Hubbell Trading Post
Administrative History
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The Museum Collection

Many of the meals at the trading post must have been extraordinary and entertaining events, gatherings of some of the brighter lights of America. Conversations could have ranged from art or agriculture to the price of wool to how many rounds of .30-06 ammunition Teddy Roosevelt needed to put down a full-growth rhino (nine). [1]

Hubbell home

Figure 37. The Hubbell home as it appeared on August 18, 1909. The decor has changed considerably since then, but this photo gives a good idea as to the richness of the museum collection at the site. Photo by Charles Drake, Courtesy of Museum of Northern Arizona. HUTR Neg. RP-14.

When visitors to Ganado came to the trading post looking for bed and board they got it free of charge. Dorothy Hubbell said they never knew how many people might be there for supper, and there were times when they could have had as many as forty. J.L. Hubbell was a big man in many respects, and he counted among his guests and friends Theodore Roosevelt, the All-American President, who knew his way around in some of the darker corners of the map.

When Dorothy Hubbell asked Don Lorenzo why he was willing to take in so many nonpaying guests, he explained to her that he had decided free room and board at the trading post would cause him less trouble than if he were to accept payment. For example, should a guest need hot water or a towel, either he, Don Lorenzo, or a member of his family or one of his employees would have to do the fetching. Hubbell did not consider himself an innkeeper. If his guests didn't have to pay, they took what they got (which apparently was plenty) and were well satisfied to get it. [2] Among the many who drifted into Ganado and put up at the trading post were some of America's finest artists.

Plying the Indian hinterland for inspiration, the artists, writers, and photographers stayed at the trading post for a little R&R. A few of them, such as Elbridge Ayer Burbank, stayed over more than once and for lengthy periods of time. Although nobody knows which of the artists first left behind an example of his work as a sign of appreciation for Hubbell's kindness, it became something of a tradition for them to do so. A few of the artists became habitues around the post; they left behind a considerable body of their work. A visitor is struck by the amount and quality of the art hanging there. J.L. Hubbell's hospitality and the many signs of appreciation left behind by the artists has turned into a rich legacy for the American people. Much of the art is of exceptional quality and is at the same time a valuable record of the Indians' way of life and many of their rites. There was so much artwork and so many artifacts of various kinds that during the original inventory a storeroom was described as being "full of stuff."

Two Notable Artists Who Stayed At Hubbell Trading Post

Elbridge Ayer Burbank

It was Burbank's Redheads that drew Ned Danson to Hubbell Trading Post that fateful day in 1957. The Redheads are conte-crayon sketches of Native Americans and Ganado citizens the artist met while he was staying with the Hubbells, and among the Redheads is a sketch of J.L. Hubbell. Burbank was born in 1858. He studied at the Chicago Art Academy and in Germany. His work was exhibited in many American cities and even in Paris. In 1895, Edward Ayer, an uncle who was a museum president, commissioned Burbank to paint some Indian portraits, a project that developed into an important career. Burbank visited about 128 tribes in order to paint their people, and he did approximately 1200 works in oil, watercolor, and crayon. Among the great chiefs he painted are Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Rain-in-the-Face, and Sitting Bull. In many cases Burbank's portraits may be the only pictures of the subjects that still exist. E.A. Burbank was an artist of the first rank; his work is of importance to American history and culture.

Burbank first appeared at Hubbell Trading Post in 1905. He returned "frequently" and remained once for ten months. The historic site owns nearly 300 of his works. A collection of Redheads hangs in the home as do several oils. His artwork, including large oils, can be found even in the trading post. Some of his works are in curatorial storage. Burbank's works are in the collections of museums and galleries in other parts of the country, including the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Smithsonian. He died in poverty and obscurity in San Francisco in 1949.

Maynard Dixon

Lafayette Maynard Dixon, born in California in 1875, died in Tucson in 1946. Maynard Dixon was another frequent visitor to Hubbell Trading Post and became one of Don Lorenzo's close friends. He is considered one of the premier painters of desert scenes, and he was one of the most successful (in monetary terms) of the artists working in the Southwest. Hubbell Trading Post owns two oils, one large watercolor, a smaller watercolor, and two pencil sketches. [3]

Although Maynard Dixon and Burbank are the only two artists singled out here for special mention, the art collection at the trading post is considered to be remarkable, including as it does some of the well known artists of their day. One brief tour through the house hardly does justice to the artwork there. But the artwork is but part of the collection.

