Shaping History In Santa Fe During the 20th Century

Edgar Lee Hewett at the Museum of New Mexico.

The archeologist Edgar Lee Hewett was born on this day on November 23, 1865. Hewett is the most historically significant man of the twentieth century in New Mexico. Hewett loved the west, especially the archaeological ruins in the Land of Enchantment.  His wife Cora Whitford suffered from tuberculosis, so he brought her to Sunmount Sanitorium in Santa Fe to convalesce. She later died from the disease. Hewitt decided to stay in New Mexico and remarried. In 1898, Hewett accepted a position as the head of the Normal University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Three of Hewitt’s major accomplishments in the state still resonate today. In 1906 he spearheaded the American Antiquities Act, in 1907 he established the School of American Archeology and in 1909 Hewett founded the Museum of New Mexico.

The American Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act was a monumental achievement for preservation. The act allowed for the protection of archaeological sites and other sites of significance. It also allowed the president of the United States to set aside National Monuments. By the end of his term, President Roosevelt would set aside eight National Monuments including Devils Tower in Wyoming, El Morro and the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, and the Petrified Forest in Arizona. A portion of Hewett’s beloved Pajarito Plateau would become Bandelier National Monument in 1916.

Museum of New Mexico

In 1909 Edgar Hewitt founded the Museum of New Mexico. The state funded entity allowed Hewitt to attract well know artists from New York to move to Santa Fe. In addition to showcasing their work in exhibitions, Hewitt provided them with jobs within the museum departments. Today, Santa Fe is considered one of the major art markets in the US and is well known throughout the world. Hewitt’s early work with the artists at the turn of the 20th century is credited with putting Santa Fe on the map in the world of art.

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