Fred Harvey, the Man, the Era, the Jewelry

Fred Harvey (1835-1901) and the phrase “Fred Harvey era” are often misunderstood and misused when it comes to describing early Native American style jewelry.

Early Pretty Girl Bracelet

Early Pretty Girl Bracelet

Fred Harvey lived during fascinating times and his story tells us much about US transportation, westward travel, railway restaurant cars and the early tourist trade. But what is curious about his legacy is that we Native American jewelry aficionados erroneously use his name to describe a particular type of Native American style tourist jewelry that he personally did not have much to do with and that actually exploded onto the scene after his death.

Instead of referring to the the tourist jewelry from the era as “Fred Harvey jewelry”, it has been suggested that “railroad jewelry” would have been more appropriate. But that’s water over the bridge.

Is Fred Harvey responsible for the introduction of Americans to America? Yes.

Is he responsible for the first Native American jewelry boom in the US? Well, yes and no. But that’s putting the caboose before the engine. To understand the man, the era, and the jewelry, first of all a very brief timeline:

southwest design border669

1835    Fred Harvey was born in London, England

1850    Fred Harvey, age 15, sailed to America, his first job was a dishwasher in NYC. He became a US citizen in 1858

1876   Fred Harvey entered into a handshake agreement with restaurant operator Peter Cline who ran the eatery at the Topeka, Kansas railway depot to transform the lunchroom to better serve train passengers. After a radical makeover, he offered a 35 cent breakfast which included steak, eggs, hash browns, six wheat pancakes with maple syrup, apple pie and coffee all served in a clean and pleasant atmosphere.

1878    Fred Harvey signed a contract with the Santa Fe Railway (also known as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe or AT&SF) to operate small restaurants (called tea rooms) at railroad depots along the railroad’s route.

Early Santa Fe Railway

Early Santa Fe Railway

1880 and onward trading post owners (called traders) began carrying tools and supplies for the Native American production of spoons, buttons, squash blossom necklaces, and other jewelry items.

1885   Fred Harvey managed 17 lunchrooms, called Harvey Houses, along Santa Fe’s line. They were run by Harvey Girls, single, young waitresses in starched uniforms.

A Harvey Girl in a Harvey House lunchroom in the early 1900s

A Harvey Girl in a Harvey House lunchroom in the early 1900s

1888    Fred Harvey begins to operate dining cars on the Santa Fe Railway. He signed his last contract with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1899. Here is a sample menu from one of the Harvey dining cars.


Santa Fe Railway dining car interior - 1890

Santa Fe Railway dining car interior – 1890

1899    Fred Harvey Company (notably Indian Jewelry manager Herman Schweizer) supplied pre-cut turquoise and pre-measured silver pieces to traders for the manufacture of lightweight jewelry (aka railroad jewelry) to satisfy the demand of the railroad tourist trade.

Phoenix early 1900s

Phoenix early 1900s

1901    Fred Harvey died at age 65.  His son, Ford Harvey assumed control of the Fred Harvey Company

1909    The Thunderbird design was copyrighted by Fred Harvey Co.

Bell Trading Co. Thunderbird Cuff in Copper

Bell Trading Co. Thunderbird Cuff in Copper

1920    Fred Harvey Co. is the principal concessionaire in the newly established Grand Canyon National Park.

1923    Maisel’s Indian Trading Post opens in Albuquerque offering coin silver jewelry

1932  Bell Trading Co began operation

1935    Maisel’s merges with Bell Trading Co. and Bell converts to machine manufacturing remaining in business until 1972

southwest design border669


Fred Harvey’s main goal as an entrepreneur was to provide good food and good service for railroad travelers. He was immensely successful at that and essentially developed America’s first chain restaurants – Harvey House.

So what does he have to do with the railroad jewelry?  He created the market and the place to sell the wares. By making travelers comfortable, well fed and happy, they were ready to purchase souvenirs as mementos of their travels. The lightweight tourist jewelry was sold in the depot hotels and restaurants and alongside the train tracks.


1905 Fred Harvey Gift Shop Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque NM

1905 Fred Harvey Gift Shop Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque NM

Lightweight "railroad" bracelet

Lightweight “railroad” bracelet

Some of the most popular items were bracelets, pins, spoons, all heavily laden with symbols.

Indian Symbols 2

The meanings for these symbols, in a large part, did not come from the Native Americans but were made up by the marketers of the jewelry such as Herman Schweizer of the Fred Harvey Company. He is attributed to say that the very popular Thunderbird symbol was (see the Harvey chart below) the “sacred bearer of happiness unlimited.”  That sounds good, I’ll take two.


