Large Fred Harvey Era Silver and Turquoise Thunderbird Pin


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Once Known Native American Jeweler

This thunderbird jewelry pin was made in the style of the jewelry most referred to as the Fred Harvey style. The Fred Harvey style is characterized by thin silver that has been carefully stamped, sometimes containing small nuggets of natural turquoise. The pieces were stamped with designs that came to be associated with the American Southwest. Popular shapes were animals, crossed arrows, and celestial objects.

When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad came through the American Southwest, the Fred Harvey Company opened a series of hotels and gift shops to cater to the people traveling on the railroad. The gift shops sold various souvenirs, one of the most popular was Indian jewelry. Margery Bedinger states in her book Indian Silver: Navajo and Pueblo Jewelers, that:

"In 1899, Hermann Schweitzer, of the Fred Harvey Company's curio department operated in connection with the Santa Fe Railroad, began to exploit the Navajo silver workers to supply items for sale to tourists, who were using the railroad in increasing numbers. Up to this time, the only jewelry available to tourists had been dead pawn turned in by traders to the large mercantile houses in the railroad towns. Schweitzer noticed that while tourists were attracted to Navajo silver, many felt it was too massive and heavy to wear when they returned home. So, he conceived the idea of providing metal and stones ready for setting and having the smiths make them to his order in thin lightweight pieces. He tried the scheme first at the trading post in Thoreau, New Mexico. It was so successful there that posts at Sheep Springs, Smith Lake, and Mariano Lake were included. The smiths were paid by the ounce for rings, bracelets, and beads made from silver and stones supplied by the neighborhood traders. The articles were then sold on the Santa Fe trains and in the stations along the route."

This thunderbird pin was crafted with the same skillful precision as pieces made more than 100 years ago. Small crescent shaped stamps were set to mimic the spread-out feathers of a bird. A cab of natural turquoise is in the center. The piece is unsigned. This pin is of a heavier silver stock than the old Fred Harvey jewelry.

Diné of the Navajo Nation silversmiths routinely made replicas of the Fred Harvey thunderbird logo, which was copyrighted, but their infringement on the copyright was overlooked by the company as the jewelry was profitable for it.

Condition: the pin is in excellent condition.

Provenance: this Large Fred Harvey Era Silver and Turquoise Thunderbird Pin is from a Santa Fe collector.

Reference: Indian Silver: Navajo and Pueblo Jewelers, by Margery Bedinger

Recommended Reading: Fred Harvey Jewelry 1900-1955 by Dennis June, Schiffer Publishing. 2013

TAGS: Southwest Indian JewelryDiné - Navajo Nation

Alternate side view of this pin.


Once Known Native American Jeweler
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