The First Issue Of El Palacio

And Its Vision for the Museum of New Mexico


The first issue of El Palacio was published in November 1913 as a monthly eight-page broadsheet. Paul Walter served as editor, writing the entirety of the first El Palacio in his clear prose and objective tone.  Included are stories of archaeological excavations in the Southwest and Guatemala as well as reporting about the completion of the Palace of the Governors building renovation and the Museum’s participation in the upcoming Panama-California Exposition at San Diego. There are also numerous mentions of classical archaeology, archaeological meetings, and publications, in addition to a Tewa myth and a piece about the transfer of Quarai Ruins to the Museum of New Mexico for preservation.

On page four the purpose of the new monthly is spelled out: “Future numbers will print live news notes from the field of archeology throughout the world . . . awaken interest and enlist support for the preservation of historic and prehistoric remains, ancient monuments . . . promote archeological and ethnological research . . . [and] promote . . . the advancement of, knowledge of, and interest in, the historic past of the Southwest.” On the same page, under the heading “The Dollars and Cents of It,” we are told that “the payroll of the School and Museum . . . for the month of October [1913] was $2,702.85 . . . probably more than was paid out for wages by any other institution or industry within Santa Fe’s city limits.”

Edgar Lee Hewett (1865–1946), who founded the School of American Archaeology in 1907 and the Museum of New Mexico in 1909, needed to promote these institutions and their projects among patrons and sponsors as well as to scholars. His primary interests, Southwest archaeology and news of the Museum, are the focus of the first issue. Hewett recognized that most contemporary writing about Native cultures and archaeology was included in the dense reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology or other anthropology journals. Many of these publications were ponderous and directed at other specialists. Hewett, however, desired a more popular vehicle to assist with building a donor and membership base.

Consistently, El Palacio has been written in an accessible style, but often still inclusive of original and scholarly content, informing readers, both professional and lay, about the ordinary and extraordinary work of the Museum of New Mexico. The magazine continues today to be a vital source of information about the region and the Museum’s research. Reaching its one-hundredth year ensures that it will continue to be a first source for New Mexico researchers. Curators do write for their professional peers, but a Museum of New Mexico tradition remains: to write accessible publications for all interested parties.

El Palacio’s first issue highlighted the work of the Museum of New Mexico and School of American Archaeology, known today as the School for Advanced Research. Today the two are separately managed and organized institutions. But in 1913 they were both under the directorship of Hewett. Hewett was paid by the Archaeological Institute of America, the umbrella organization of which the School was originally a branch, and received no salary from the state—a sleight of political hand. Simplistically, the Museum was responsible for the physical buildings, staffing, and funding, while the research program was carried out by the School. Staff and monies were comingled and managed to take full advantage of a private and public organizational relationship, creating a legacy of singular work. These two Santa Fe institutions were essentially one organization until, in 1959, a state legislator pointed out that the arrangement of a shared School and Museum board violated the conflict of interest clause of the New Mexico State Constitution. This began the difficult and tedious job of separating staff, collections, and assets. (See Snow, this issue.) Both organizations were visionary; both continue to thrive and enhance the city, state, and region.

El Toro: Hewett and Feuds

Reading the first El Palacio, we sense that we are only getting part of the story because of the abundance of laudatory comments about Director Edgar Hewett. Each main article praises Hewett, with the exception of the article about which room in the Palace building was used by Lew Wallace to complete his epic work, Ben Hur.

A short appreciation of Hewett by one of his board members praises him as “a master in his chosen line, and that manifest destiny has in store yet greater achievements. . . . The School is a product of Hewett’s mind and heart and long may he continue to direct its activities.” A Board of Managers resolution supporting Hewett’s leadership, and printed in full, hints at the underlying story.