Bell Trading Co copper symbol bracelet

Bell Trading Co copper symbol braceletCSB21-symbols-bell-2CSB21-symbols-bell-3


Early dog and snake bracelet

Early dog and snake braceletBP269-BC-dog-snakes-turq-614-6

Early Whirling Logs ring

Early Whirling Logs ring

One of the most popular tourist pieces was the split shank Pretty Girl bracelet.

Vintage split shank pretty girl bracelet

Vintage split shank pretty girl bracelet

The peak of the Fred Harvey era tourist-quality Native American style jewelry was from 1900-1930, the decline caused mainly by the closure of the railroad depot lunchrooms and shops. Even so, it continued to be produced until the mid 1940s or 1950s.  The Bell Trading Co. continued on until the 1970s.

The authentic, sometimes called ethnographic, Native American jewelry was made before and during the tourist era and continues to be made today. Using heavier silver and stones, authentic Native American jewelry speaks volumes about its heritage and makers.

Vintage Petit Point Cluster Bracelet

Vintage Petit Point Cluster Bracelet

Fact or Fiction?

The Fred Harvey Company produced Indian jewelry. FALSE

All “Fred Harvey era” southwest jewelry was Indian made. FALSE

Some tourist jewelry is Indian made. TRUE



fred harvey jewelry fred harvey the man



Navajo Watch Cuff Switcheroo

I recently purchased a NOS (New Old Stock) watch cuff that had never had a timepiece in it.


My heavy vintage New Old Stock watch cuff……..looking for a timepiece

I wanted a good timepiece for it, one that would put up with my rugged lifestyle and look good with my fall and winter flannel shirt ensembles….but without breaking the bank. I had researched the Citizen Eco-Drive stainless steel watches and some self winders but all I saw were out of my price range. I looked at manual wind up watches and purchased a Timex that was advertised as having a stainless steel bezel only to find on arrival that it was brass with chrome plating !! So I returned it and put the poor empty cuff on my desk and looked at it for days, weeks……….months……….and then something appeared…………..

Vintage watch cuff with Wenger Stainless Steel Timepiece

Vintage watch cuff with Wenger Stainless Steel Timepiece

An estate lot came in with a number of men’s watches in it. One of the vintage cuffs had a stainless steel Wenger in it and while it looked super cool on that cuff, it was really not functional because you could not grab onto the stem which was flush with the edge of the cuff. The timepiece was really too narrow for that vintage cuff with straight sides. So with the store’s blessings, I pulled a switcheroo.


From the left, my NOS watch cuff, the vintage cuff with the Wenger watch, a black quartz watch.

The Wenger went into my cuff and because the cuff was sculpted inward on each side specifically to allow access to the watch stem, it was a perfect marriage.

My NOS cuff with Wenger timepiece

My NOS cuff with Wenger timepiece

Fits like a glove and easy to read.

Fits like a glove and easy to read.

A black blanket-pattern quartz watch, that was wide enough so that the stem extended over the straight edge of the vintage watch cuff,  was installed and now that cuff has a functional watch.

Vintage Cuff with black faced quartz watch - stem is now functional

Vintage Cuff with black faced quartz watch – stem is now functional

Happy ending all around.

Thank you to Henry and Diane for their excellent help with custom repairs and modifications.

Diane Radeke
Old Town Trading Co. / Jewels of the West / Old Town Jewels
4009 N. Brown Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Robert and Bernice Leekya – Nugget Jewelry since 1953

Zuni husband and wife Robert and Bernice Leekya are known for their bold turquoise (usually Kingman) nugget jewelry. They have been making it since 1953.

Here I will showcase some examples of their work……….

Zuni Cluster bracelet by Robert and Bernice Leekya

NBT483-634-turq-cluster-leekya-3NBT483-634-turq-cluster-leekya-4 Zuni Cluster bracelet by Robert and Bernice Leekya

Born in 1934, Robert was taught by his father, a master Zuni jeweler Leekya Deyuse.  Here are some examples of Leekya Deyuse’s work – he is often just referred to as Leekya. Born in 1889, he remained active in his craft until his passing in 1966.

Leekya Deyuse 1 Leekya Deyuse 2Bernice Leekya, born in the 1930s, was formerly a maker of cluster work.


NR472-712-petit-turq-leekya-1NR472-712-petit-turq-leekya-2 Cluster Ring by Robert and Bernice Leekya

After her marriage to Robert, she worked with him on the nugget jewelry also. WL-398-turq-leekya-4








S421-turq-buckle-bolo-watch-4A-2 Leekya bolo tie detailsS421-turq-buckle-bolo-watch-4B

BU132-WB-turq-leekya-1 CB50-kingman-leekya-13

Robert shares the RLB stamp with his wife Bernice Leekya. The larger L extends below the B.