The Collection Management Plan (1975) states: "A beautifully restored and stabilized Hubbell Home without its furnishings would be nothing but an empty shell, useless for interpretive purposes and without meaning to the visitor. The furnishings are especially important at Hubbell Trading Post because they are all original objects that belonged to the Hubbell family. What is important about the site is the story of the trading post and the way of life of a particular trading post manager; it is essential to have original objects to tell this story." [4]

Indeed, an important point to keep in mind about this museum collection is that all of it to belonged to the Hubbells. There are at least 180,000 items in the total collection, about 115,000 of them at the Southwest Regional Office and the Western Archeological Conservation Center, and 65,000 objects at the trading post. The University of Arizona has 572 boxes of business papers and documents, 252 linear feet, but those 572 boxes represent just one item on the complete inventory.

Cataloguing of the collection is now complete, but much of the cataloguing remains to be computerized. [5] David Brugge, who at the time was curator for the Navajo Lands Group, was the first person to do curatorial work at the trading post. His Furnishing Plans for the Hubbell Home, July, 1973, is a fine document that Hubbell's curators still refer to. [6] But the home wasn't the only building–or place–on the property to contain valuable artifacts and other objects of interest. The Hubbells were intelligent and interested people, and they were acquisitive. Very little was thrown away, and much of what was tossed out wound up in a trash heap, the bottles and cans, the broken toys, old automobile parts, pieces of harness, anything considered to have no value whatsoever. (Could they ever have imagined people who would come and find all that moldy debris to be of interest?)

Collection Management Plan (1975)

When a team from Harpers Ferry arrived in Ganado in 1975 to prepare the National Park Service's first collection management plan, they found museum specimens all over the property, in the blacksmith shop, corrals, closets and drawers in the house, on the porches of the home, even in the maintenance man's office. Valuable items were stored with apparent carelessness. Before and after photos in the 1975 Collection Management Plan will show what the team did in an attempt to sort of tidy up the place. There just hadn't been enough time or people to properly catalogue and protect everything.

Tom Vaughan became the superintendent in 1974: "I realized that what we had at Hubbell Trading post was kind of a disaster. And this is not to diminish Dave Brugge's work there for several years because he did a wonderful job of salvage history and salvage ethnology and doing what he could. But basically the Park Service's curatorial system was in disarray and under funded and understaffed…. Before I got there we literally had a basket fall off the [ceiling] and come down around the head of one of the guides taking people through. Our best storage area was a burned-out room (the old laundromat, HB-9). J. L.'s alligator travelling bag was out in the barn where the mules and the horses were walking on it… One of the richest and most diverse collections in the Southwest Region of the Park Service, and it was just...a crying shame." [7]

Tom had an opportunity to visit Harpers Ferry. He was escorted through the Division Conservation by Arthur Allen, Chief, Division of Museum Services. When Tom got back to Hubbell Trading Post he took a close look at the state of his own museum collection. He called Art Allen: "Has there ever been a collection management plan that takes a look at what is, compares it to what ought to be, and lays out what needs to be done to get you where you need to go?" [8] Art said no, but there ought to be. Tom "I think it was only six months later we had done the work on site and we had…the first collection management plan ever do Park Service in hand. It's historic just for the speed in which it was done." [9]

And that was how the Park Service came to have its first collection management plan. Although Hubbell Trading Post's collection management plan is now outdated, it is still in use and the curators are still working from ideas it generated.

The Collection [10]

The collection is broken down into several "disciplines."


1. Three-dimensional artifacts:

Objects in this category are house furnishings, and that includes furniture, fine arts, table settings, linens. This would include, too, the historic furnishings in the trading post, barn, blacksmith shop, etc.

There is some consideration given to reproducing items that continue to be used, that when the object wears out it can be replaced with something that looks like the original. Photographs and measurements of the contents are needed so that should any reproductions be needed the documentation will be on hand for the job.

2. Archival Materials:

Business papers, personal papers, papers and documents associated with other trading posts in Navajo and Hopi country. Diaries and descriptions of travelers who visited the trading posts. Archival material related to the trading post since it became an historic site.

Acquisitions in this category should concentrate on the Dorothy and Roman Hubbell period, significant papers from Southwest Parks and Monuments Association.

3. Architectural Materials:

When stabilization work on historic structures results in the removal of original fabric a representative sample should be accessioned into the collection. If architectural, elements are threatened, samples will be preserved in the collection.

4. Ganado Community:

J.L. Hubbell was an important man in the community. Artifacts and documents related to the development of the town, the irrigation system, and the Presbyterian Mission will be considered.