Hewett was long a contentious figure. He was routinely criticized for devoting more energy to developing an institutional empire than he did toward the developing science of archaeology. He was certainly a tireless promoter of archaeology for the public. As his published lecture schedule in the first issue attests, Hewett kept a vigorous travel schedule promoting and raising funds for the Museum and, in the eyes of many, promoting himself. Hewett primarily managed the Museum through surrogates rather than a steady presence. By 1913 he had begun a part-time residency in San Diego as he prepared exhibitions for the San Diego Exposition, which would open in 1915. In addition, his appointment as director and the choice of Santa Fe as a place to establish a new branch of the Boston-based Archaeological Institute of America continued to rankle some of the eastern academic anthropology establishment. Some of this resistance surely resulted from the contemporary shift to university-based anthropology from museums, where most anthropology had been based in the late nineteenth and first ten years of the twentieth century.

Anthropologist Franz Boas, for one, deplored Hewett’s methods and the inclusion of what he called local interests and amateurs. Boas criticized Hewett for not being thorough, being too diffuse in his interests, and having summer-school dabblers visit and work at archaeology sites. Nonetheless, a vehement attack on Hewett published in the Santa Fe New Mexican in fall 1913 was personal and unwarrantedly excessive. Indeed, the decision to publish El Palacio probably arose from Hewett’s need to counter his ongoing feud with the New Mexican and its owner and editor (and future US senator), Bronson Cutting. Hampered by the unfriendly local press, Hewett needed a public of his own.

The controversy began when the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce started using the slogan “The Oldest City in the United States” to describe Santa Fe, the catchphrase appearing on 68,000 envelopes for the use of city businesses and paid for by subscription. Hewett, as well as his staff and board, indicated the inaccuracy of such a statement to the chamber. (Hewett correctly pointed out that St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest European settlement in the western hemisphere. There are numerous older indigenous towns and villages in South America, and Walpi and Acoma in North America, that have continuous occupation of more than a millennium.) This was truly a tempest in a teapot, but Hewett’s style had left a gaggle of malcontents; consequently this relatively small matter served as a way to call Hewett’s leadership into question. A box on the front page of the New Mexican lauded the chamber’s recent accomplishments (including the distribution of the debatable envelopes) and continued with a listing of “WHAT SANTA FE STILL NEEDS”:

A School of Archaeology (recognized as deserving world-wide fame) with a director at its head who is not merely a promoter but who is recognized as an archaeologist in scientific circles and who is able to obtain the endorsement of the leading eastern universities. . . . A school of Archaeology with a man at the head who is able to devote more than a few weeks of the year to an institution which should be made the greatest in the country.

Still many Santa Feans supported Hewett and the nascent tourism that he was creating. The New Mexican continued to pummel Hewett and to try and discredit his person and work, going as far as to ridicule the School’s managing board. The strong and decisive response in El Palacio seems warranted considering the unsympathetic and myopic attack from the local paper.

Hewett’s indelicate tone alienated not only the Chamber of Commerce but also the New Mexico Historical Society. Both organizations had recently been displaced from the Palace of the Governor’s building by Hewett’s successful lobbying to obtain it for his combination of Museum and School. Former territorial governor L. Bradford Prince had lived in the Palace from 1889 to 1893, and in 1909 as president of the New Mexico Historical Society he continued to use the Palace for exhibitions and the society’s library. Hewett ridiculed these exhibitions as being unscientific and unimportant. Moreover, it was during Prince’s term as territorial governor that much of the Victorian gingerbread was added to the building, all removed during the Museum’s renovation of the building. Prince was never successful in his quest to acquire exclusive use of the building or to have it used as a branch of the Smithsonian, and the successful acquisition of the building by Hewett—a Santa Fe newcomer—had to have injured his pride.

There is perhaps one further reason for the New Mexican’s attack on Hewett. New Mexican owner Cutting had shortly before the episode forcefully and antagonistically purchased the newspaper from Paul Walter, whom Hewett immediately hired as El Palacio’s first editor (Walter also served as the Museum’s first associate director and secretary). Walter had arrived in Santa Fe in 1898 and immediately began reporting for the New Mexican. In 1908 Walter and his brother-in-law purchased the New Mexican, with Walter serving as president of New Mexican Printing and editor of the New Mexican from 1908 to 1913.

