New Mexico Postcards

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"Entrance to the Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico" Fred Harvey postcard.

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“Entrance to the Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico.” Fred Harvey Postcard.


This postcard from the Farmer archive, “Entrance to the Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico,” was an immensely popular postcard issued by the Harvey Company. In fact, the public enjoyed this particular postcard to the extent that the Company reissued it multiple times—with the tourists shown wearing “different styles in different decades” to reflect changes in sartorial preferences.[1] In this scene, such tourists inspect the Native American artwork being sold outside the Alvarado Hotel’s Indian Arts Building.[2] Unsurprisingly, the imagery that was so carefully selected for this postcard and made it immensely popular offers a romanticized and sanitized scene for visual consumption; those who purchased or received this postcard were presented with “a culturally interesting but clearly nonthreatening image of the Southwest.”[3]


Upon arrival at the Albuquerque train stations, travelers on their way to the local Harvey House, the Alvarado Hotel, had to pass through the Harvey Company’s Indian Building on their way to the hotel’s lobby. Passing through this area, visitors saw Native basket makers, potters, weavers, silversmiths, and other artists offering goods for purchase. In order to drive both sales and interest in the area, the Harvey Company, emphasizing that the artists’ “primary job was to be on display for the tourists,” required that Native workers be present with their artwork when the day’s trains arrived and departed.[4] Specifically, Harvey Company executives actively looked for a mix of Native men, women, and children for the Indian Building to create tableaus of familial and artistic comradery; the “ideal” Navajo couple on display would be a weaving wife and silversmith husband. With heavy turnover in the Native artists employed by Harvey Houses and their stores, many renowned Native artists worked for the Fred Harvey Company at one point in their careers. For example, Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo) and her husband Julian (San Ildefonso Pueblo) both worked for the company as demonstrators before they later developed the black-on-black pottery style for which they have become known. Similarly, the potter Nampeyo (Hopi, Tewa) also worked for the Fred Harvey Company on occasion.[5]


The back of this postcard reads: “The Indians of nearby villages have been permitted to establish a little market place here. They may be found in greatest numbers during the seasons when not occupied in planting or harvesting. The women are usually from Isleta, the men from San Domingo. Due to some native custom the conservative San Domingans [sic] do not permit their women to appear in public.”

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"The Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure. 

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"The Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure. 

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"The Indian Building, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure. 

Architect Mary Coulter’s first large-scale project with the Fred Harvey Company, the Indian Building was conceived in 1902 by Fred Harvey’s daughter Minnie Harvey Huckel, along with her husband J. F. Huckel. More specifically, the couple argued for the creation of the Harvey Company’s Indian Department, which was, eventually, headed first by Herman Schweizer, the Alvarado Hotel’s manager and collector of Native arts.[6] The Indian Department was headquartered in the Indian Building and was “responsible for the promotion of Native American arts and crafts as well as those of Mexico and Central America.”[7] In the Indian Building, there was a “museum of carefully selected Native American art (not for sale)” in addition to a salesroom full of artwork for purchase.[8] To stock the Indian Building and other extensions of the Harvey Company, its Indian Department bought vast quantities of Native American rugs, pottery, jewelry, and baskets. In fact, between 1908 and 1909 alone, Huckel and Schwiezer bought roughly four thousand Navajo weavings. While the Indian Department’s demand for Native artforms created positive economic opportunities for Native artists, it also required traditional colors and designs to be compromised to meet both the demands and tastes of tourists.[9] Although the Harvey Company’s Indian Department purchased large quantities of Native artwork in advance for their retail buildings, they found that the sales of Native artforms increased when “tourists watched artists demonstrate their skills (ideally with Native American children present) in a special workroom in the Indian Arts Building.”[10]


As demonstrated by numerous facets of the Fred Harvey Company, including their promotional postcards and “Indian Detours,” “authenticity” is something that can be historically constructed and changed throughout time.[11] With their images of Native artists such as those from the Alvarado Hotel’s Indian Building, the company “played off concerns emerging from the arts and crafts movement about the alienation of art from labor in the modern industrial world” as well as a “nostalgia for a mythological past.”[12] As a result, the Harvey Company promoted an “anti-modern” view of Native life that aligned itself with Euro-American expectations. Yet, contradicting themselves somewhat, the company promoted in the Indian Building and other outposts the “modern” weaving designs favored by travelers and created using manufactured dyes and yarns.[13]

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Recto to "The Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, N.M." postcard.