5. Hubbell Trading Industry:

The family ran up to twenty-four different trading posts at one time or another. Efforts should be made to tell the story of the rest of the Hubbell business enterprises.


Among the artificial in this classification are items collected by the Hubbell family from many sources, artifacts found during excavations around the historic site, and surface finds collected by archeologists, site personnel, and visitors. The picking up of surface finds by other than archeologists who are at the site to do professional work is to be discouraged. For the artifact to be of its utmost value to archeologists, it should only be removed from its original place by a trained person who is prepared to record the important data in reference to the artifact. Once picked up by an untrained person, the object should not–generally speaking–be then returned to the area.

1. Three-dimensional Artifacts:

Research undertakings and many other kinds of work around the historic site may unearth artifacts and even human remains. All of this must be catalogued in the museum collection. They are National Park Service property, and their collection and storage must meet National Park Service guidelines, regulations, policy, and any laws pertaining to them, including the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. Storage of artifacts at the site is not required, but it may be recommended in order to ensure the utmost control and care. Artifacts from the historic site are now stored at the site; at the Southwest Regional Office, the Pinon Building, in Santa Fe; and at the Western Archeological Conservation Center, Tucson, Arizona. Generally speaking, virtually any excavation on site will require an examination by, or the presence of, an archeologist. For example, when utility pipes were laid within the site, an archeologist was on hand to inspect the ground. Excavations are very likely to unearth artifacts of some kind.

2. Archival Materials:

Records associated with the archeological collection and archeological activities on the historic site will be retained as part of the museum collection. Such records consist of final reports, field notes, and catalogs, daily journals, drawings and maps, photographs and negatives, sound recordings, raw data sheets, instrument charts, remote sensing materials, collection inventories, analytical study data, conservation treatment records, and computer documentation of data.

There are many gaps in this category, the missing records of various kinds of work done on the site. Effort must be made to acquire the records of all of the archeological projects at Hubbell Trading Post. Such records will of course be of value during future projects.


Ethnographic materials in the collection include objects that are original to the site and also some reproductions of historic rugs. The reproductions were done by weavers working for Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. For example, some of the rugs that were on the floors of the Hubbell home have been reproduced. The originals are in storage. Additional reproductions for use as furnishings are needed. The ethnographic collection at Hubbell Trading Post is probably the finest in the NPS. Establishing this site as an ethnological forum and acquiring comparative artifacts is appropriate.

The Navajo rug was one of the most important elements in the operation at the trading post, and J.L. Hubbell was one of those most instrumental in the evolution of the Navajo rug. In an effort to establish the entire story of the evolution of the modern Navajo rug, contemporary rugs donated to the historic site will be accepted.

Library Management

The interpretive resource (IR) library at the site is managed by the Division of Interpretation. There are nearly 1500 additional books catalogued into the museum collection, and they are in bookcases in the Hubbell home, in the trading post rug room, and stored in HB-9, museum storage. Cross referencing should be done, with library cards on file in the (IR) library, so the site staff will not only know what books are available but where they are. The books are an important part of the collection from the point of view of what the reasonably well-read pioneer in the hinterlands might have felt was of cultural importance or technical necessity. The books represent another angle from which to view the Hubbell family. There are several very valuable books in the collection.

Natural History

Geological specimens and mounted heads (hunting trophies) make up the majority of items in this category, and virtually everything was collected by the Hubbell family. Much of it is used as decoration in the buildings. The objects are catalogued and treated as cultural artifacts but are also cross-referenced under natural history.

An inventory of zoological species found within the park boundaries should be compiled, to include insects and arachnids, and other invertebrates, as well as the reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and mammals found there. In most cases, each conspicuous species and form thought likely to arouse visitor interest may be represented by at least one properly prepared adult specimen. As a conservation and preservation agency, it is the responsibility of the NPS to record natural and cultural data for the property being managed, especially when no other local institution or agency is doing so.


The historic site may acquire objects by gift, purchase, exchange, transfer, field collection, and loan. In accordance with NPS policy, the site will discourage any gifts with limiting conditions. Acquisition of objects is governed by the site's ability to manage them according to the principles outlined in Chapter V of the NPS Management Policies and the standards for managing museum collections in Chapter 3 of NPS 28, Cultural Resources Management Guidelines. Museum Objects must be acquired, accessioned, and catalogued in accordance with the NPS Museum Handbook, Part II, Museum Records (1984).

