I’ve seen a lot of “perception is reality” regarding the throwing around of the terms “old pawn” and “Fred Harvey Era”. I would like to see a clear and concise definition of the terms. Maybe @ernie can provide them in the glossary section.
It’s pretty well understood, despite being misused a lot in the resale environment. In short: If it isn’t something from a pawn transaction, isn’t properly termed pawn, whether new or old.
Here’s a great definition, not concise because it provides context. From Medicine Man Gallery’s Mark Sublette, who knows his stuff:
"Because Native Americans had no access to cash or banks on reservations, jewelry became a portable form wealth not only used on the reservation as barter, but as the widespread commodity of exchange with the traders for cash and supplies.
In times of need, Native American turquoise jewelry could be pawned to authorized agents and pawn shops that were springing up along the boundaries of the reservation. The lender would give the Native Americans credit using the pawned jewelry as collateral to guarantee that the loan would be repaid within a specified period of time – usually 90 days to one year. The rate of interest on the loan was regulated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at 10% a year. The terms of most loans were 120 days and could be renewed by paying the interest.
While 70-85% of the jewelry pawned in this manner was usually paid off and reclaimed, the items that were not were then known as “dead pawn”. After a certain grace period most traders would grant to maintain good relations with their Native American clients, the unclaimed jewelry would be placed on public display for sale to repay the dept. When family elders died, their jewelry was also often pawned in this manner to receive cash which could then be split up among the heirs." (and more)
We all understand the pawning process. However as with most vintage and antique items, specifics are applied. In the case of NA pawn, “old” should be defined by a cut off date. In the case of FHE, my feeling is that would be jewelry produced only during his life as an entrepreneur (c1876 - 1901).
“Fred Harvey Era” is not the greatest term; I prefer “Railroad Style” our “Tourist Style” jewelry. As your post demonstrates, “Harvey Era” implies more of a connection to Fred Harvey specifically, or that all jewelry within a certain “era” is included. But the term, when used properly, is pretty commonly understood to mean cheaper, more lightweight jewelry made specifically to be sold to tourists during the time that rail travel to the southwest was common, about 1900-1960. Such jewelry was commonly sold in the “Harvey House” chain of restaurants and hotels, which continued to be very popular after Harvey’s death.
“Old Pawn” is the bane of anyone’s existance who’s remotely serious about NA jewelry; good luck getting sellers to agree on a definition or use that term consistently.
As buyers, i think you can dismiss the term “pawn” if the seller cannot produce a pawn ticket to go with the piece, verifying who pawned it and when.
as for FHE, it’s become more of a catchall search term than a functional definition with meaning at this point. regardless of how it may be actually “defined” it wont matter to the thousands of sellers who use it in their online descriptions for search hits. same with the words vintage, pawn, Navajo, genuine, rare, authentic, bisbee (or any other mine), etc.
No cut off date. In the industry the term was used for old stock, or old jewelry that was pawned and not redeemed. Well over 90% of the jewelry I see currently offered as "old pawn"is actually production jewelry, newer and older, that was made in quantity as piecework for sale to a once vast and thriving market for “Indian Jewelry”. The type of jewelry where a trading company provides silver and stone to a native craftsperson with a piecework rate paid for every piece made. Also the kind of stuff where a craftsperson made 10 or 20 similar pieces and sold them at a jobber rate to a trading company or reseller for whatever the market would bring.
I’ve mentioned this before. It was a fairly common practice during the boom years for less than scrupulous retailers to attach pawn tags to jewelry they bought in bulk, and market it as “old pawn”.
The term should largely be completely ignored when making a purchasing decision, and cannot ethically be used without a solid paper trail.
I know as a geologist you might like clear cut answers but looks like you may not get a clear cut date for this. I’m with @OrbitOrange in that I’m beyond annoyed over the constant use of “old pawn” when pieces described as such aren’t even pawn in any way. I have quite a bit of jewelry I bought as pawn (I either have or saw the tickets), and some of it is older, but no seller ever tried to call it “old pawn.” But then none of it was bought online.
Old pawn is now a marketing term. Unless you have actual pawn tickets (which can be faked), it’s not old pawn.
I also have seen commercial, Fred Harvey era tourist jewelry described as old pawn which I find infuriating and hilarious at the same time.
Old in NA jewelry does have meaning, but unrelated to the expression “old pawn.” The only firm-ish era designators are First Phase and Second Phase for concho belts, with varying scholarship weighing in on those exact or rough dates. Shiprock, for ex., might sell a concho belt as Second Phase, but a bracelet made in that same timeframe would only be described as by its likely date. Another term you may see is historic era for early jewelry, and that usually cuts off at 1925 or so.
There’s a lot to the market view on “old”: briefly put, criteria for scholars and the specialist dealers may focus on whether the object is by and for Indigenous people only. Others also weight the degree to which cross-cultural commercialization has changed the forms, materials, and techniques. Hence not conveniently static facts, and this is typical within ethnographic/folklore/anthro work.
There are great books out there for further info (the most recent Paula Baxter comes to mind, and I personally love Jonathan Batkin’s Native American Curio Trade book). It ain’t 1950, in any case.
@OrbitOrange This and now here are my extra characters.
Thanks! This is all good info!