John Pierpont Morgan
John Pierpont Morgan (1837 – 1913) was an American financier, banker and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. In 1892 Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. After financing the creation of the Federal Steel Company he merged in 1901 with the Carnegie Steel Company and several other steel and iron businesses, including Consolidated Steel and Wire Company, to form the United States Steel Corporation.
Morgan was a patron to photographer Edward S. Curtis, offering Curtis $75,000 in 1906, for a series on the American Indian. Curtis eventually published a 20-volume work entitled “The North American Indian.” Curtis went on to produce a motion picture In The Land Of The Head Hunters (1914), which was later restored in 1974 and re-released as In The Land Of The War Canoes. Curtis was also famous for a 1911 Magic Lantern slide show The Indian Picture Opera, which used his photos and original musical compositions by composer Henry F. Gilbert.
E. H. Harriman
E. H. Harriman (1848 – 1909) was a railroad executive, born in Hempstead, New York, the son of an Episcopal clergyman. He quit school at age 14 to take a job as an errand boy on Wall Street in New York City. His rise from that humble station was meteoric. By age 22, he was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. And, by age 33, he focused his energies on acquiring rail lines. At the time of his death Harriman controlled the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, the Saint Joseph and Grand Island, the Illinois Central, the Central of Georgia, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and the Wells Fargo Express Company.In 1899, Harriman financed and accompanied a scientific expedition known as the Harriman Expedition to catalog the flora and fauna of the Alaska coastline from its lush southern panhandle to Prince William Sound. He organized a broad range of experts—arctic experts, botanists, biologists and zoologists, geologists and geographers, artists, photographers, ornithologists, and writers. Among the many distinguished scholars who joined him were John Burroughs, John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Edward S. Curtis, and Clinton Hart Merriam.
The expedition discovered some 600 species that were new to science, including 38 new fossil species. They charted the geographic distribution of many species. They also discovered an unmapped fjord and named several new glaciers.
Another legacy of the trip was the career of Edward S. Curtis. On the trip, he developed a close friendship with George Grinnell, who was an expert on American Indian culture. After the expedition, Grinnell invited Curtis with him on a trip to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. Curtis, moved by what was commonly believed to be a dying way of life, spent much of his career documenting American Indian culture.
Harriman paid for the creation of several sizable volumes of the discoveries of the expedition. When Harriman died in 1909, his wife devoted enough money to continue the publications.
Founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, called Harriman
a great maker and harvester of the crops of wealth. . . who used his income. . . for present and future good, pouring back his gains again and again into new commonwealth currents to create new benefits, or to increase the fruitfulness of old ones after he himself had passed away.
George Bird Grinnell
George Bird Grinnell (September 20, 1849 – April 11, 1938) was an American anthropologist, historian, naturalist, and writer. Grinnell was born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in 1870 and a Ph.D. in 1880. Originally specializing in zoology, he became a prominent early conservationist and student of American Indian life. Grinnell has been recognized for his influence on public opinion and work on legislation to preserve the American buffalo. Grinnell was also the founder of the Audubon Society, an advisor to Theodore Roosevelt, and editor of Forest and Stream, the leading natural history magazine in North America. Glacier National Park was established largely through his efforts.
The aptly named George Bird Grinnell developed an early and abiding love for birds. As a boy, he attended school in John James Audubon’s mansion in Assigning, New York, near the Grinnell family home. In fact, George and his brothers and sisters knew the Audubon family well, and freely roamed the grounds and the buildings of the estate. They played in the barn that housed Audubon’s huge collection of birds.
Grinnell studied at Yale, graduating with only a mediocre record, but with an intense desire to be a naturalist. He talked his way onto a fossil collecting expedition in 1870, and then served as the naturalist on Custer’s expedition to the Black Hills in 1874. Grinnell was interested in what he could learn from the American Indian tribes of the region, and was well known for his ability to get along with the elders of many tribes. The Pawnee called him White Wolf, and eventually adopted him into the tribe. The Gros Ventre called him Gray Clothes the Black Feet “Fisher Hat.” The Cheyenne called him wikis which means “bird,” observing that he came and went with the seasons. His writings from this period are considered topnotch in the field of anthropology, and he served as an advocate for American Indians for his entire life.
