Unpublished Alaska

Occasionally, unpublished Curtis photographs surface, but never in history has 100 emerged at once! What few unpublished pictures have surfaced are generally in private collections, and no one ever gets to see them.

When Edward Curtis’ only grandchild, Jim Graybill, at 92 years old, was no longer able to care for the Curtis family collection, it was placed in the trusted hands of the Curtis Legacy Foundation. The foundation was founded by all three of Curtis’ great-grandchildren in 2019 in efforts to continue Edward Curtis’ legacy and amplify the voices of today’s Native American communities. During an inventory of this family collection, they discovered over 200 unpublished images, made by Curtis in Alaska in 1927, among the assortment of stored photographs. These pictures were not included in Volume 20 of Curtis’ famed grand opus The North American Indian.

Through the power of Photoshop, it was possible to repair these spoiled negatives Curtis was not able to in the 1920s and restore them to the beautiful images Edward had initially envisioned.

One hundred images of Alaska Natives were selected to grace the pages of this book. Thirteen additional photographs of Edward, his daughter, Beth, and his assistant Stewart Eastwood were chosen, most of which are unpublished as well. The Curtis Legacy Foundation feels the importance of sharing these pictures with Edward Curtis fans, museums, galleries, researchers, genealogy enthusiasts and especially the Alaska Native communities.

This book takes you on a whirlwind journey on the Bering Sea in the summer of 1927. Read Edward Curtis’ and his daughter, Beth’s, own words taken from the handwritten journals they kept on Curtis’ last field trip, completing his 20-volume encyclopedia, The North American Indian. The reader will experience first-hand the toils of the high seas and the beauty of the Alaskan midnight sun. Out of the 30 plus years of traveling to photograph Native Americans, Curtis’ last field trip to Alaska was the only time Edward Curtis documented his personal journey.

Combining the unpublished images with the unpublished journals makes up a book of firsts for Curtis’ last field season. This trip is truly an example of the grit it took for Curtis to complete his grand opus. The man is nothing short of a legend, and between the towering gale-driven seas breaking over the deck, the blizzard snow conditions, the crisscrossing through the ice pack, the falling barometers, and the hole in the boat, it is a miracle they lived to tell this historical story.

Available in the Sue & Robert Karatz Museum Store and online at: https://www.shop.scottsdalemuseumwest.org/product-page/unpublished-alaska