About Edward Sherriff Curtis

Edward S Curtis
Edward Sherriff Curtis looking dapper.


Timeline of Curtis' life
Florence’s timeline of her father’s activities.

This timeline is thought to be written by one of Edward’s daughters, either Florence or Billy. They both had books in the works and had a great interest in promoting their father’s work.


Florence Curtis Graybill wrote two books with Victor Boesen (Edward Sheriff Curtis, Visions of a Vanishing Race and Edward S. Curtis, Photographer of the North American Indian) and was said to be working on a third. Florence consistently spelled Sherriff incorrectly while writing these books, but realized after-the-fact, that her family genealogy proved it to be with two “r”s and two “f’”s.


Billy (Katherine) Ingram also was working on a condensed version of the NAI publication, but it never came to fruition. We aren’t clear on who the author of this timeline is but we like it compared to others found on the internet because it shows more of where he was that year and shows that he was doing.


Edward Sherriff Curtis’ Correct Date of Birth

Many timelines show Edward’s date of birth as February 16, 1868 when actually he was born February 19, 1868. The February 16 date was a typo from a popular book about Edward Curtis prior to the internet. Once this information hit the internet, there was no going back. The foundation has several documents from the family which clearly show Edward Sherriff Curtis’ date of birth as February 19, 1868. Of these documents we have posted one here for reference which is a page from the Curtis family bible showing dates of birth of the children of Johnson & Ellen Curtis.

Curtis Bible
Curtis children birthdates from the family bible.

What’s in a name?

Family names can be very personal in nature and are often passed down from generation to generation; this was the case with Edward Sherriff Curtis. 


Let’s talk about his middle name for just a minute. Search the internet and you will find everyone references his middle name as being spelled Sheriff with one ‘r’. Have you ever looked up the definition of your name? Maybe, maybe not however when looking up the word Sheriff it is defined as an elected county official, not a name. Check it out Sheriff. 


Edward gets his middle name passed down to him from his grandparents who are Charles F Sherriff and Elizabeth Loxley Sherriff, they were married on a farm in White Water, WI in the year of 1841. One of the 11 offspring from this union was Ellen Sherriff Curtis who Married Johnson Asahel Curtis, these are Edward’s parents and he was given his mothers maiden name for his middle name. This practice of using a parents maiden name was very customary then as it is now. So you have to ask yourself; why would they change the spelling of Edward’s middle name then? They didn’t! Somewhere along the line, someone made a typo and now it’s poured in concrete all over the internet. One can understand how easy of a mistake this would be to make as spelling it with one r would be the most commonly used version. However, that is not how Edward’s middle name is spelled.


All of Edward’s ancestors spell their name Sherriff with two ‘r’s and two ‘f’s… I’ve seen it spelled all kinds of ways.


Follow some of these links and see for yourself.

Elizabeth Sherriff

Elizabeth Loxley Sherriff, Edward’s grandmother


Elizabeth Sherriff back

Back of print


Elizabeth Loxley Sherriff Edward’s Grandmother

Charles F Sherriff Edward’s Grandfather

Ellen Sherriff Curtis Edward’s Mother

Johnson Asahel Curtis Edward’s Father

Edward Sherriff Curtis 

Find A Grave got it right…

One of the funny parts of this story is my grandmother Florence misspelled his name in her book about her father. You would have thought she would have gotten it correct but no and she lamented about this error to the family for years.