APPENDIX IV. Reliable Dealers in Navaho Blankets
IT IS scarcely to be expected that every purchaser of a Navaho blanket will be interested enough to go as deeply into its history and manufacture as has the author. Nor can he expect to absorb in a brief perusal of a few pages sufficient knowledge to make him an expert in judging the value of any blanket that may be offered to him if he place himself in the position of a possible purchaser. But I can do such possible purchaser, who values my judgment and word, a great and lasting service by placing him in direct touch with dealers who are thoroughly familiar with all phases of the business, and whose reliability many years of experience have proven to be unquestioned.
When I suggested the introduction of this chapter to my publishers, they felt considerable hesitancy as to its propriety. They argued it was not customary, and it might seem to savor of invidiousness. My replies are that new conditions require new methods of meeting them. High class newspapers and magazines have long ago adopted a system of genuine helpfulness towards their readers in guaranteeing the reliability and honesty of their advertisers. In this case there is no advertising, but my readers are entitled to the results of my experience and knowledge as far as I can give them. The fact that there are unreliable dealers in Navaho blankets, who cheat and deceive their customers, and that, on the other hand, there are those whose integrity and knowledge are unquestioned, is my justification for calling specific attention to the latter.
As for the possibility of involving the publisher in any trouble I hereby personally agree to refund to any purchaser any sum he may lose through misrepresentation or dishonest treatment at the hands of any of the dealers herein named.
Foremost among those to whom the collector must turn for the rarest, choicest, and finest specimens of the Navaho, Pueblo, and ChamayÓ weavers' art now on the market is Fred Harvey, whose principal blanket exhibit is at Albuquerque, N. M., in one portion of the picturesque Santa Fé depot offices, and hotel, named after Alvarado, one of the Captains of Artillery who accompanied Coronado on his journey of exploration and conquest of New Mexico in 1540.
Fig. 254. Navaho Woman Cleaning Blanket. [Page 174]
Those who travel on the transcontinental line of the ‘‘„Santa Fé,„’’ as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé Railway is popularly known, will need no assurance as to the integrity of Fred Harvey. Ever since the railway has been in operation he has had charge of the eating house and dining-car system, and his excellent service has made his name world-famed and synonymous with the best of foods, cooked and served in the best of style. The same business principles that have made the Fred Harvey hotels, eating houses, lunch counters, and dining-car service famed among travelers have already built up the largest business in Indian blankets, baskets, pottery, and curios in the world, and prospective purchasers may fully rely upon everything that they may secure either at Albuquerque or any of his branch establishments being genuine, and as represented.
Elsewhere I have referred to the work of C. N. Cotton and John Lorenzo Hubbell in furthering the development of the blanket-weaving art among the Navahos. These men are still in the blanket business, the former as a dealer, purchasing from the traders, while the latter still carries on the business directly with the Indians themselves. In 1884 Mr. Cotton, who had been the station agent of the Santa Fé Railway at Wingate, N. M., bought an interest in Mr. Hubbell's Indian trading post at Ganado, Arizona, which is some sixty miles northwest from Gallup, N. M. In those days the trade for blankets was small and insignificant. In 1884 all the new firm secured was two small bales of common blankets weighing not more than from 300 to 400 pounds, the designs being of the plain straight-line type. Saddle blankets were not purchased at all.
