In 1936, Sallie Wagner Lippincott and her husband Bill moved to the Navajo Reservation as National Park Service employees at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.
One of the first people they met was Leon Hugh (Cozy) McSparron who was the Indian Trader at the Thunderbird Ranch (which is now the Thunderbird Lodge and is owned by the Navajo Tribe) at the mouth of the Canyon.
Cozy was born in Gallup in 1892. His parents were from Scotland. They sent him to school in Denver where he became a boxer, and a pretty good one. On returning to Gallup, the story goes that he was in a boxing match that was attended by Hartley Seymour, who owned the Thunderbird ranch. Seymour had a neighboring trader who apparently made it a habit of coming over to the Thunderbird and beating Seymour up.
Really, you can’t make this stuff up! Seymour hired Cozy to come and live in Chinle and teach him how to fight so that he could defend himself. Apparently, Seymour never picked up on the skill of boxing, but Cozy took to the trading business. After serving in World War I in the 97th Infantry, he returned to Chinle and bought the Thunderbird.
You can see Cozy playing himself in the 1952 movie, Navajo.
He was well respected by the Navajo and he and his wife, Inja, were running a successful business when the Lippincotts arrived. He introduced them to Navajo weaving and to his philosophy that weavings should be simple, like the old wearing blankets. He did not care for the newer, more intricate patterns that were showing up on the Navajo reservation.
When their year at Canyon de Chelly National Monument was up, the Lippincotts decided that they loved living on the reservation but hated working for the government. McSparron convinced them that they should buy a trading post and they ended up purchasing Wide Ruins where Sallie, following Cozy’s advice, began to promote simply designed quality Navajo weaving and the use of vegetal dyes.
In 1938, Sallie bought her first Navajo weaving from McSparron and that piece stayed in her private collection until she died in 2006 in Santa Fe.
It is a beautiful, simple Navajo weaving, woven in stripes of natural brown, white and tan wool along with stripes of dyed green, orange/ red, and magenta. At 49 1/2” x 55”, it is about the size of a woman’s wearing blanket.
This is a beautiful weaving woven 82 years ago that is in beautiful condition. The fact that Sallie kept it all those years attests to the influence it had on her. It needs a loving home and is priced at a very reasonable $5000.