January 2019 OTM Navajo Spoons 1900-1950

In the last decade of the 19th century, a craze for collecting souvenir spoons began spreading across the US. Originally thought to have originated in Europe, the craze was helped along by the Chicago World Fair, and the crash of the silver market in 1893.

This moment in history coincided with the expansion of the railroads out west, and the first commercial tourism to the southwest. The Native silversmiths of the southwest, Pueblo and Navajo artists, capitalized on this trend, and began making embellished silver utensils for sale to tourists and collectors alike.

While some spoons from this time period are engraved with place names, it is much more common to see teaspoons adorned with typical “Indian” style stamps. One commonly occurring design was a swastika, known among southwestern people was a “whirling log.” Originally found in Navajo sandpainting, they began occurring in weavings and jewelry around the turn of the 20th century. Its use continued until 1940, when an accord was signed by Navajo, Papago, Apache and Hopi peoples to discontinue its use because it had been “desecrated recently by another nation of peoples.”