,hl=en,siteUrl='http://0ldfox.blogspot.com/',authuser=0,security_token="v_SeT2Tv8vVdKRCcG9CCW-ZdIfQ:1429878696275"/> Old Fox KM Journal : A Little Background on Edward Harriman

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Little Background on Edward Harriman

From the Auctioneer


[Mr. Harriman employed my grandfather, John "Jack" Rigley, as a stable lad shortly after Rigley's emigration from Ireland.  Rigley taught Harriman's son, Averell, how to ride a horse.]

"Never before have we seen the Indians of North America so close to the origins of their humanity, their sense of themselves in the world, their innate dignity and self-possessions." - N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American author

Originally an edition of 500 sets was proposed, but only 214 sets were subscribed to, and another sixty were compiled and sold later. The set offered here was obtained by the consignor in 1999 from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation. Mary was the widow of railroad magnate Edward Harriman, another of Curtis's most important patrons. According to the Curtis biography Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. Mary Harriman was listed in a letter written by Curtis in 1912 as one of the prominent subscribers to the set. Thus, it should be noted that Set #308 (The Harriman Set) was undoubtedly listed with Curtis' company, The North American Indian, Inc., at some point, under the name of Mrs. E.H. Harriman. It is unclear whether this occurred before or after E.H. Harriman's death in 1909, two years after the introduction of The North American Indian series. It was Edward Harriman who financed the 1899 Alaska expedition for which Curtis served as the original photographer, and which would provide the inspiration and impetus for Curtis's magnum opus, The North American Indian. Volume I is signed by Curtis and dated 1907, the year the first volume appeared with an introduction by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Harriman Set is of the highest quality available, printed on India Proof Paper ("tissue") tipped in, and Dutch Van Gelder Paper. Only an estimated fifteen of the original subscriber sets were printed on tissue, including Curtis's personal set and those of J. P Morgan and the King of England. These last three sets are all housed in institutional collections, leaving only the Harriman Set still available for private ownership.


"Much good work is lost for want of a little more." - Edward H. Harriman

Harriman (1848 - 1909) rose from humble beginnings to become one of the five wealthiest men in the world. A grade-school drop-out, he enjoyed a meteoric rise on Wall Street before turning his energies to railroads at the age of thirty-three. He has been designated one of history's twenty most important business leaders by Forbes magazine. His son Averell would become an ambassador, cabinet member, and governor of New York, and during the 1950s was a serious aspirant to the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States. Upon Edward's death, his wife Mary, sole heir to his vast estate, would become an active philanthropist. The twenty loose supplementary portfolios of photos which accompanied the twenty volume set were dispersed over the years, but the Volumes have remained intact until the Set was obtained by the present owner from the Mary Harriman Foundation in 1999.

In 1899 Edward Harriman organized and financed the largest and most famous scientific expedition the world had ever seen, the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Scientists made over 600 important discoveries during the expedition, and created an invaluable survey and assessment of Alaska in the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, when the Territory was going through major transition. The project would lend impetus to the nascent movement to preserve America's wilderness, a movement spearheaded by Harriman Expedition member John Muir, and soon after by Curtis's greatest champion Theodore Roosevelt.

Curtis was named the official photographer of the Expedition, on which he met and worked with many of the great scientific luminaries of the day. One of these was George Bird Grinnell, with whom Curtis went to live in Montana the following year to photograph the Blackfeet and Piegan. It was the watershed moment in Curtis's professional life, and launched him on his thirty year mission to create The North American IndianWithout his seminal experiences on the Harriman Alaska Expedition, it is doubtful that Curtis would ever have envisioned or created his masterwork. . . .

No comments: