The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 145
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plicit in this study is a challenge to the traditional view of New Mexico
as a derivative culture in declension because of the impact of the Amer-
indians and the Anglo-Americans.
The heart of this approach to New Mexican furniture is the authors'
work in establishing provenance for much of the material being stud-
ied. Because they were able, eventually, to identify a substantial ele-
ment of this furniture, they could provide a coherence to the study that
is often lacking in regional furniture histories. One of the most impor-
tant discoveries made in the course of this close analysis of objects was
the use of a proportional system, based on the vara, a measure of
eighty-four centimeters, in the design of the furniture. In addition,
there was clearly an awareness of the importance of voids and solids in
formal design by the furniture craftsmen. The recognition of the use
of these two conceptual elements, previously not noticed by writers on
the subject, places New Mexico furniture within the tradition of Euro-
pean furniture design. Within the limits of materials-almost exclu-
sively ponderosa pine-and technology, this was sophisticated fur-
niture produced within a formal, European-derived tradition.
The authors also identify several turning points in the history of fur-
niture and, through the furniture, the socio-cultural history of New
Mexico. From the time of first European contact through 1821-1822,
the culture was an outgrowth of Spanish tradition modified by the con-
servatism associated with isolation from the imperial metropolis. In
1821-1822, with the arrival of the Becknell expedition, a new source
of cultural ideas, which included both the designs and tools for new ap-
proaches to furniture, became available. The process of change accel-
erated over the next sixty years with the coming of U.S. occupation in
1846, the gold rush in 1848 that drew a much larger population
through New Mexico and finally, in 1879-1885, the completion of the
transcontinental rail connection. These politico-economic changes in-
troduced new people to New Mexico and provided opportunities,
taken by local Hispanic craftsmen, to expand the vocabulary of the fur-
niture trade. The authors are sensitive to these changes and challenge
the notion that such changes resulted in the decline of the quality of
New Mexico-produced furniture. Between 186o and 189o, they posit
the growth of an Anglo-Hispanic vernacular tradition that produced
much of the furniture that earlier historians have identified as being a
product of earlier cultures.
The twentieth century was marked by a reaction to the vernacular
tradition of the second half of the nineteenth century. The factors
creating this reaction appear to be similar to those that led to the inter-
est in history and historic revival throughout the United States. In gen-
eral, the Anglo elites of the country fostered a renewed emphasis on
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/169/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.