Bogoslof Volcano, Bering Sea Merriam, Clinton Hart  (American, 1855-1902)

Railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman led a team of twenty-three scientists, including the great naturalist John Muir, on a two month expedition to explore the waters and coastal territory of Alaska. Edward H. Harriman described his Alaska outing "as a summer cruise for the pleasure and recreation of my family and a few friends". His party included some of the country’s foremost and distinguished scientific personnel, artists, photographers, writers, and conservationists. In 1887 Edward Curtis’s family moved from Wisconsin to Washington state, where he began to become known for his photos of the Indians living on the Seattle waterfront. This led to his being invited to participate in the expedition as one of two official photographers. On May 31, 1899, the expedition set sail from Seattle on the steamship George W. Elder. For the next two months, they headed north to explore the waters and coastal territory of Alaska. A detailed description of the trip written by expedition member C. Hart Merriam was published as a twelve-volume series which detailed the scientific discoveries that were made during the journey. The first two volumes were illustrated with photogravures of photographs, many by the young Edward Curtis. It was on this expedition that Curtis first began photographing Native peoples in depth and began learning the rudiments of the scientific method as well as the beauty of photogravure. The photogravures plates were made by the firm John Andrews and Sons, the same firm that would be commissioned to print his magnum opus, The North American Indian. The trip launched the career of Curtis, and elevated those of several of the artists and scientists who contributed. The 45 photogravures antedate his celebrated series on Native Americans by six years. The expedition also involved railroad baron Edward Harriman with Clinton Hart Merriam (founder of National Geographic), the principal living naturalists John Muir and John Burroughs, bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes and many others of similar caliber. This was perhaps the largest private expedition to Alaska ever undertaken.