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Recto to "The Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, N.M." postcard.

“The Alvarado, Albuquerque, N.M.” Fred Harvey Postcard.


Opened in 1883, the Alvarado Hotel was, originally, a simple eating house. However, it was soon rebuilt on a grand scale with a cost of $200,000—$4.2 million dollars in the twenty-first century.[14] On May 11, 1902, the new Albuquerque Harvey House opened to considerable fanfare. Named after Hernando de Alvarado, an explorer part of Francisco Coronado’s 1540 to 1542 expedition, the Alvarado Hotel was designed by architect Charles F. Whittlesey. The Harvey Company’s “largest rail-side hotel,” the Alvarado boasted over 119 guest rooms, and its interior was designed by architect Mary Colter, on her first job for the Harvey Company.[15] Roofed with red tiles, the Alvarado Hotel and its accompanying buildings, including the Indian Building, were built in the California Mission Revival style of architecture, which was first introduced to New Mexico with Las Vegas’ La Castañeda Hotel in 1899.[16] Popular on the West Coast in the late nineteenth century, the Mission Revival style was later known in New Mexico as the “Pueblo” or “Santa Fe” style as it became increasingly associated with New Mexico’s “Spanish-Indian Tradition.”[17] Inside, the Alvarado Hotel featured “Craftsman-style furniture and velvet-upholstered chairs” before Colter gave it “a lighter touch” in 1922.[18] An addition to the building that same year is what gave the hotel its boost to 119 and the title of the Fred Harvey Company’s largest hotel.[19]


In addition to its reputation as the largest Harvey House, the Alvarado Hotel became known for the celebrities which stayed there, including two United States presidents as well as movie stars. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Alvarado Hotel and delivered a political address from a specially-erected platform by the hotel’s main door. Several years later, in October 1909, President William Howard Taft also visited the Alvarado Hotel, where he gave a speech before attending a banquet in the hotel’s formal dining room.[20] Beyond presidential visits, the hotel also hosted many important Albuquerque social events. This included the Montezuma Ball, held in honor of the hotel’s dedication in 1902 and each year following until 1917.[21] Furthermore, as many Albuquerque families ate at the hotel with such frequency that they often had their own “reserved” tables, movie stars, including Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Lois Wilson also visited the Alvarado.[22]


The back of this postcard recognizes that it was produced through the Detroit Publishing Company’s “Phostint” process and states: “The Alvarado, at Albuquerque, a building of the Mission type, commemorates Captain Hernando de Coronado’s expedition into the Southwest.”

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"Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure.

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"Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure.

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"Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico" brochure.

In the 1930s, the popularity that the Alvarado Hotel had previously enjoyed as “New Mexico’s grandest hotel” began to wane. In part, this was caused by the increase in auto travel over rail travel and the steadily growing number of roadside motels being created along major roadways.[23] While the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway continued to update both the hotel and its building into the 1960s, the railway decided to close and demolish the Alvarado in 1970.[24] Over fifty years after its demolition, the Alvarado Hotel’s exterior details are reflected in the Alvarado Transportation Center’s design, a center that currently serves passengers on both New Mexico Rail Runner Express and Amtrak trains.[25] Furthermore, two buildings remain from the “heyday of the Alvarado:” the telegraph office on Albuquerque’s 1st Street Southwest as well as the city’s old freight building.[26]

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Recto to "'Tom of Ganado,' Indian Bldg. Albuquerque, N.M." postcard."

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Recto to "'Tom of Ganado,' Indian Bldg. Albuquerque, N.M." postcard."

