Textiles  of the North American Southwest
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Navajo Pictorial Weaving and Curio Loom,
ca. 1874
New Mexico

Catalog Information

In the second half of the 19th century, tourists began traveling in large numbers to the southwestern United States, drawn by its natural beauty and cultural diversity. 

Tour companies were created to meet the tourism demand. The most famous, the Fred Harvey Company, owned a chain of hotels and gift shops, and organized tourist train trips across the region. To promote the purchase of locally produced items by the tourists, the company created "living exhibits" of Indian craftspeople at work, such as the one pictured above.

The tourists eagerly purchased textiles as souvenirs. They especially valued Navajo weavings because they regarded them as authentically "Indian." In reality, these textiles had been influenced for centuries by Hispanic weaving styles. Also, by the late 19th century, non-Indian traders were encouraging Navajo weavers to produce blankets and rugs with designs that they believed would appeal to non-Indian customers, including elements from Oriental textiles. The traders sold these weavings through mail-order catalogs and in their trading post stores.

Top: Demonstration of Navajo weaving and silvermaking, ca. 1909, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photographer: Fred Harvey. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. no. 74-7220

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