Raven Crow Medicine

Lakota Kangi Pejuta Medicine Bag

Lakota Kangi Pejuta Medicine Bag. Kangi Pejuta means Medicine Crow.

RAVEN/CROW –  Raven and Crow are very similar in their strengths: both carry great responsibility to Spirit and are the messengers of magic and healing from the universe where all knowledge waits for us.

Raven Crow Feather Necklace by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

NP574-feather-raven-whitehawk-2 Raven Crow Feather Necklace by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

They also symbolize changes in consciousness, levels of awareness and perception.

Zuni Raven Fetishes

FF306-raven-pooacha-1 Zuni Raven Fetishes

Shamans, Spiritualists and Healers using Raven/Crow Medicine are able to use their gifts with deeper clarity, understanding and insight, developing greater power and skill in their abilities and their means to help one move forward in life.

Kangi Pejuta Smudge Kit

Kangi Pejuta Smudge Kit

Raven Crow Medicine Smudge Feather

Raven Crow Spirit Smudge fan by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Raven Crow Spirit Smudge fan by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Raven Crow Medicine Pouch

Raven Crow Medicine Pouch with hand carved and painted buffalo bone raven feather. Cynthia Whitehawk


Zuni Buffalo Fetish Carving
Raven – Crow – A symbol of Magic, Mystery, and a Shift in Consciousness
(from our conversations with Lakota and Apache healers)

I want to get a ring like I saw in the movie Thunderheart

Hello Paula,

I want to get a ring like I saw in Thunderheart, the movie with Val Kilmer. Can you help?


Hi Brad,

There were actually 4 rings prominently featured in Thunderheart.

Three were worn by Ted Thin Elk who played Grandpa Sam Reaches, the elder who lived in the remote trailer house.

His wore two Navajo rings. One was a turquoise stone and one was a white buffalo stone. He also wore a  Zuni ring made by Effie Calavaza that had coral and turquoise and a snake winding between the stones.

Here are examples of the 3 rings Ted Thin Elk wore.


PR161-turq-11-lee-2 Navajo Turquoise and Sterling Silver ring by Larson Lee



Vintage NOS (New Old Stock) Navajo Turquoise and Sterling Silver ring PR157-WB-turq-1034-FB-2



NR490-10-wbuffalo-2 Navajo Sterling Silver and White Buffalo Stone ring with cigar band by Stanley Parker




NR382-snake-turq-coral-effie-3 Zuni Sterling Silver Turquoise and Coral snake ring by Effie Calavaza


Graham Greene, who played the tribal police officer Walter Crow Horse, wore a Navajo ring with a rectangular turquoise stone like these.


NR442-A-E-turq-calladito-D Navajo Turquoise and Sterling Silver Ring by Michael Calladito



Why is copper used for belt loops, pin backs and more in Native American jewelry?

Copper was the first metal discovered by man and has been used for thousands of years by craftsmen around the world for tools, artifacts and jewelry.

Copper was considered sacred by some Native American cultures and it continued to be used extensively even after the introduction of silver, steel, and metal alloys.


Vintage copper bracelet with Native American symbols

Copper was abundant in the Southwest, with Arizona having one of the largest copper deposits in the world. In some areas native copper could be found just laying on the ground without the need to smelt it from ore.

Raw Copper

Raw Copper

Copper’s was and is much less expensive than silver.  Unlike steel and most other metals, copper can be easily shaped without heating.

Soldering or “sweating” is joining two pieces of metal together, using a medium called solder (pronounced “sodder”).  The metals that are being joined might be the same such as copper to copper or sterling silver to sterling silver. That type of soldering is relatively simple for an experienced metal smith.

It is when soldering two different metals together that things can get tricky in terms of the amount of heat necessary and the type of solder required.

Examples of dissimilar metal-to-metal soldering common in Native American jewelry is copper to sterling silver and steel to sterling silver.

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper requires much less heat to solder to sterling silver than it would take to solder steel to sterling silver. Also with copper, there isn’t a specialized solder needed.

That’s why copper is the metal of choice for belt loops on concho belts and is also seen as pin backs, for example, on vintage Native American pins and pin pendants. 

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.


Suspending the Jewelry Question Service

Originally posted on Native American Jewelry Tips:

paula at desk 24 hours Paula 24-7

Due to my super busy schedule, I am suspending the free service I have provided in the past whereby I answer questions about your Native American jewelry.

I have found that 95% of your questions are either “What is this hallmark” or “What is this worth?”.

Since I don’t do appraisals from photos and identifying a hallmark often only helps you, I have suspended the Q&A service and instead have been using my blog time to post articles of information.

Be sure to search this blog for the answer to your question. It is possible I have posted some information that will help you answer your own question.


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