Richard Henry Pratt papers
Scope and Contents
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.
Conditions Governing Access
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
Immediate Source of Acquisition
23.18 Linear Feet ((102 boxes) + 3 broadsides)
Language of Materials
RICHARD HENRY PRATT (1840-1924)
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.
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.
- Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922
- Armstrong, S. C. (Samuel Chapman), 1839-1893
- Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
- Dawes, Henry L. (Henry Laurens), 1816-1903
- Diaries -- United States -- 19th century
- Doanmoe, Etahdleuh, 1856-1888
- Drawings (visual works) -- United States -- 19th century
- Gates, Merrill Edwards, 1848-1922
- Glass negatives -- United States
- Harris, William Torrey, 1835-1909
- Hyde, Alexander
- Indian students -- United States
- Indians of North America -- Education
- Indians of North America -- Government relations
- Indians of North America -- Pictorial works
- Jackson, Sheldon, 1834-1909
- Ledger drawings -- United States -- 19th century
- Maps (documents) -- United States -- 19th century
- Montezuma, Carlos, 1866-1923
- Off-reservation boarding schools -- United States
- Ohetoint, Charles
- Parker, Arthur Caswell, 1881-1955
- Photographic prints -- United States -- 19th century
- Pratt, Richard Henry, 1840-1924
- Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
- Soldiers -- United States
- Soldiers -- United States -- 19th century
- Teachers -- Pennsylvania
- Teachers -- Pennsylvania -- 19th century
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
- United States -- Maps -- 19th century
- United States Indian School (Carlisle, Pa.)
- 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.
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