Dennis June’s Fred Harvey Jewelry 1900 – 1955 is not only a valuable resource for the collector, it is full of fascinating information that will help all of us understand the Fred Harvey era of souvenir Indian-inspired jewelry.
After reading Steven Fried’s Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West–One Meal at a Time, I gained an understanding of the importance of Harvey’s business sense and his relationship with the railroads. I also began to understand America’s fascination with the Native peoples, “the Indians,” of the Southwest. Fried touched on the popularization of everything Indian but I learned even more when reading June’s book.
Dennis June, a long-time collector and trader, provides helpful explanations of the difference between Indian made fine silver jewelry (the type we treasure today), partially hand-made Indian jewelry and mass-produced “Indian-style” jewelry. While the best is, of course, the hand-made Indian jewelry with natural stones, the vintage jewelry termed “souvenir or railroad” jewelry is also highly collectible in its own right.
The Fred Harvey era ranging from the growth of the railroads out West to the Route 66 travel days, is a very romantic era when we think back to it. The Fred Harvey Company not only provided meals to railroad passengers, he organized souvenir jewelry production and placed it in retail stores along Santa Fe Railway routes. He is partially responsible for the popularization of Indian culture that exists today.
Through photographs of vintage souvenir bracelets and vintage souvenir postcards June walks us through this popularization pointing out how souvenir jewelry companies and the Fred Harvey Company created jewelry styles and symbols that we always thought were truly Native American. In fact, jewelry companies made up symbols which were placed on jewelry and even printed guides to these symbols. Of course these were snapped up by the tourists thinking they were getting a bit of Indian culture…. wrong!
The information provided by June on authenticity reinforces the importance of buying authentic, documented Native American pieces from reliable sources. You’ll understand the impact of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 which prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts. And you’ll understand the value of organizations like the Indian Arts and Crafts Association (IACA) that support authenticity and authentic Indian artists.
If you are one of those who has succumbed to the romance of the Fred Harvey era (the railroads to the Southwest, Route 66) you will enjoy this book, the photos and the information. If you have succumbed further to the souvenir jewelry of the time and collect what is called Fred Harvey jewelry or railroad jewelry, this book is a must for you. June will help you with your collection, help you navigate offerings via eBay and show you the difference between machine-made and hand-made jewelry of the era.
I was amazed at some of the things I read. I learned how the travelers, hungry for what they thought represented Native Americana, were the cause for Plains Indian headdresses being placed on Navajo silversmiths. I learned that the whirling logs symbol (looks like the swastika) was actually a true Native American symbol, one of the rare ones on souvenir jewelry.
The book is interesting and well-researched. It has an extensive bibliography and helpful glossary. June utilizes several private collections and hundreds of specimens which he photographed for the book. It is available in hard-back with an attractive cover and full color photos.
Purchase Dennis June’s Fred Harvey Jewelry 1900 – 1955