Hewett’s nickname, El Toro, was well deserved. But with the perspective of time it is clear that without his single-mindedness and assertive style there might not have been a Museum of New Mexico. El Toro did abide. The defense of Hewett aside, in volume one, issue one, we learn of the truly laudable accomplishments of the young museum and its director. Certainly the singular achievements of establishing and operating the School and Museum stand above all others; however, consider that within the first four years of the Museum, Hewett’s leadership had set in motion, as accurately reviewed in the first issue of El Palacio, a vibrant publication program, public education, exhibitions, and research and preservation of ancestral (archaeological) sites, all recounted and explained in the first El Palacio. There were plenty of accomplishments to celebrate.

An Iconic Masthead

On the masthead of the first El Palacio is the handsome profile of the Palace of the Governors, a view of the building we generally take for granted today. If that issue of El Palacio had done nothing more than print this image, it would have been enough to signify the everlasting influence of the Museum of New Mexico. The Palace continues to anchor Santa Fe’s plaza; no citizen today could or would imagine the city in its absence.

Along with the legislation that created the Museum of New Mexico in 1909, the new organization had also received the Palace building and authorization and funding to renovate it. The masthead’s image fêtes the completion of three years of remodeling and preservation of the building, including the construction of its distinctive portal.

Hewett knew the success of his museum and programs depended on visitors to the city and region, and he was one of group that strongly influenced the design and development of what we know today as Santa Fe style. In 1912 Hewett, along with his protégée, Sylvanus Morley, was appointed to the Santa Fe Planning Board, which helped to determine a fitting architectural style for Santa Fe. These efforts helped Hewett’s employee Jesse Nusbaum garner support for the final look of the restored Palace. It was completed in the fall of 1913, just in time to help name and serve as the masthead for the new publication.

The First Issue and the Future of the Museum

Reading over the first issue of El Palacio, one cannot help noticing a number of important future projects foreshadowed—most notably, the building of the Museum of Art, Fiesta and Indian Fair, the Santa Fe art colony, Bandelier National Monument, Salinas National Monument, and the San Diego Museum of Man. It is evident that the early years of the Museum set the stage for many seminal future accomplishments. There were positive outcomes even in the presence of or in opposition to Hewett’s belligerent style and querulous manner, including the development of the Laboratory of Anthropology and the Indian Arts Fund.

The Indian Arts Fund was founded in 1922 with the mission to collect and document Pueblo and other Southwest art from the time period of 1598–1880, those items that Hewett had systematically disregarded. Hewett was dismissive of post-1600 Native cultures, believing them to have been “adulterated” by changes brought by Spanish and American settlement in New Mexico, and could approve historic and newly made Native art only under the condition that he could guide the artisans to return to a “pure” pre-1598 form. His view that anything post-1600 was not scientifically valuable helped Hewett rationalize using museum collections to horse-trade and fund his archaeological pursuits. Some influential Santa Feans eventually became disenchanted with Hewett and formally organized themselves to collect historic Pueblo arts. Unfortunately, Hewett’s bickering with many of the Indian Art Fund founders was personal, with Hewett labeling them as do-gooders who hindered science.

Kenneth Chapman, the Museum’s assistant director, who had worked with Hewett and the Museum since its founding, was intimately involved in the creation of both the Indian Arts Fund and the Laboratory of Anthropology. Hewett’s long absences from Santa Fe meant that Chapman was left in charge of the Museum, but still was required to be in continual contact with Hewett and to check with him about each decision. During one of Hewett’s absences in 1926, John D. Rockefeller made an unannounced return visit to Santa Fe. Chapman knew the consequences of meeting with Rockefeller in the absence of Hewett and dutifully demurred, but Rockefeller insisted on meeting Chapman and learning more about his work. As a result, during this visit Chapman shared with Rockefeller the nascent Indian Arts Fund collection and drove with him to San Ildefonso to meet potters extraordinaire Julian and Maria Martinez. It was during this visit that Rockefeller pledged his anonymous support to the Indian Arts Fund, deciding to support Chapman’s projects over those of Director Hewett.