The site Superintendent represents the Secretary of the Interior in accepting title to and responsibility for museum objects; however, any object or artifact exceeding the value of $10,000 may be accepted only after consultation with, and the approval of, the Regional Director. The Superintendent bears ultimate responsibility for any acquisitions and for the proper care and management of the museum collection. The day-to-day care of the collection is the responsibility of the site Curator.

All permanent acquisitions other than field collections must be approved by the site Superintendent before they can be accessioned into the museum collection. All newly acquired objects and their documentation must be turned over to the site Curator. The site Curator prepares for the Superintendent's signature all instruments of conveyance and letters of thanks, or of acceptance, to lender or vendor, or other source of acquisition.

Restrictions on Museum Collection

The site's museum collection may be used for research, exhibits, interpretive programs, and other interpretive media (publications, for example), but the governing consideration in the use of museum objects must be the conservation of each object in question and the collection as a whole. Researchers and other specialists must examine objects under the conditions and procedures outlined in the Cultural Resource Management Guideline (NPS-28) and in the site's museum collection access policy.

However, the following restrictions are placed on the collection according to federal law, cultural sensitivity, and site policy:

1. In accordance with NPS Management Policies, Chapter VIII, "Interpretation and Native Americans," the site will not exhibit disinterred skeletal or mummified human remains. Grave goods or other sacred objects will not be displayed if Native Americans who are culturally associated with them object to such display.

2 Photographs of Native American ceremonies will not be displayed without approval by in the appropriate tribe.

3. Access to museum objects by researchers must be authorized in writing by the Superintendent. Any researcher with approved access to museum objects shall be accompanied at all times by a member of the site's museum staff.

4. All endangered, threatened, or rare plants and vertebrate and invertebrate animals will be collected only when accidentally killed or when dead from natural causes. The collection of threatened, endangered, or rare plant and animal species will comply with NPS Management Policies and will be in accordance with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, and will be strictly limited according to the applicable rules of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

5. NPS Management Policies, Chapter VI states that "Information regarding the location, nature, and character of archeological, historic, and ethnographic resources may be exempt from public disclosure."

6. Restrictions may be placed on the publication of images or manuscripts in the museum collection if these materials are subject to copyright, and this right has not been signed over to the NPS.

part of the museum collection

Figure 38. Some of the museum collection, wagons and buggies, old farm machinery, and much other equipment that was inherited with the trading post, is stored outside in the compound between the buildings. All of the museum collection came with the purchase of the historic site. A Manchester photo taken October, 1991.

Some Disparate Issues Concerning the Museum Collection

It seems to have been forgotten that a final disposition of the contents of the Hubbell home was not consummated until the mid-1970s. That is, although the Hubbells had not included all of the personal property during the sale of the trading post in the 1960s (the silk rug, for example), they had not removed all of the things they considered theirs when Dorothy Hubbell departed. Some of the objects left behind were to be donated now, but decisions had to be made as to just what that would amount to. On June 24th and 25th of 1975, Dorothy Hubbell, LaCharles Eckel, and John Hubbell showed up at the trading post to decide on the fate of some of the objects the Park Service had been caring for---although it did not own---for the past eight years. The meeting was described by Superintendent Tom Vaughan in a memorandum to the General Superintendent, Navajo Lands Group, dated July 2, 1975: A "scrumptious" luncheon banquet was laid on by a Mrs. Freda Young on Tuesday, the 24th of June. Everybody understood the necessity of verifying the ownership and value of the objects in question, but Tom Vaughan noted that the experience was obviously "trying and depressing" for Mrs. Hubbell and Mrs. Eckel.

Mrs. Eckel retained a few items, which were particularly important to her, or which she felt she would want to pass on to her son. The large portrait of her that hangs on the west wall of the great hall, painted when she was a child, was something she wanted to keep. However, she decided that the painting should remain on formal loan to the historic site. They had discussions about what would be most advantageous to them as far as tax benefits were concerned, but in most respects they agreed with the opinion expressed by Mrs. Hubbell that they should just get it all donated and done with. In spite of Mrs. Young's scrumptious luncheon, the affair was a rather melancholy one; the Hubbells were at last saying goodbye to the old trading post where they had spent so much of their lives.