“‘Tom of Ganado,’ Indian Bldg. Albuquerque, N.M.” Fred Harvey Postcard.


This postcard from the Farmer archive depicts the Navajo (Diné) artist Tom of Ganado in three-quarters profile.


In analyses of Fred Harvey postcards, as well as the company’s business model in the Southwest and Southwestern tourism in general, the Southwestern “story” is often told “from the Anglo participants’ point of view, even when critiquing their use of Indians and Indian imagery.”[27] As a result, even though numerous Native artists and families appear on Fred Harvey postcards, the public was “familiar” with only a handful of models.[28] Additionally, even when the names of Native models were known and recorded, they were often omitted from Harvey Company promotional material. With this in mind, scholar Kathy M’Closkey astutely questions, “How can the economic contributions of these [artists] be substantively acknowledged and critically assessed?”[29] One is forced to rely upon the sources left by Euro-American participants in the Southwestern tourism complex, including Fred Harvey postcards such as those in the Farmer archive, to piece together Native artists’ experiences and roles within “the larger context” of both “turn-of-the-century” Native and Euro-American history.[30] Furthermore, scholars must visit with community members and scholars from the Native nations depicted in Harvey material in order to combat or round out the Native and American histories promoted by the Euro-American record; it is only when Native perspectives are prioritized and incorporated into research that such histories could come close to being “complete.”


With images and the physical presence of Native Harvey workers such as Tom or those in the “Entrance to the Indian Building” postcard, the Harvey Company presented artificially constructed scenes of “hardworking, artistic Indians” for Euro-American viewers’ visual consumption. Such scenes were heavily mediated by the company to ensure that visitors felt that “they had safely encountered the real West through a glimpse of Indian homelife.”[31] As a result, settings, including the Alvarado Hotel’s Indian building, became “ethnic sets for exotic performances” where the Harvey Company “staged authenticity by controlling the architectural setting, ‘live’ demonstrations and other expressive performances, museum and sales displays, publications, and virtually all associated exegesis.”[32] As part of such “staging,” Harvey Houses generally overlooked the important meanings inherent in Navajo weaving, an artform that “was, and still is, a highly respected activity that reflects and reinforces Navajo women’s economic, culture, and social centrality.”[33] In addition to their long history as market object, Navajo textiles embody hozho, the central Navajo concept “that connotes harmony, balance, goodness, and beauty.”[34] The creation of weavings also “reflect the power of thought and the combination of autonomy and cooperation,” as husbands often build the looms for their wives, and weaver can work alongside each other at one loom.[35] Such cultural concepts were, typically, overlooked by the Fred Harvey Company, which required artists to modify their artwork to fit both tourist expectations and ideas of “authenticity” in Native work.


In this postcard from the Farmer archive, Tom, the husband of noted weaver Elle of Ganado, or Asdzaa Lichii’ (Red Woman) (Navajo [Diné]) is photographed alone. Of the many Native artists and families who are included in Harvey Company promotional material, Elle stands out as one of the few artists who were identified by name and became easily recognizable by the public around Albuquerque. Born to the Black Sheep Clan, Elle lived in Cando, Arizona, near the Hubbell Trading Post in the southern region of the Navajo Reservation. Around 1903, after the Harvey Company had opened the Indian Building in Albuquerque, Elle and Tom began spending a great deal of time in the city, where they worked at the Alvarado as “arts and crafts demonstrators within the burgeoning southwestern tourist industry.”[36] Historian Laura Jane Moore notes that Elle was prominent enough within the Harvey Company and the Indian Building that she was selected to both weave and present her work to President Theodore Roosevelt when he visited the Alvarado Hotel in 1903.[37] Both Elle and Tom’s willingness to be photograph, as demonstrated by Tom’s portrait on this postcard, as well as their increasing celebrity within Albuquerque, promoted their positions as, supposedly, some of “the Harvey Company’s favorite employees.”[38]


The back of this “Phostint” postcard emphasizes the “exoticism” of Tom as an “object” of study and reads: “Tom of Ganado is the husband of Elle, the most famous weaver among the Navahos, and shares with her to a great extent her fame and popularity. Both of them are perhaps the most widely known of all their tribe. There is a romance connected with his marriage to Elle, the substance of which is that he stole her from her mother’s hogan and carried her off on his pony at night. He is an interesting study and born story teller.”