On the Harriman Expedition, Grinnell mentored photographer Edward S. Curtis. They had met years earlier when Grinnell and a group of friends became lost while climbing Mt. Rainier. Curtis, who had been photographing the mountain for years, led the party to safety. Grinnell recommended Curtis to Harriman as expedition photographer. In turn, it was on their Alaskan cruise that Grinnell piqued Curtis’s interest in the plight of the American Indians: “White men, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, already swarm over the Alaskan coast…in a short time they will ruin and disperse the wholesome, hearty, merry people whom we saw at Port Clarence and Plover Bay.”
After the expedition, Grinnell went on to work for fair and reasonable treaties with American Indian tribes, and for the preservation of America’s wild lands and resources. When he died in 1938, at age 89, the New York Herald Tribune wrote that:
Aside from Grinnell’s prophetic vision, his forthrightness, his scholarship in the field of zoology and Indian ethnography, and the drive that empowered him to carry so many causes to successful conclusion, his outstanding personal characteristic was that of never-failing dignity.
Theodore “Teddy” RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909). He is noted for his energetic personality, range of interests and achievements, leadership of the Progressive Movement, and his “cowboy” image and robust masculinity. He was a leader of the Republican Party and founder of the short-lived Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party of 1912. Before becoming President, he held offices at the municipal, state, and federal level of government. Roosevelt’s achievements as a naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier are as much a part of his fame as any office he held as a politician.
Born into a wealthy family, Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered from asthma and stayed at home studying natural history. To compensate for his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. Home schooled, he became a passionate student of nature. He attended Harvard, where he boxed and developed an interest in naval affairs. Published in 1882, Roosevelt’s first historical book, The Naval War of 1812, established his professional reputation as a serious historian. After a few years of living in the Badlands, Roosevelt returned to New York City, where he gained fame for fighting police corruption. The Spanish–American War broke out while Roosevelt was, effectively, running the Department of the Navy. He promptly resigned and led a small regiment in Cuba known as the Rough Riders, earning a nomination for the Medal of Honor, which was received posthumously on his behalf on January 16, 2001. After the war, he returned to New York and was elected Governor in a close-fought election. Within two years, he was elected Vice President of the United States.
In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated; and Roosevelt became President at the age of 42, taking office at the youngest age of any U.S. president in history. Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt coined the phrase “Square Deal” to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair share under his policies. As an outdoorsman and naturalist, he promoted the conservation movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt’s policies were characterized by his slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; he sent out the Great White Fleet to display American power; and he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also the first American to win the Nobel Prize in any field.
Roosevelt became acquainted with Edward Curtis in 1904, when Curtis won a national portrait contest from among eighteen thousand entrants. Curtis was invited to photograph one of Roosevelt’s children, which led to a close friendship between the photographer and the President. A great lover of the West, Roosevelt was very sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian, and he became an active champion of Curtis and his work. Roosevelt expressed his support and admiration in a letter of recommendation, which Curtis used in 1906 to approach J. P. Morgan, the man whose initial financial commitment made the first stages of The North American Indian project possible.
This is the introduction to Curtis’ ‘The North American Indian’: By President Theodore Roosevelt
The North American Indian: Foreword
In Mr. Curtis we have both an artist and a trained observer, whose pictures are pictures, not merely photographs; Whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful. All serious students are to be congratulated because he is putting his work in permanent form; for our generation offers the last chance for doing what Mr. Curtis has done.
The Indian as he has hitherto been is on the point of passing away. His life has been lived under conditions thru which our own race past so many ages ago that not a vestige of their memory remains. It would be a veritable calamity if a vivid and truthful record of these conditions were not kept.
No one man alone could preserve such a record in complete form. Others have worked in the past, and are working in the present, to preserve parts of the record; but Mr. Curtis, because of the singular combination of qualities with which he has been blest, and because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities, has been able to do what no other man ever has done; what, as for as we can see, no other man could do.
He is an artist who works out of doors and not in the closet. He is a close observer, whose qualities of mind and body fit him to make his observations out in the field, surrounded by the wild life he commemorates. He has lived on intimate terms with many different tribes of the mountains and the plains. He knows them as they bunt, as they travel, as they go about their various avocations on the march and in the camp. He knows their medicine men and sorcerers, their chiefs and warriors, their young men and maidens.
He has not only seen their vigorous outward existence, but has caught glimpses, such as few white men ever catch, into that strange spiritual and mental life of theirs; from whose innermost recesses all white men are forever barred. Mr. Curtis in publishing this book is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere.