The North American Indian (1907-1930), by Edward S. Curtis, was published in a limited edition and sold by subscription. This project was launced in 1907 and subscriptions to the series were sold for $3,000 each at that time (estimated to be about $21,000 in 2006 dollars.) By 1924, the price of a subscription rose to $4,20. Curtis planned on selling 500 subscriptions but by the time the project was liquidated in 1935, he was able to secure only 220 subscriptions.

The North American Indian series of 20 volumes is significant in many ways. From a historical perspective, it is a grand compilation of spectacular images of American Indians of various tribes living life and performing various ceremonies. Each volume contained 100 or so images and the entire collection had 2226 images in total covering a variety of Indian tribes, Apache, Sioux, Crow, Hopi, Shoshoneans and many others.

The other item of historical significance is that this is a very early example of an entrepreneur selling a product as a subscription series. This kind of selling is very common now – think book of the month club, wine of the month club, etc. – but back then it was very rare. So that also marks The North American Indian as a very interesting footnote in the realm of advertising history.

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