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Recto to the "Swastika Hotel, Best in the Raton, N. Mex. Harvey Detours Local Headquarters" postcard. 

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Verso to the "Swastika Hotel, Best in the Raton, N. Mex. Harvey Detours Local Headquarters" postcard. 

“Swastika Hotel, Best in the Raton, N. Mex. Harvey Detours Local Headquarters.” Fred Harvey Postcard.


This postcard from the Farmer archive shows a structure formerly known as the Swastika Hotel in Raton, New Mexico.


Located on 200 South Second Street in Raton, the building was built from 1928 to 1929 by the Swastika Coal Company, which was a local branch of the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coal Company. At the time of the building’s construction, the swastika had yet to develop the negative association now commonly linked to the symbol and was a visual motif in several cultures, including Southwest Native American imagery. However, during World War II, as the symbol became associated with the Nazi Party and their atrocities, the hotel’s name was changed to the Yucca Hotel. Throughout its lifetime, the building has housed a grocery store as well as a drug store. Still the tallest structure in Raton, the building currently houses a bank, and one can still find swastikas decorating the former hotel’s corbelled brick cornice band.[39]


As the caption of this postcard suggests, the Swastika Hotel was the former local headquarters of the Fred Harvey Indian Detours program as well as the location of a Harvey restaurant. In 1882, when the Santa Fe Railroad reached Raton, its Harvey restaurant opened. After its opening, however, operations were not smooth sailing. Rather, in 1883, the Fred Harvey Company completely replaced their entire wait staff with single, white, Midwestern women, known as “Harvey Girls.”[40] There are two possible explanations for why this changeup was necessary. One is that, in the late nineteenth century, Reformation-era racism was still high, but the Harvey Company hired Black men to work as servers in their restaurants. After one incident of racial aggression towards a Black worker in the Raton restaurant, the Harvey Company decided to move their Black men “into safer working conditions in the kitchen,” and as a result, had to “import” young Midwestern women to work as waitresses.[41] An alternative explanation is that the Harvey Company found that their male workers of any race often came into work hungover and tardy. After viewing such misbehavior occur at the Raton restaurant, Fred Harvey, supposedly, “fired his entire staff of waiters on the spot” and replaced them with Harvey Girls.[42]


Regardless of their impetus, the fact remains that Harvey Girls were first implemented in Raton, New Mexico, and quickly became the “signature” of Harvey House restaurants. As the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Santa Fe Railroad expanded westward from New Mexico, through Arizona, and across California, the Harvey Company needed hundreds of young waitresses to be hired and arrive at their posts as soon as possible.[43] The Harvey Girls’ iconic look was also established early on; the young women were required to wear “regulation form-fitting uniforms” that “were chosen for their looks and civility.” A 1926 musical, The Harvey Girls, staring Judy Garland, made such outfits exceedingly more famous.[44]


Also known for their succinct and precise service, Harvey Girls were trained to execute innovations thought up by Harvey himself designed to make service exceedingly fast. Their training was intended to make a thirty-minute food stop on the railroad seem “as unhurried for customers as possible.” In part, this was achieved through ideas such as the “cup code,” in which “one Harvey Girl took your drink order, then moved your cup into one of several positions that told the pourers behind her what hot or cold drink to give you.”[45] Throughout the next several decades, over one hundred thousand young, single women “escaped” their hometowns for jobs as Harvey Girls in the seemingly romantic West, lured, in part, by sanitized scenes such as those on Harvey postcards.[46]


There is no inscription on the back of this postcard.

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Recto to "The Indian Detour and Optional Side Trips" postcard. 

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Verso to "The Indian Detour and Optional Side Trips" postcard. 

