt.

Below are links to each of these four articles. Throughout the articles, you can click on thumbnails images to view them at a higher resolution. The original placement of images and text from the articles has been adhered to as closely as possible.

The Tribes of the Southwest
May 1906

The Tribes of the Northwest Plains
June 1906

Indians of the Stone Houses
February 1909

Village Tribes of the Desert Land
March 1909

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