In 1894 Mr. Cotton gave up the direct trading with the Navaho, removed to Gallup, N. M., and ever since has dealt only with the traders, supplying them with all the goods they need to sell to the Indian and taking in return everything the traders secure from them. The special feature of his blanket trade, therefore, has been to secure a market. Each year the demand for good blankets has increased. The firm name is ‘‘„The C. N. Cotton Company,„’’ Gallup, N. M., and it disposes of its blankets only at wholesale. The first illustrated and descriptive catalogue of the Navaho blanket ever issued, I had the pleasure of writing for Mr. Cotton nearly twenty years ago. He and Mr. Hubbell can truthfully be called the fathers of the business among the white race, and while Mr. Cotton is no longer in partnership with Mr. Hubbell they have a close business relationship, and many of the latter's finest blankets are purchased by
Few men have ever held so honored and rare a position in the esteem of the Navahos and in relation to the blanket industry as does John Lorenzo Hubbell, of Ganado, Arizona. Indeed, it would be as impossible to write truthfully and comprehensively of the history of the Navaho blanket and leave out Mr. Hubbell's relation to it, as it would be to give the history of the phonograph and leave out the name of Edison. As I have shown in the chapter on the Development of the Art, Mr. Hubbell has seen all the latter-day developments of blanket-weaving. He saw the art deteriorate, and then set himself to work to stem the tide of ignorance and carelessness which bid fair speedily to wreck what his far-seeing vision knew might be a means of great wealth to an industrious and struggling people. He spoke the Navaho language fluently, lived in the very heart of the reservation and was in daily contact with some of the most progressive men and women of the tribe. He took them into his office and talked with them, one by one. As rapidly as was possible he eliminated the use of cotton warp, showing the weavers that, while its substitution for the wool warps saved them much time, it made the blanket so much inferior that he could not pay anything like the same price for it. Then he eliminated certain dyes from his trade. He refused to keep the colors that the Indians used so recklessly when they had once broken loose from the old traditions of pure colors. Then, slowly but surely, he discouraged the use of Germantown yarn, and urged the thorough cleaning and scouring, carding, spinning, and dyeing of their own wool. During all this time he was urging the weavers to higher endeavor, and giving special privileges and favors to those who showed not only skill and originality of design, but general acquiescence in his endeavors to improve the art. The final result has been that now he has gathered around him by far the finest set of weavers on the whole reservation; he has found out the class of work best done by certain women, and who are the ‘‘„color artists„’’ for the making of that style of fancy blankets in which color plays the most important part. Then, too, he has learned from practical experience, what designs of pure Navaho origin please the most exacting patrons, and these he has had copied in oil or water-colors, and they line the walls of his office by the score.
Hence, when a certain type of blanket is needed, he can point to the design, or, if necessary, loan the painting of it to the weaver to whom he commits the order. If this particular weaver fails as a dyer of good colors, he supplies her with wool he has had dyed by some other woman who is a dyeing expert. Thus he gains the best kind of work, and can supply anything makeable by a Navaho weaver, with sureness, accuracy,
Another Gallup, N. M., firm that is perfectly reliable and trustworthy is the C. C. Manning Company. In 1894 Mr. Manning went to the Navaho Indian Agency, at Fort Defiance, as Assistant Engineer for Government Irrigation Work that was being done for the benefit of the Navahos. In the spring of 1896 he left the government service and bought out the reservation trading store of W. E. Weidemeyer, where he remained in daily contact with the Navahos for the space of ten years. In 1906 he sold out and went for a visit to California and southern Arizona, but in three years, longing for the largeness of his Indian trading life, he returned and repurchased his old store. Ever since then he has been engaged in the Navaho trade, though now his company transacts a tremendous wholesale business with the various traders on the reservation, having their large warehouses, etc., at Gallup. During the year 1911-12 they found sale for Navaho blankets for which they had traded to the amount of forty thousand dollars, independent of the blankets sold by the manager of their Navaho Reservation store, who finds his own market and never sends his supply in to be disposed of by the firm.
While the Manning Company does an almost exclusively wholesale business, they assure me that if any would-be purchaser wishes to write to them they will either send such blankets as may be desired, or will refer the purchaser to one of the Indian traders with whom they do business, whose word and goods may be relied upon. To those, however, who wish to purchase in quantity, the Manning Company offer special facilities. Trading over a large part of the reservation and buying from a score or more of those who deal actually with the Indians they secure a wide variety of styles, weaves, and designs that make their stock an especially desirable one to select from. In addition to this, there are a number of first-class weavers who have learned that this company is willing to pay them a high price for every superior blanket that is brought direct to them; hence they secure quite a number of extra choice specimens in this manner.