“The Indian Detour and the Optional Side Trips.” Fred Harvey Postcard.


After the Alvarado Hotel’s success with the Indian Department, the Fred Harvey company created and launched their Indian Detours program. To supplement the picture of “Native life” that visitors got at Harvey institutions such as the Indian Building or Hopi House, the company came up with the Indian Detours to expose tourists to local Native American communities.[47] Both the Harvey Company’s Indian Building and Indian Detours capitalized off the created “exoticism” of Native peoples and Euro-American tourists’ “fetishism” of their cultures.[48] Eventually, the Detours, which helped define the Fred Harvey Company’s “Southwestern influence and aesthetic” along with its Indian Department, began in 1926.[49] During this decade, the Swastika Hotel in Raton, New Mexico, was its region’s Detour headquarters.


“The Indian Detour and Optional Side Trips” postcard explains, in part, the routes and methods of its service. The back of the card reads: “‘The Newest Way to see Oldest America.’ In the northern New Mexico Rockies lies the Enchanted Empire of the Southwest. Its center is in Santa Fe. The Taos of Kit Carson is on its northern edge. Las Vegas and Albuquerque are along the eastern and southern boundaries. In this domain are found quaint Indians pueblos, the ruins of cave and cliff dwellings thousands of years old, snowclad peaks and rushing mountain streams. This Enchanted Empire may now be visited comfortably and at reasonable cost via the new ‘Indian Detour’ - - a three days personally conducted motor trip forming a part of the transcontinental journey over the Santa Fe railroad.”

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Recto to "This Week's Special Harveycar Bill o'fare" leaflet. 

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Verso to "This Week's Special Harveycar Bill o'fare" leaflet. 

At the time of the Detours’ creation, the Harvey Company recognized the decreased popularity of rail travel and increased reliance on automobile travel for tourism. They decided to capitalize on the automobile travel tourism industry and arranged teams of cars with young drivers for their program. As with the Harvey Girls, the tour guides for Harvey’s Indian Detours were young, intelligent Euro-American women who underwent multiple months of training so that they could understand completely the area in which they would be leading tours. The cars in the Indian Detours fleet were called “Harvey Cars” or “Thunderbirds,” their drivers were called “Detourists,” “Cowboys, or “Dudes,” and the tour guides were referred to as “Harvey Couriers” or, unfortunately, “Indian Maiden Guides” and wore Native-inspired uniforms accessorized with jewelry such as squash blossom flowers and concho belts.[50] The idea of a car-and-driver tour of an area of cultural interest is derived from the car tour services of Europe, but modified uniquely to “reflect the Southwest.”[51]

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"Grand Canyon Outings" brochure.

Intended to be one to three day trips departing from rail stations such as those in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque, Indian Detours ferried tourists to pueblos and Native communities, but the Harvey Company made sure to limit actual interaction between Native peoples and Euro-American tourists. Instead, those on Detours were given brochures and “audible instruction[s]” about what they were viewing, which created an experience similar to a living history exhibit.[52] An early brochure for the Indian Detours sums up what the Fred Harvey Company wanted to impart with is program:


"It is the purpose of the Indian Detour to take you through the very heart of all this, to make you feel the lure of the Southwest that lies beyond the pinched horizons of your train window. In no other way can you hope to see so much of a vast, fascinating region in so short a time. . .It is 3 days and 300 miles of sunshine and relaxation and mountain air, in a land of unique human contrasts and natural grandeur."[53]


As this promotional message implies, the Harvey Company’s Indian Detours promoted and capitalized heavily upon the ethnotourism industry of the Southwest, which marketed the area as “the great playground of the white American.”[54] As historian Marta Wiegle argues, with the Fred Harvey Company’s various enterprises, including the Hopi House, Indian Building, and Indian Detours, the company developed “increasingly backstaged Indian authenticity.” In this aura of manufactured authenticity, the Southwest and its Indigenous peoples appeared to tourists as “natural, primitive, ethnic,” and the Southwest was fashioned into something akin to Walt Disney World’s “Magic Kingdom” for them.[55]


