J.B. Moore purchased the Crystal Trading Post on Washington Pass in 1896 and ran it until he left the reservation in 1911. Washington Pass was later renamed Narbona Pass in honor of the Navajo leader who defeated a Mexican Army detachment invading Navajoland in the 1800s.
Moore named his post "Crystal" after a clear spring near the post. He was the first person in the area to construct a permanent building out of logs. Before that, traders had operated out of a tent. At 8,000 feet in elevation, the place received lots of snow in the winter, so that wasn't a workable arrangement.
Moore was one of the traders who re-invigorated the art form, encouraging weavers to create quality pieces that could be sold as rugs. He insisted on nice patterns and quality work. His wife, who had a wood stove in their log home where she could boil water and keep a consistent temperature, began to dye yarns for the weavers.
He was also a businessman who understood the importance of taking weavings to the market, and to that end, he published his first catalog in 1903 and worked with weavers to create patterns for the rugs. He published a second catalog in 1911, not long before he left the post, and many of the designs in that catalog continued to be made by weavers from the area. There are few of those catalogs in existence today. Still, luckily, Al Anthony from Adobe Gallery in Santa Fe came across a couple of catalogs back in the 1980s and republished them. They are now sold out and hard to come by.
In his catalogs, Moore went to great lengths to explain that the weavings were handmade and that no two were exactly alike. Weavers then, as they do today, often changed patterns as they were weaving.
We recently received a weaving that is from Moore's 1911 catalog. The original is PLATE XXVII. For those of you who didn't have the same education we used to get, that means #27!
I realize most schools don't teach Roman Numerals anymore! I am reproducing that page with its description above.
The weaving we received was probably made within a decade of the time Moore and his wife left the post. I say that because the weaver wove about half of the rug with natural brown wool while the other half was woven with grey wool dyed dark brown or maybe black. If Mrs. Moore had dyed it, it would not have faded the way it did. I suspect the weaver ran out of brown wool (rarer than white or grey) and used an iron kettle over a fire to dye wool to finish the border and the pattern. She must not have included a mordant to fix the wool as it didn't hold.
Over the years, the brown faded, and we ended up with this beautiful example of the classic pattern. Many people would say the fading ruined the weaving. I see it as an example of what was happening at that time. The weaver was doing all she could to weave a rug that could be sold to provide her an income. This weaving is about 100 years old!
Once, Cory McBride, a Zapotec weaving dealer from Houston, told me he was giving a talk about weavings, and a woman in the audience asked him if the weavings would fade. He replied, "Lady, I'm fading; you're fading; everything fades!"
It might have been nice if this whole weaving had faded uniformity, but then it wouldn't have been so interesting!
I hope you like it as much as I do and can appreciate what that weaver went through to complete it. It is in excellent condition and can be a floor weaving or a wall hanging. I'd put it where everyone who enters the house can see it. Then you get to explain the history and why it's like it is!