A Navaho trader who makes a specialty of a mail-order business in the finer grades of Indian blankets, and whose statements as to the quality of his goods may be implicitly relied upon, is J. A. Molohon, Crystal, N. M. Mr. Molohon is the successor by purchase of J. B. Moore's trading-store, from which a large number of excellent blankets have been sent out to satisfied customers. Some seventeen years ago Mr. Moore entered the Indian trading business and in his district began to do for the Navahos what Messrs. Hubbell and Cotton had done in theirs. Little
Soon a few of the more thorough weavers saw how much better the dye would ‘‘„bite in„’’ to this well-scoured wool. They were thus induced to a more thorough cleansing of their wool, and when they received a higher price for the blankets made of such wool, they began to fall in line with Mr. Moore's further suggestions for the improvement of their work. The result is the blankets from the Crystal weavers are highly desired, and as Mr. Molohon is equally particular with his predecessor, the business has continued to be carried on in the old and well-established lines. The Molohon Company offers no cheap grade blankets. They have only two grades or classes. The first is their ‘‘„ER-20„’’ grade, which is made entirely from specially scoured wool, dyed in the yarn with special dyes and carefully prepared mordants, so that the fastness and truth of the colors is assured. The wool is then issued to the weaver who has proven her capacity, with general instructions as to the kind of blanket desired. The design is left largely to her own will, thus ensuring the individual character so much desired. These blankets vary in size from 45x76 inches to about 6x9 feet, but blankets of any size may be ordered with the assurance of receiving exactly the quality desired.
The Molohon second, or ‘‘„T-XX„’’ grades, are selected blankets from those brought in by the Indians, where there has been no special scouring or dyeing of the wool under the trader's personal supervision. Most of these blankets come from weavers who are earnestly striving to get into the Molohon class of first-class weavers, hence they have an incentive to do their utmost. This results in a higher class blanket than that secured by the indifferent trader.
Their specialty is a good, reliable grade of standard, native wool, undyed, and outline blankets, with a steady supply of the extra qualities of all these types. It was from Mr. Algert that I bought my first native wool undyed blankets, especially those in the grays, blacks, and whites, and while he was at Tuba City, he was most conscientious, constant, and thorough in urging upon the weavers of his district the improvement of this class of weave. Indeed, he has done more to promote the general improvement of the art in this line than any other trader. On several occasions I have been present at his trading-post when he has gathered together as many as two or three thousand Navahos, not only to give them a good time in their feats of horsemanship, etc., but also to foster among the weavers a desire to improve the quality of their blankets.
Since his removal to Fruitland, he has discontinued immediate dealings with the Indians and deals only with the traders, supplying them with everything that they need in exchange for the blankets, etc., sent in. His firm handles thousands of dollars worth of blankets each year, and is known for its square and honorable dealing.
Elsewhere I have referred to the endeavors made by the Hyde Exploring Expedition to improve the condition of the Navahos and further their interests by pushing the sale of their blanket's on a large scale. Their successor was the Benham Indian Trading Company, which finally concentrated all its efforts in its chief store on South Broadway, Los Angeles, California. For many years it conducted a successful business here, the direction of affairs being in the hands of Mr. A. M. Benham, whose responsible assistant was Mr. L. L. Burns, who held an interest in the firm. At Mr. Benham's death some two or three years ago, Mr. Burns bought out all other interests and organized the Burns Indian Trading Company, which has carried on the work of its predecessors on the same high plane. Like Fred Harvey, Mr. Burns has scoured the country for old and rare blankets of all good weavers, and many collections owe some of their most valued specimens to him. Especially in rare bayetas and old ChimayÓs has he been successful.
Recently Mr. Burns has found a new and congenial field for his laboriously-acquired Indian knowledge. As is well known, Los Angeles is the home of moving picture film makers. Thousands of feet of Indian plays are made monthly. Mr. Burns has organized the Western Costume Company, and he and his associates give expert technical advice and practical assistance in the correct costuming and staging of Indian and western plays. They have a large stock of blankets, squaw dresses, etc., such as are described in these pages, and it is an interesting fact to note the development of this new industry in connection with Indian Blankets and Their Makers.
In conclusion: While mine is a busy life and I have no such commodity as ‘‘„spare time,„’’ I shall always be glad to place my services at the disposal of any one interested in securing a collection of Navaho blankets of a superior order.