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Richard Henry Pratt papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1174

Scope and Contents

The papers span Richard Henry Pratt's long career as an Army officer, educator, and advocate for Native American causes.

The papers are divided into seven series. Series I, General Correspondence and Official Papers consists of official Army papers as well as Pratt's incoming and outgoing letters. Pratt made copies of most of his letters. These copies, either carbons, drafts, or volumes of letterpress impressions, are filed chronologically as Outgoing Letters and provide a very complete record of his letter writing. Incoming Letters are arranged alphabetically by author.

The main subject of Pratt's correspondence until 1904 was the founding and administration of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. This correspondence reveals Pratt's efforts to gain support for the school from Indians, the government, and private donors as well as the day to day difficulties in the actual management of the school. In addition, there is correspondence with former Indian students and Carlisle staff members, including Howard E. Gansworth, Dr. Carlos Montezuma, and Chauncey Yellow Robe, on the position and problems of Indians in America.

Pratt corresponded with many prominent Americans interested in the plight of Native Americans. These correspondents include: Lyman Abbott (10 items), Samuel C. Armstrong (101 items), Spencer F. Baird (21 items), Rudolph Blankenburg (14 items), James W. Champney (18 items), Clara B. Colby (2 items), Henry L. Dawes (31 items), W. Maslin Frysinger (22 items), Henry G. Ganns (39 items), Howard E. Gansworth (22 items), Franklin K. Lane (18 items), John D. Miles (145 items), Carlos Montezuma (122 items), Knute Nelson (34 items), Arthur C. Parker (45 items), Carl Schurz (12 items), and Cato Sells (13 items).

Official Papers contains material on Pratt's early Army career and his experiences with Native American prisoners at St. Augustine. This section contains reports, orders, official correspondence and communications. Information about Pratt's early experiments with Native American education and on the establishment of the Carlisle School may also be found here.

Series II, Family Correspondence , contains Pratt's letters to and from members of his family. Also included in this series is the correspondence of his daughter, Nana Pratt Hawkins; his wife, Anna Laura Pratt; his son, Mason Delano Pratt; his grandson, R. H. Pratt, II; his granddaughter, Sarah Pratt; his son-in-law, Guy LeRoy Stevick; and his daughter, Marion Pratt Stevick. Of special interest is Pratt's correspondence with his wife about his experiences with Indians while serving in the Army and about the founding of the Carlisle School. The correspondence of Pratt's children details their futile efforts to have Pratt's autobiographical work published after his death. Correspondence between Pratt's children and Elaine Goodale Eastman, author of Pratt: The Red Man's Moses, reveal the preparation of and reaction to this biography.

The correspondence of Mason D. Pratt offers some insight into Pratt's experiences at St. Augustine, Florida. Details about Pratt's role in the Sioux Commission of 1888 are found in the correspondence of his son-in-law, Guy LeRoy Stevick.

Series III, Addresses, Diaries, Writings, and Notes , contains copies of articles and addresses by Pratt which provide a good source for Pratt's beliefs on Native American education and civilization. In addition, there are several versions of Pratt's autobiographical work and also four diaries which recount Pratt's activities during the Civil War.

Series IV, Photographs and Drawings , contains numerous photographs of the facilities and students of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. There are also a large number of photographs of Pratt. Other subjects include the Native American prisoners of St. Augustine and Fort Marion, their place of confinement. Of special interest are the "before and after" pictures of many Indians that contrast their "savage" appearance upon arrival at the Carlisle School with the "civilized" appearance after receiving the benefits of an education. There are negatives for many of the photographs in this series. Contact prints have been made for the glass plate negatives, and the originals have been placed in Restricted Fragile, where they may be consulted only with the approval of the appropriate curator.

This series also includes many drawings made by Native Americans at St. Augustine and Carlisle. These drawings are of interest not only because of their artistic merit, but because of what they reveal about the Indian's way of life and their perception of the changing world. A series of drawings by a Kiowa Indian, Etahdleuh Doanmoe, relate in pictorial form his journey from the plains to imprisonment in St. Augustine and his experiences in captivity.

Series V, Clippings, Scrapbooks, and Miscellaneous Publications , contains a large amount of newspaper clippings, both loose and in scrapbooks, that chronicle Pratt's activities from the St. Augustine days to the end of his career. Two scrapbooks in this series are devoted to press reactions to the Sioux Commission of 1888 of which Pratt was a member.

Series VI, Special Files , contains assorted biographical materials about Pratt and miscellaneous materials on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Series VII, December 1976 Acquisition, contains printed material, ephemera, and photographs pertaining to Pratt and the Carlisle School; material concerning Pratt's service in the United States Army; genealogical materials pertaining to Pratt; correspondence; photographs and negatives of Native American camps, the Pratt family, and trips to Alaska and New Mexico; sea beans polished by Native American prisoners at Fort Marion, Florida; and maps showing Indian reservations within the United States.


  • 1862-1972


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 34, 42, and 43: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Richard Henry Pratt Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Richard Henry Pratt Papers were the gift of Margaret Hawkins Seelye, Edgar M. Hawkins, Jr., and Richard Pratt Hawkins, 1959 and 1976.


Organized into seven series: I. General Correspondence and Official Papers, 1867-1924. II. Family Correspondence, 1862-1956. III. Addresses, Diaries, Writings, and Notes, 1862-1953. IV. Photographs and Drawings, 1875-1904. V. Clippings and Miscellaneous Publications, 1874-1953. VI. Special Files, 1878-1963. VII. December 1976 Acquisition, 1871-1972.


23.18 Linear Feet ((102 boxes) + 3 broadsides)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection includes letter-press books, writings, diaries, notes, photographs, and drawings. The papers largely relate to Pratt's work with and theories on the education of American Indians and his involvement with the Carlisle Indian School. Included is material relating to the controversies surrounding his work and much relating to Indians and Indian life in general. There are a group of Indian photographs and drawings, and papers relating to members of Pratt's family.


Richard Henry Pratt was a soldier in the American Civil War and later fought in armed conflicts with Native Americans on the frontier.

It was Pratt's belief that the Native American should receive an American education and be absorbed into American society. Pratt gained support for this view when he commanded a group of seventy-two Native American prisoners at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1875. Through education and humane treatment, Pratt believed that even the most "savage" of Native Americans might become educated and law abiding citizens of the United States.

Pratt's efforts resulted in the founding of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1879. As head of the school, Pratt stressed both academic and industrial education. He believed that if the Native American was to claim his rightful place as an American citizen, he must renounce his tribal way of life, abandon the reservation, and seek education and employment among the "best classes" of Americans.

During his superintendency of the Carlisle School, Pratt became an outspoken opponent of tribal segregation on reservations. He believed that this system as administered and encouraged by the Indian Bureau was hindering the education and civilization of the Native American and creating helpless wards of the state. These views inevitably led to conflicts with the Indian Bureau and the government officials who supported the reservation system. Long standing animosities came to a head in May of 1904 when Pratt strongly denounced the Indian Bureau and the reservation system as a hindrance to the civilization and assimilation of the Native American. This controversy, coupled with earlier disputes with the government over civil service reform, led to Pratt's forced retirement as superintendent of the Carlisle School in 1904. This did not, however, end Pratt's long career as a crusader for Native American causes. A tireless speaker and letter writer, he waged a vigorous campaign for the fair and humane treatment of Native Americans until his death in 1924.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

The December 1976 Acquisition received a basic level of processing in 2014, including rehousing and minimal organization. This acquisition has not been merged and organized with the collection as a whole.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
Guide to the Richard Henry Pratt Papers
by Andrew Patterson and Alison Clemens
August 1972
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.