Asahel Curtis photographs of the Makah Indians, 1910  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Photographer
Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941
Title
Asahel Curtis photographs of the Makah Indians
Dates
1910 (inclusive)
Quantity
23 photographic prints, 11 photogravures (1 box and 1 folder) ; Sizes vary
Collection Number
PH0898
Summary
The photographs document Makah whaling and activities in Neah Bay, Washington
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries’ Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Asahel Curtis was the best-known Seattle photographer in the early twentieth century, as well as a noted outdoorsman and regional booster. Born in Minnesota in 1874, he moved to the Puget Sound area in 1888. Asahel's brother, Edward, supported the family by opening a photo studio in Seattle, and Asahel went to work for him in 1894. In 1897 the brothers agreed that Asahel should go to the Yukon and photograph the gold rush. Asahel stayed there for two years, alternately taking pictures and working a small claim that never produced much gold. When Asahel returned in 1899, he learned that Edward had published several Yukon photos without giving acknowledgment that they had been taken by Asahel. The brothers had a massive fight and rarely spoke to each other for the rest of their lives. Edward later became nationally famous for his twenty-volume series of photos of Native Americans. Asahel never achieved this measure of success, but had a notable career nonetheless. He married Florence Carney in 1902 and opened his own studio in 1911. He was hired by a number of companies, organizations, and wealthy individuals to take portraits and promotional photos. But Asahel was probably better known for his high-quality photos of the Washington landscape published in national magazines.

Asahel Curtis loved Mount Rainier; some people thought that he almost worshipped it. He photographed it thousands of times and climbed it dozens of times. Curtis was a founding member of the Mountaineers, a mountain-climbing group which also promoted the preservation of wilderness areas. Curtis was active in the affairs of the club for the first several years after its founding in 1906, but his activities as chair of the Mount Rainier National Park advisory committee from 1911 to 1936 strained his relations with the group. Curtis sought to promote accessibility to the park and to boost tourism by building roads. He also ran afoul of the Mountaineers when he vigorously opposed the expansion of Olympic National Park in the late 1930s.

Indeed, Curtis was almost as much of a regional booster as he was a photographer. For example, Curtis not only worked as the official photographer of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, he also chaired its Development Committee and its Highway Committee for many years. Curtis did not confine his work as a booster to Seattle. He owned a small orchard near Ellensburg, and always thought that the interesting landscape of Central Washington could be improved by building irrigation projects to turn the semi-desert into cropland. The Washington Irrigation Association thus chose Curtis to be its president in the 1920s. He also participated in the affairs of the Washington State Good Roads Association, serving as its president in 1932 and 1933. Asahel Curtis died in 1941.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Several of these photographs were published in a book titled The Whaling Equipment of the Makah Indians, by Thomas Talbot Waterman, in 1920. Most of the photographs were taken in 1910 while Curtis documented how the Makah hunted and then processed a whale. Whaling and whales are central to Makah culture. The conduct of a whale hunt requires rituals and ceremonies which are deeply spiritual. They are the subject and inspiration of Makah songs, dances, designs, and basketry. For the Makah tribe, whale hunting imposes a purpose and a discipline which benefits their entire community. It is so important to the Makah that in 1855, when the Makah ceded thousands of acres of land to the government of the United States, they explicitly reserved their rights to hunt whales within the Treaty of Neah Bay.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The photographs document Makah whaling in Neah Bay, Washington. The collection includes the Makah people processing a whale on the beach in 1910. In addition, there are images of Makah women doing chores at Neah Bay.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View the digital version of the collection

