Edward Sheriff Curtis (February 16, 1868 – October 19, 1952) was an American ethnologist and photographer of the American West and of Native Americans.
In 1906, J. P. Morgan provided Curtis with $75,000 to produce a series on the North American Indian. This work was to be in 20 volumes with 1,500 photographs. Morgan’s funds were to be disbursed over five years and were earmarked to support only fieldwork for the books not for writing, editing, or production of the volumes. Curtis himself would receive no salary for the project, which was to last more than 20 years. Under the terms of the arrangement, Morgan was to receive 25 sets and 500 original prints as his method of repayment.
Curtis’ goal was not just to photograph, but to document, as much American Indian (Native American) traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared.