Curtis traveled by foot, wagon drawn by horses or oxen, mule, boat, train, and auto. He wrapped everything he brought in waterproof and dustproof canvas, including:

  • cameras and tripod (no light meters, filters or other devices)
  • glass plates to make negatives
  • photographic studio tent with adjustable skylight to create lighting effects (tent was also used for sleeping)
  • tent used for interviews collecting music and speech with wax-cylinder recording equipment
  • books, articles, correspondence, typewriter
  • food, cooking utensils, and clothes for a month or more

During their 6-month research seasons (May to October), Curtis and his assistants worked 16 hours per day, seven days a week. When documenting Indian customs and traditions, Curtis interviewed his subjects through an interpreter while an assistant took shorthand notes of the interpreter's English translation. Before bed, Curtis' assistant typed up that day's notes for reference the next day. He and Curtis constantly checked their fresh observations against published studies.

Curtis wagon
To cross a river, Curtis and his assistants unloaded the one-ton wagon, removed its wheels, wrapped the wagon bed and its contents (already pre-wrapped) in a waterproof canvas sheet and floated it across. Curtis driving the wagon, date unknown.