Caring for all of the historic objects around the trading post, although surely fascinating, can also be trying and time consuming. The house furnishings have to be dusted, for example, and all of the cleaning has to be done by the curatorial staff. In order to keep up with the cleaning and all of the other maintenance the collection requires, as well as stay on top of cataloguing, inspections, conservation, administrative duties, correspondence, and other jobs that appear (removing and replacing all of the artifacts from the ceilings and walls of the trading post and home when those buildings were reroofed in 1991), may require the addition of another person to the curatorial staff.

Items are stored under varying conditions, including outside, and this is the largest and most valuable collection under the control of the NPS in the Southwest. In order for some of the collection to be properly protected, the construction of a climate-controlled storage facility and curatorial offices, possibly near the housing area, is being considered. If this is done, it is thought that the present storage area and curatorial offices might be transformed into a museum where visitors can see some of the objects now in storage, an area which would also contribute to a more complete interpretation of the site.

For the most part, the museum collection is kept under conditions that would horrify the staff of a modern museum. Humidity, heat, cold, dust, and insects are subject to little more control at the trading post now than they were in 1967. There are thoughts, too, about attempting to create climate controlled atmospheres in the buildings, but that would be expensive and possibly not even practical. The issue remains to be studied. In the meantime, objects that are refurbished are sent back into the same atmosphere mat had tarnished them. It may be that is to be their destiny, but whatever the ultimate destiny of the museum collection, it presently remains virtually unknown to most Americans.

A thirty minute walk through the house, while being lectured by a park ranger, is hardly enough time for even the most observant visitor to absorb many of the paintings, and it would be a good bet that almost none of the visitors to the trading post take particular notice of the artwork hanging there. Much of the collection is hidden away. Its story needs to be told and some thought is being given to how to make the collection more widely known and appreciated: A traveling show that would visit museums in the far corners of the country, to include new and old photographs of the trading post and enough information so that viewers can understand what they are seeing. Articles in art magazines. Special tours through the trading post intended for art lovers. Some of these ideas present special dangers to the collection, but if it remains unknown and unappreciated, the collection will be of little use to the American people.

Recommended Action Concerning the Museum Collection

The actions recommended for the museum collection in the 1988 Resource Management Plan remain current:

1. Update Collections Management Plan (1975)

2. Prepare a study of environmental conditions in the Trading Post and Home and develop strategies to correct the deficiencies.

3. Catalogue all objects in the collection to NPS standards.

4. Improve storage facilities and environmental controls to provide proper storage for the entire collection.

5. Provide on-site or contract conservation services to maintain the items in satisfactory condition for their preservation and intended use.

6. Photograph valuable objects in the collection, particularly items on exhibit that are vulnerable to theft.

7. Transfer objects to the Western Archeological Conservation Center for storage.

8. Update Maintenance manual that outlines scheduled housekeeping activities and establish cyclic conservation work.

The Curators of Hubbell Trading Post

The first curator to work at the site was David Brugge, Curator of the Navajo Lands Group, who did the original salvage curatorial work, catalogued most of the ethnological material, developed the furnishing plans for both the trading post and the Hubbell home, and otherwise contributed so much to helping make sense out of the thousands of items left behind by the Hubbell family after ninety years of their occupancy of the site. When Dave Brugge left to become regional curator, much work was left to be done with the museum collection. The SWRO has extensive files on his work. He is retired and lives in Albuquerque.

Hubbell Trading Post was Kent Bush's first position with the NPS and he arrived in July of 1976 from the Stuhr Museum, Grand Island, Nebraska, where he was the exhibits person. Kent continued cataloguing, implemented Dave Brugge's furnishing plans, developed a storage facility to house the object collection, and applied preservation and conservation methods. He recalls that he had about $1500 for accomplishing all of this. Since 1980, when he left Hubbell Trading Post, Kent has been regional curator of the Pacific Northwest Region. Kent Bush was acting superintendent for most of his last year at Hubbell Trading Post, taking over when Superintendent Juin Crosse was transferred to Fort McHenry.

Elizabeth Bauer was curator from 1981-1988. Contributions: She continued to catalogue and organize the collection, and she prepared a comprehensive report on Navajo weaving.

Edward M. Chamberlain is Hubbell Trading Post's present curator. He came to Ganado from Grand Canyon and has been at the site since 1989. He has nearly completed the cataloguing of the collection, putting vital data on computers. One of his goals for the collection is to make it better known to the public, and to do this he is preparing grant requests to obtain money in order to organize, he hopes, a traveling exhibit.

The NPS has worked for twenty-five years to organize the Hubbell family's accumulation of three-quarters of a century. As Dorothy Hubbell said, collecting is a disease and all the Hubbells had it. [11]

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006