Another product of Rockefeller’s interest was his funding the construction and first five years of operation of the Laboratory of Anthropology, originally built to house the Indian Arts Fund. The new institution was to serve as the base for anthropological training, to inspire Native artists, and to systematically collect archaeology and ethnology in order to develop methodologically sound developmental sequences. The Laboratory’s first board was filled with distinguished American anthropologists, including many individuals with whom Hewett had disagreed for many years. Hewett battled with eastern anthropologists and institutions in what he believed to be his proprietary role regarding the Southwest. Hewett believed he was the doorway through which all Southwestern archaeological work was to be developed and done; he also resented the eastern museums that had collected and removed from the Southwest tens of thousands of objects.

Ironically, it was the Laboratory of Anthropology and the Indian Arts Fund that helped stop the outflow of New Mexico art, ethnology, and archaeology. We continue to believe today that Southwest collections might be better studied and understood within the contexts of their making, as well as serving as inspiration for Native people. Perhaps collaboration and a helpful hand rather than shunning colleagues would have assisted Hewett in his ambitious empire building. When the Smithsonian deaccessioned hundreds of Pueblo pots in the late 1920s and gave them to museums across the country, the Museum of New Mexico was not one of the recipients—but well could have been. Eventually, Hewett did react to the formation of the Laboratory of Anthropology and the new institution’s interest in post-1600 Native cultures by creating the Hall of Ethnology in 1939 in the Old Armory building on Washington Avenue.

Nineteen twenty-six was not a particularly positive year for Hewett. Thirteen years after the first El Palacio appeared, Hewett’s mantle showed some cracks. He found himself battling against Santa Fe artists (whom he had encouraged to come to Santa Fe). They complained that the Chautauqua form of education that Hewett championed was inappropriate for Santa Fe, antiquated, and unnecessary, with stilted programming and ponderous historic pageantry. They pointed out that increasingly Hewett’s Fiestas program excluded Santa Fe’s citizens, notably Hispanic people. The battle for ownership of Fiestas was played out through Hewett’s nemesis, the New Mexican. Eventually Hewett would remove himself and the Museum and School from involvement with Fiestas, resulting in the establishment of the Fiestas Council and the modern Fiestas observance and community celebration. Within a few days of Hewett’s death in December 1946, the private Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of New Mexico and School boards met to begin the process of a merger, giving new meaning to “over my dead body.” While the Laboratory was not originally part of Hewett’s museum, it is today one of Santa Fe’s iconic buildings and an essential part of the Museum, anchoring Museum Hill’s Milner Plaza and caring for singular research collections.

El Palacio is the story of the Museum of New Mexico, including all of its institutional complexity. Sometimes chatty, other times filled with pomposity, it is our companion and helps us to see what others see, to explore, and to learn. It is filled with family stories known and unknown, and as family chronicle it reads for the ages. The first issue promised, “The scope of El Palacio will broaden with the next issue.” Over the next issue, and the next hundred years of issues, the scope of the Museum of New Mexico broadened, and the scope of the magazine did indeed broaden along with it. Today, that initial promise stands, along with the promise of the institutions Hewett founded.

Bruce Bernstein is director the Continuous Pathways Foundation and tribal historic preservation officer, Pojoaque Pueblo. As assistant director for collections and research at the National Museum of the American Indian, he supervised the opening and operation of the Museum’s Cultural Resources Center. Bernstein has also served as chief curator and director of Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and Laboratory of Anthropology, and as executive director of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. He holds a doctorate in anthropology from the University of New Mexico and has published broadly on Native arts and museums as well as curated numerous exhibitions. His most recent book is Santa Fe Indian Market: A History of Native Arts and the Marketplace, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press.