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Asahel Curtis Photographs of Makah WhalingReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Makah harpooning a whale (A. Curtis 56519)
Box/Folder item
1/1 1a
 Makah harpooning a whale
Copy photo, cropped version.
circa 1910
1/1 1b
Makah harpooning a whale
Copy photo showing Curtis' signature.
circa 1910
Whaling boat at sea (A. Curtis 19251)
Box/Folder item
1/2 2a
 Whaling boat at sea
Modern print from full negative.
1910
box-folder:oversize
OS Box 2b
Whaling boat at sea
Photogravure
Printed on page: Indian Whalers Homeward Bound from the Pacific.
1910
Box/Folder item
1/2 3
 Whaling boat at sea towing whale
Photogravure
Printed on page: Indian Whalers Entering the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
1910
Boat with whale and floats near shore (A. Curtis 19211)
Box/Folder item
1/3 4a
Boat with whale and floats near shore
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Landing Whale Neah Bay.
1910
1/3 4b 1910
1/3 4c
Boat with whale and floats near shore
Close-up copy print.
1910
Boat with whale, floats, and rope stretched to shore (A. Curtis 19220)
Box/Folder item
1/4 5a
Boat with whale, floats, and rope stretched to shore
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Landing Whale Neah Bay.
1910
1/4 5b
 Boat with whale, floats, and rope stretched to shore
Copy print, cropped by Curtis. Written on verso: Making ready to tow the dead whale.
1910
Box/Folder item
1/4 6
 Boat landing on shore
Photogravure
Printed on page: The Return of the Indian Whalers.
1910
1/5 7
 Makah on beach with whale near shore (A. Curtis 20180)
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Indians on the Beach, Neah Bay.
1910
Makah hauling whale onto beach with rope (A. Curtis 19234)
Box/Folder item
1/5 8a
Makah hauling whale onto beach with rope
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Landing Whale Neah Bay.
1910
1/5 8b
 Makah hauling whale onto beach with rope
Copy, cropped on right hand side.
1910
box-folder:oversize item
OS Box 9
 Group of women and children along the beach
Photogravure
Printed on page: Indian Life on the Beach at Neah Bay.
1910
Box/Folder
1/6 10 1910
1/6 11 1910
1/7 12 1910
Makah stripping whale (A. Curtis 19253)
Box/Folder item
1/7 13a
 Makah stripping whale
Copy photo from album.
1910
box-folder:oversize
OS Box 13b
Makah stripping whale
Photogravure
Printed on page: Indian Whalers Stripping their Prey at Neah Bay.
1910
box-folder:oversize item
OS Box 14
 Makah stripping whale with dog in foreground
Photogravure
Printed on page: The King of the Seas in the Hands of the Makah.
1910
Box/Folder
1/8 15
 Makah stripping whale with float in foreground (A. Curtis 19239)
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Indians on Beach Neah Bay.
1910
1/8 16
 Makah stripping whale with basket in foreground (A.Curtis 19236)
Copy photo from album. Written on album page: Indian whalers cutting up whale Neah Bay.
1910
1/9 17
 Three men on beach (A. Curtis 18732)
Photogravure
Printed on page: Makah Indian Whalers. Written on verso: Makah Indians, from reader's left to right; Antone Wispu, David Fischer, Charley White.
1910
1/9 18
 Man standing next to whaling boat
Photogravure
Printed on page: Lighthouse Joe, an Old Makah.
1910
1/9 18a
Man standing next to whaling boat (A. Curtis 19217)
Copy photo from negative.
1910
1/9 18b
Man standing next to whaling boat
Copy photo from album.
1910

Makah WomenReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Makah woman carrying basket on the beach (A. Curtis 19223)
Box/Folder item
1/10 19a
 Makah woman carrying basket on the beach
Written on verso: Modern Indian woman gathering clams.
circa 1910
1/10 19b
Makah woman carrying basket on the beach
Photogravure
Printed on page: The Makah Basket-Carrier.
circa 1910
Box/Folder item
1/10 20 circa 1910
Makah woman carrying firewood on beach (A. Curtis 20183)
Box/Folder item
1/11 21 circa 1910
box-folder:oversize
OS Box 22
Makah woman carrying firewood on beach
Photogravure
Printed on page: A Gatherer of Faggots at Neah Bay.
circa 1910
Box/Folder item
1/11 23
 Makah woman carrying firewood near buildings
Photogravure
Printed on page: In a Contented Old Age.
circa 1910
1/11 24
Makah woman carrying firewood near buildings (A. Curtis 19235)
Copy photo from album.
circa 1910

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
  • Whaling--Photographs
  • Corporate Names :
  • Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation, Washington
  • Geographical Names :
  • Neah Bay (Wash.) --Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photogravures