We recently came across a very nice example of the type of Navajo rug that was woven in the 1903-1920’s era on the Navajo reservation at the Crystal Trading Post. The post was owned, in fact it was built, by a man named John B. Moore who had traveled much of the west before settling in the beautiful mountain area near the New Mexico and Arizona border.
He was born in Texas in 1955 and in 1892 was the mayor of Sheridan, Wyoming. He was an accomplished business man and someone who took advantage of opportunity. In 1896, when he bought the rights to a trading area on Narbona Pass (in the Lukachukai Mountains south of Two Grey Hills and North of Window Rock) there was no building. He cut and hauled timbers from the forest around the beautiful site and build a log trading post. Unfortunately, it was recently destroyed. Who does something Iike that?
He was the first person on the reservation to start a mail order catalog featuring rugs made by the Navajo women who worked for him. He was a marketer and the effort was successful. The first catalog was published in 1903 and the second in 1911.
He understood the value of selling quality and lamented on the fact that the work was so difficult that Navajo women were underpaid. In fact, he stated that if there were any other type of work available on the Reservation, Navajo weaving would disappear. At that time, nearly every Navajo woman could weave. Today, we are seeing the truth of his words as women join the American workforce and the number of weavers declines. It is just not possible to pay a woman enough money to compensate her for the time, effort and creativity that she puts into a rug when compared to even a minimum wage job.
The rug designs the trader and his weavers developed were essentially simplified Oriental rug patterns, more suitable for the Navajo loom.
Moore and his wife, who incidentally was from England, ran the post until 1911 when a scandal of some sort force him to leave the reservation. I have been told it related to selling farming equipment on a time payment plan, but I don’t know that for sure. But, the interesting thing is that he basically disappeared. Now, in those days, without social security numbers and computers, it wasn’t hard to vanish. We know his wife died in Texas in 1917, but no one knows what happened to John.
The style of weaving he started continued at the Crystal Trading Post, inspired by Jesse Molohon, who bought the post from Moore. In the 1940’s the style began to change to one of stripes and vegetal dyes.
We get many classic Crystal weavings to sell in the gallery and they are always popular. They are also generally pretty expensive. Today, I want to share a very nice weaving with a great pattern, made entirely of hand spun natural wool and natural wool colors. It has been well used, but as a reflection of the quality of the wool and the weaving, it has survived nearly 100 years with its original beauty intact.
It is a good size for a wall hanging, measuring 41” x 62”,or for a floor rug (in a lightly trafficked area) and it is priced at only $2400.00. It has some slight stains and fading, but hey, I am not even a 100 years old and so do I! This is a very attractive example of the influence of John B. Moore. We would love to send it to you to see if it works in your home of office!