Native American Railroad Jewelry brings history, culture, and beauty to any look. This trend originated with Fred Harvey (1835-1901), he was a true pioneer in cultural tourism. In the late 1800s, he staged “Indian Detours” where tourists could see Native Americans going about their daily lives. These tours showed eastern tourists the Native American way, and attracted them to gorgeous jewelry they had to offer.
Fred Harvey owned a silversmith company where he employed Native American artists who created souvenir jewelry. To minimize a common fear of these exotic people, Fred Harvey had the Native American women board the passenger trains at the train stations and sell the jewelry.
The jewelry was very plain at first, and Fred Harvey thought that if the jewelry was more decorative it would sell better. To achieve this, Fred incorporated stamps for the silversmiths to use. They would stamp an image into the sterling silver pieces.
This tradition of decorating the jewelry in this manner continued well after Fred Harvey’s death and into the 1950s. These stamps- the arrows, thunderbirds, mountains (etc.), accented these pieces and today those jewelry items are identified as “railroad jewelry.”
Many of these wonderful pieces of history are delicate cuffs of thin silver with a simple turquoise stone set in the center. Imagine the feeling, the adventure of being on a passenger train crossing the vast undeveloped southwestern desert and at a train stop purchasing a unique souvenir from a Native American Indian; an exotic being from a foreign land.