Richard Henry Pratt Papers
Richard Henry Pratt devoted his life to public service, beginning as a soldier in the Civil War and later fighting Indians on the frontier. It was on the frontier that Pratt came in contact with the American Indian and began developing the theories that were to guide him throughout his life.
It was Pratt's belief that the American Indian, although leading a savage and uncivilized life, was fully capable of being educated and absorbed into American society. Pratt gained support for this view when he commanded a group of seventy-two Indian prisoners at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1875. Through education and humane treatment, Pratt believed that even the most "savage" of Indians might become educated and law abiding citizens.
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 Indian 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.
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. Currently, only a portion of these papers are available online.