Category: Current Newsletter

Fred Harvey, Native American Silverwork, and the Cultural Tourists of 1890

Although he entered New Mexico 135 years ago, Fred Harvey’s influence remains, as the demand his company created for Native American art and Southwest tourism continue to thrive.

The first cultural tourists of the Victorian Era and the early 1900s embraced the Fred Harvey Company’s innovations in travel, dining, merchandising and tourism and, of course, the Harvey House. New Mexico’s 13 different Harvey accommodations offered comfort and civilization while traveling by train, as well as cultural expeditions and experiences unique to the Southwest.

One such experience was the Indian Building at the company’s Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque built in 1902. According to the website, the Indian Building, a museum and sales room, was devised to “expose and educate the traveler to the uniqueness of handmade Indian crafts,” as well as to sell the merchandise. Herman Schweizer, who managed the Indian Building and traveled Indian Country to acquire the an extensive collection of Native American arts and crafts, enlisted the help of Native American artists as demonstrators of their work and salespeople at Harvey Houses throughout the Southwest.

Schweizer helped drive the direction of Native American jewelry and crafts as an industry, including silversmithing. Mexican metalsmiths brought their craft to the Navajo in the early-1800s, and by the 1890s Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists had developed their own styles of silverwork. At that time virtually all Native American silverwork was made for Native Americans, says Rick Smith of the Oldest House Indian Shop.

That changed when the Fred Harvey Company entered the picture. In 1899, the company began supplying turquoise stones and silver to trading posts in New Mexico and specifying the type and weight of jewelry needed for the tourist trade.The company purchased the crafts from the artists and sold these bracelets, rings and beads often called “Harvey House jewelry” or “workshop jewelry” on the trains over the Santa Fe line, at Harvey Houses, and at the Indian Building.

Silver jewelry made in the last years of the 1800s and the first years of the 1900s is characterized by heavy stamp work and frequently featured arrows and symbols introduced or required by traders as “typically Indian” designs, most likely due to the influence of Schweizer and the tourist trade.

In a nod to Fred Harvey’s legacy and the original Native American craftspeople, the Oldest House Indian Shop offers the Indian Shop Legacy Collection. Inspired by the Harvey House jewelry created for sale during that nostalgic golden era of train travel to the exotic Southwest, many of the stamps used have been hand made in order to replicate the jewelry of that time.

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas St. in Santa Fe to learn more and see the Legacy Collection.

Visit us online at

Phone:  505-988-2488

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Oldest House: Recognized as a Cultural Icon Even in 1879

Santa Fe’s Oldest House has been of interest to lovers of history and cultural experiences dating back at least 140 years, as evidenced by a Harper’s Weekly feature on Santa Fe in its September, 13, 1879, issue.  Yes, 1879!

The article, a piece of history itself, details the story of Santa Fe and its history of governance by Spain, Mexico and the United States:  “Our readers will be interested in the sketches given on this page of Santa Fe New Mexico, which enjoys the distinction of being the oldest town within the whole territory of the United States.”

One of three sketches featured is titled. “The Oldest House in the United States.”  Signed by C. Graham, it is an image of the Oldest House viewed from the southeast.  The article discusses the Palace of the Governors and its place in New Mexico history in detail, but the image chosen to reflect Santa Fe for the readers of Harper’s Weekly is that of the Oldest House.

While New Mexico was still more than 30 years away from becoming a state, our place in the history of the United States was already enchanting lovers of adventure.  And Harper’s Weekly didn’t even go back as far as they could have, choosing to begin its story with the entry of the Spanish in 1542.

“This location is steeped in layers of history dating back to the 1200s.” says Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop on the site.  The Oldest House Indian Shop welcomes visitors into the Oldest House Museum in the National Historic Landmark Barrio de Analco Historic District, one of the oldest residential neighborhoods of European origin in the United States.  A part of the Spanish barrio originally settled in 1620, the Oldest House is also believed to rest on part of the foundation of an ancient Indian Pueblo built in the 1200s.  The New Mexico Tourism Department includes the Oldest House on its list of 15 must-see adobe structures.

“We have a fascinating community history spanning eight centuries,” Smith says.  “We are proud of that and love combining it with the timeless treasures created in the spirit of the cultures of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Southwest.  They are things that spark the imagination and encourage curiosity and exploration.  Here at the Oldest House we provide a venue for the joy of being in Santa Fe.”

For more information, visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.

Visit us online at

Phone:  505-988-2488

Join us on Facebook and Twitter