Sunday, November 27, 2016

1926 Bucket List

It's May 1926 and a train trip to the American Southwest is on your bucket list. However, the thought of miles and miles of clickety-clack isn't appealing. Then, you find a brochure announcing Fred Harvey's newly formed Indian Detours.
These one to three day tours allow you to leave the train and visit Indian Reservations in New Mexico and Arizona. Visiting the painted canyons and giant masterpieces of stone in wilderness territory had been relegated to adventurers, photographers, and artists. Now these places are within your reach.
In cooperation with Fred Harvey, Major Hunter Clarkson opened the Indian-Detours headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico not far from the La Fonda Hotel.
Clarkson's words on August 25, 1925 (Thomas, 1978, pp. 52-53): "There is more of historic, prehistoric, human and scenic interest...than in any similar area of the world, not excepting india, Egypt, Europe or Asia...The big idea is not only to let people know what is in New Mexico, but to tell them what it is when they see it."

Tours would later originate from the Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico and other Harvey hotels—the Alvarado in Albuquerque, the Ortiz in Lamy, and the Navajo in Gallup.

The most popular detours were to the Taos, San Ildefonso, and Santa Clara Indian Pueblos. Other tours included the ruins at Puye and Frijoles and the old Spanish village at Truchas. They could tour the Grand Canyon, Rainbow Arch, the Petrified Forest, and other Indian lands.

Travelers who signed up for the Detour tours were called Detourists and/or Dudes. They were met at the railroad stations by women dressed in Southwestern attire and accompanied by a cowboy-driven Harvey car.
Harvey Cars waiting for Detourist at the Lamy, New Mexico train station
The drivers of the Harvey cars were chosen for their mechanical skills and knowledge of a wide variety of emergency procedures.
Elmer Shelton—HarveyCar Driver
The female couriers were qualified by a college education, social background, character, personality, and knowledge of the Southwest. The ability to speak Spanish was a benefit. Their four-month crash course training included archaeology, Southwestern history, politics, sociology, anthropology, geology, and the arts.

Facts the Couriers may have shared with the Dudes.
> Santa Fe, at 7,000 ft. above sea level, is the nation's highest state capital.
> Santa Fe was founded in 160713 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.
> Santa Fe was originally called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. The name was changed in 1910.
> You can see five different states (Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico) from the top of Capulin Volcano.
> Taos pueblo has been inhabited for over a thousand years.
> Dancing while wearing your sombrero is illegal.
> In 1898, Carlsbad Caverns was discovered by sixteen-year-old Jim White. In 2016, we know it is the second largest cave chamber in the world.
> The Yucca, now New Mexico's state flower, has a high level of utility, functioning as a material for baskets, ropes, and footwear.
Southwest Indian Detour Couriers
The original four Southwest Indian Detour Couriers
One of the brochures for the tours
Advertisement for the tours
Couriers and driver outside Detours headquarters in Santa Fe.
Southwest Indian Detour Courier Mary Tucker
Courier Service Brochure
Dudes ready for a Detour adventure
Brochure for Indian pueblos
Would you have signed up for a tour? Would you have been interested in becoming a Courier?

What travel sites are on your bucket list?

Linda "Lin" Farmer Harris

Turning Tidbits of History into Unforgettable Stories

Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a ranch in Chimney Rock, Colorado. She writes historical fiction for adults and children. Her novella, The Lye Water Bride, is included in the California Gold Rush Romance Collection (Barbour Publishing, August 2016)


  1. Love this post. I'd never heard of this before, so thanks for all the pics and info.

    1. The Couriers are one of those tidbits in history that is often overlooked. I signed a four novella contract featuring the Southwest Indian Detour Courier Corp. Lord willing, the first novella, Treasure Among the Ruins, should be out after the first of the year.

  2. Great pictures! I'd never heard of this before....very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Deb, happy Sunday. I hope it's warm and sunny where you are. We're sloshing around in three inches of snow with more on its way tonight. Lord willing, my first novella, Treasure Among the Ruins, about the Southwest Indian Detour Courier Corp. should be out after the first of the year. I hope you will enjoy it.