In the Autumn of 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes embarked upon his Great Western Tour. Though being well-traveled throughout his presidency and known to make appearances across the country, this particular itinerary reached the Pacific Ocean and would mark the furthest west any sitting president had ever traveled.
Beginning in Canton, Ohio, over 10,000 miles were traversed by way of a variety of land and sea faring transportation including train, stagecoach and ferry boat.
On October 28, the President, Mrs. Hayes, and his entourage arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Departing from the newly minted transcontinental Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (AT&SF) railroad, Hayes' was welcomed by special speeches and the party spent the day visiting the town.
Though only a blip on his long journey, a small remark made about his time in the bustling and vibrant city caught my eye:
"The party... stopped at the store of Mr. M.A. Gold, on San Francisco street, and spent an agreeable half hour among the curious designs of Indian pottery. The many ludicrous attitudes of the little baked Indians, the shapes and proportions of the various animals, known and unknown, and fantastic designs in the decoration of earthware, conceivable only in the imagination of a facetious Indian, proved too much for their presidential decorum, and were greeted with a hearty laughter."
This begs the question, what was it that these highly esteemed – nay presidential – dignitaries were looking at that evoked such laughter? Luck would have it that Mrs. Hayes was taken by the display and reported to have been, "highly pleased by what she saw, purchasing some of the finest specimens and sending them to Ohio."
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums now retains the dozens of objects purchased by Mrs. Hayes from M.A. Gold. Most within the collection are identified as Cochiti Pueblo figurative ceramics, also known as mono. They are recognized by their cream slip, black, inky painted designs and signature open mouth.
The Cochiti Pueblo had been deviating from their traditional ceramic craft to produce consumer pottery since before the Mexican-American War. However, the chartering of the AT&SF railroad in 1859, and its opening in February of 1880, would radically increase tourism to Santa Fe and the demand for exotic Southwestern Indian goods throughout the United States.
The mono figurines were the embodiment of the Cochiti Pueblo reaction to the cowboys, opera houses, and sideshows which frequented the burgeoning town of Santa Fe. Parodying the loud-mouthed and confident opera singer. Poking fun at the flamboyant and all-too-serious cowpoke.
And Ohioans, much like Mrs. Hayes, were enamored.
In 1892, the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican newspaper regularly published the names and hometowns of visitors to M.A. Gold's shop with Ohioans frequently named in the article. Further proof of this concept is the number of turn-of-the-century Pueblo souvenir crafts found within our Ethnographic Collection.
Mono figures were not the only popular tourist fodder for sale at M.A. Gold's. Small ceramic figurines - the ideal size to be neatly stowed away within luggage, shipped by the barrel to wholesalers, or individually advertised by mail catalog - proved to be overwhelmingly popular. The figures were initially marketed and sold as Aztec or Mesoamerican gods.
In reality the figures, called muna, were made by Tewa Pueblo Indians living in Tesuque, New Mexico, just a stone's throw away from Santa Fe.
Perhaps due to the quickly developing Arts and Crafts movement within Santa Fe, by the 19th century the marketing of the muna shifted away from the false pretense of Mesoamerican manufacture and instead proposed the figures to be Pueblo or Zuni idols sporting names such as, 'rain god,' 'god of pain,' and 'god of hunger'.
Much like the Cochiti, the Tewa Pueblo were readily engaging in the production of non-traditional ceramic arts for souvenir sale. By the early 1900s, munas reached the height of their popularity with thousands being produced for a captivated audience.
Although we cannot be sure the means most of the objects featured in this blog were obtained - whether they were bought outright during travel to Sa Fe or purchased via mail order catalog - one object in particular can be more illuminated.
Irving Drew, a prominent Portsmouth shoe manufacturer, and his wife Ella Drew collected a muna from Santa Fe (above, right). On the bottom of the muna are inscribed details, "Santa Fe, New Mexico 1907; Tesuque Pueblo"
It appears that by 1901 the Irving Drew brand was being advertised in New Mexico newspapers (left). The arrival of the brand is commonly seen being celebrated by local shoe shops throughout the early 1900s. The success the brand in the southwest may have spurred a 1917 trip to Santa Fe. On February 19, 1917, the visitation of Mr. and Mrs. Drew to the State Museum was reported by The Albuquerque Morning Journal. Ella Drew became a member of the Archaeological Society the next day (right).
It is rare for a single object within our Ethnographic Collection to lead to the discovery of such newspaper accounts but it is moments like this that bring satisfaction to endless research. For those objects that have less clarity, they remain important waymarkers of the interests and movements of Ohioans in an increasingly interconnected world.
Each object in the Ethnographic Collection is a testament of national and international exchange. Ohioans not only left with objects but also imparted tangible, and distinctly Ohioan, economic and cultural ideals to the places they visited in the 19th and 20th centuries, an exchange that still occurs to this day when you board an airplane or venture on a cross-country trip to seek a little adventure in your life.
Over one hundred years later, the making of the once non-traditional ceramic souvenirs has become cemented as a genuine expression of the Pueblo identity. Contemporary examples are visible in Tewa Pueblo folk art munas, modern Cochiti storyteller figures, and in the work of Pueblo artists like Virgil Ortiz whose mono figures regularly appear in art exhibits worldwide.
For the sake of brevity, I have omitted the nerdiest of details such as changes in the figurative forms across the decades and the evolution of Santa Fe curio shop advertisements. For those so enticed, below is a list of further reading.
2002 When Rain Gods Reigned: From Curios to Art at Tesuque Pueblo. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.
1999 Clay People: Pueblo Indian Figurative Traditions. Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe.
1999 Tourism is Overrated: Pueblo Pottery and the Early Curio Trade, 1880-1910. In Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds, edited by Ruth B. Phillips and Christopher B. Steiner, pp. 282-297. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Hayes, Allan, John Blom and Carol Hayes
2015 Southwestern Pottery: Anasazi to Zuni. Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, Maryland.