While the Indian Detours, along with the Hopi House and Indian Building, did provide somewhat positive economic opportunities for Native artists and families, they also succeeded in “commodifying” Native American cultures for non-Native tourists.[56] Regardless, by the end of the 1930s, after the Great Depression extinguished the market for “in-depth, luxury tourism,” the Indian Detours program came to an end.[57]

[1] Richard Melzer, Images of America: Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2008), 52.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Laura Jane Moore, “Elle Meets the President: Weaving Navajo Culture and Commerce in the Southwestern Tourist Industry,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 22, no. 1 (2001): 27.

[5] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 27.

[6] “Fred Harvey: Branding the Southwest,” Northern Arizona University Libraries, accessed June 30, 2022,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Melzer, Images of America, 53.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 54.

[11] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 29.

[12] Ibid., 30.

[13] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 30.

[14] Melzer, Images of America, 54.

[15] Ibid., 51.

[16] “The Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque,” New Mexico Architecture 11, no. 6 (November-December 1969): 21.

[17] Marc Simmons, “Trail Dust: Once grand Alvarado Hotel now a fading memory,” Santa Fe New Mexican, published September 26, 2014,; “The Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque,” New Mexico Architecture 11, no. 6 (November-December 1969): 21.

[18] Paul Weideman, “Art of Space – A jewel gone forever: The Alvarado Hotel,” Santa Fe New Mexican, published August 1, 2014,

[19] Ibid.

[20] Simmons, “Trail Dust.”

[21] Melzer, Images of America, 55.

[22] Ibid., 58, 61.

[23] Simmons, “Trail Dust.”

[24] Weideman, “Art of Space – A jewel gone forever."

[25] Ibid.

[26] “Remnant of Alvarado Hotel being renovated,” Albuquerque Business First, published August 9, 2011,

[27] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 23.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Kathy M’Closkey, “Marketing Multiple Myths: The Hidden History of Navajo Weaving,” Journal of Southwest 36, no. 3 (Autumn 1994): 187.

[30] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 23.

[31] Ibid., 24.

[32] Moore, “Elle Meets the President,” 24.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid., 22.

[37] Ibid., 21.

[38] Ibid., 29.

[39] “Former Swastika and Yucca Hotel – Raton – Downtown Historic District – Raton, New Mexico,” Waymarkly, published April 13, 2018,

[40] “Fred Harvey: Branding the Southwest,” Northern Arizona University Libraries.

[41] Stephen Fried, “Living History: How Santa Fe became the capital of Fred Harvey, the Harvey Girls and the history of civilizing the Southwest,” Santa Fe Reporter, published August 2, 2013,

[42] Melzer, Images of America, 8.

[43] Fried, “The Southwest Detour is back.”

[44] “Fred Harvey collection, 1881-2005,” Arizona Archives Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

[45] Fried, “The Southwest Detour is back.”

[46] Ibid.

[47] “Fred Harvey: Branding the Southwest,” Northern Arizona University Libraries.

[48] “Indian Detours,” Northern Arizona University Libraries, accessed June 30, 2022,

[49] “Fred Harvey: Branding the Southwest,” Northern Arizona University Libraries.

[50] “Indian Detours,” Northern Arizona University Libraries, accessed June 30, 2022,; Marta Weigle, “From Desert to Disney World: The Santa Fe Railway and the Fred Harvey Company Display the Indian Southwest,” Journal of Anthropological Research 45, no. 1 (Spring 1989): 130.

[51] Weigle, “From Desert to Disney World,” 129.

[52] “Indian Detours,” Northern Arizona University Libraries.

[53] From publicist Roger W. Birdseye’s first brochure (1926), cited in Weigle, “From Desert to Disney World,” 126.

[54] Weigle, “From Desert to Disney World,” 129, 130.

[55] Ibid., 134.

[56] “Indian Detours,” Northern Arizona University Libraries.

[57] Ibid.