Edward S. Curtis Lantern Slides

The Morgan Library & Museum holds a unique collection of over 400 lantern slides by photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868–1952). Beginning in 1906, J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) funded the fieldwork for Curtis’s twenty-volume book project, The North American Indian (1907–1930), for which Curtis photographed individuals from over eighty Indigenous communities living west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The series is much more than a set of photographs created by one individual, as Curtis worked alongside a rotating team of ethnologists and Native American assistants. The financial arrangement with Morgan left Curtis responsible for selling subscriptions to cover the costs of printing. As part of his efforts to raise interest in the project, Curtis toured the country giving lantern slide lectures. Unlike the monochromatic photogravures that illustrate Curtis’s well-known publication, the colorful lantern slides display an innovative use of chemical toning and hand-applied dyes. The luxuriously printed volumes graced the libraries of wealthy book collectors, while the lantern slides entertained the broader public.

This digital facsimile brings together images of the lantern slides and interpretive texts that offer insight into what the lanterns slides are, how they were viewed, and their history at the Morgan. The texts offer historical contextualization and explore how the slides served as a promotional tool for The North American Indian.