On Jan. 25, 1860; "Charles Curtis was born on a farm in a log cabin in U.S. Kansas Territory. He was the son of Orren Arms (Captain Jack) Curtis, a (Protestant- Methodist) Kansas pioneer who married (Catholic) Ellen Pappan whose mother was Royal Kansa(1/2)-Osage(1/2), and and her father Louis Pappan of (1/2) French and (1/2) Potawatomie Indian descent, which made Charles Curtis, an 1/8th Kansa Indian, 1/8th Osage Indian, Potawatomie Indians with 1/8th French and 50 percent American-English. Charles Curtis was baptized Catholic four months after his birth in St. Mary, Kansas.From his mother, Curtis first learned French and Kansa. As a boy living with his mother and her family on the Kaw reservation, he started racing horses. Curtis was a highly successful jockey in prairie horse races. A colorful incident occurred on June 1, 1868, when one hundred Cheyenne warriors invaded the Kaw Reservation. Terrified White settlers took refuge in nearby Council Grove. The Kaw men painted their faces, donned their finery, and sallied forth on horseback to meet the Cheyenne. The two Indian armies put on a military pageant featuring horsemanship, fearsome howls and curses, and volleys of bullets and arrows. After four hours, the Cheyenne retired with a few stolen horses and a peace offering of coffee and sugar by the Council Grove merchants. Nobody was hurt on either side. During the battle, the mixed-blood Kaw interpreter, Joe Jim, galloped 60 miles to Topeka to request assistance from the Governor. Riding along with Joe Jim was eight-year old Curtis or “Indian Charley” as he was called.
Curtis' mother died in 1863 when the boy was three. His father remarried and divorced, then married again. The elder Curtis was imprisoned because of an event during his service in the American Civil War. During this time, Charles was taken care of by his paternal Curtis grandparents, especially during high school. They helped him gain possession of his mother's land in North Topeka, which he inherited despite his father's attempt to gain control of the land.
Charles Curtis was strongly influenced by both sets of grandparents. After living with his maternal grandparents on the reservation, Curtis returned to Topeka to live with his paternal grandparents and to attend Topeka High School. Both his grandmothers encouraged him to get an education. Afterward Curtis studied law and worked part-time. Curtis was admitted to the bar in 1881. He commenced practice in Topeka and served as prosecuting attorney of Shawnee County, Kansas from 1885 to 1889.
Charles Curtis married Anna Elizabeth Baird, with whom he had three children. He and his wife also provided a home for his half-sister Theresa Permelia "Dolly" Curtis after her mother died. A widower when elected Vice President in 1928, Curtis had his half-sister "Dolly" Curtis Gann live with him in Washington, DC and act as his hostess for social events.
Curtis served in the House from March 4, 1893 until January 28, 1907. First elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives of the 53rd Congress, Curtis was re-elected for the following six terms. He made the effort to learn about his many constituents and treated them as personal friends. While serving as a Congressman, Curtis originated and helped pass the Curtis Act of 1898, with provisions that included bringing the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma under land allotment and restructuring provisions. It limited their tribal courts and government. By his own experience, Curtis believed that the Indians could benefit by getting educated, assimilating and joining the main society.
The government tried to encourage Indians to accept individual citizenship and lands, and to take up European-American culture. In application of these goals, some administrators went too far in terms of threats and breaking down families. (see Indian Boarding Schools) With his ties in Congress, Curtis was always abreast of changes in Indian law and programs. He re-enrolled with the Kaw tribe, which had been removed to Oklahoma when he was in his teens. In 1902 the Kaw Allotment Act disbanded the Kaw nation as a legal entity. This was the tribe of Curtis and his mother. The act transferred 160 acres of former tribal land to the federal government. Other land held in common was allocated to individual tribal members. Under the terms of the act, as enrolled tribal members, Curtis (and his three children) received about 1,625 acres in total of Kaw land in Oklahoma.
After passage of the 17th Amendment, which provided for direct election of senators, Curtis was elected by popular vote in 1914 for the six-year Senate term commencing March 4, 1915. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1920 and again in 1926. Curtis served without interruption from March 4, 1915 until his resignation on March 3, 1929, after being elected as Vice-President. During his tenure in the Senate, Curtis was President pro tempore of the Senate as well as Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Interior, of the Committee on Indian Depredations, and of the Committee on Coast Defenses, as well as of the Republican Conference. In 1923 Senator Curtis, together with fellow Kansan, Representative Daniel Read Anthony, Jr., proposed the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution to each of their Houses. The amendment did not go forward.
In 1928 Charles Curtis ran with Herbert Hoover heading the Republican ticket for president and vice-president. Following their landslide 58% to 41% victory, Curtis resigned from the Senate on March 3, 1929 to assume the office of Vice President. The pair was inaugurated on March 4, 1929. Soon after the Great Depression began, Curtis endorsed the five-day work week, with no reduction in wages, as a work-sharing solution to unemployment. (See John Ryan's book Questions of the Day.) The problems of the Great Depression led to defeat of the Republican ticket in the next election. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected as president by a margin of 57% to 40% in 1932. Curtis' term as Vice President ended on March 4, 1933.