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Raymond Blair Collection


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Blair, Raymond
Collection NameRaymond Blair Collection,
Inclusive Dates: 1903, 1948-1976.
Physical Description10 feet
AbstractThe Raymond Blair manuscript collection consists of four boxes together with eight separate large post-type accounting ledgers that constitutes the business records of Rock Point Trading Post and of Round Rock Trading Post, both located near Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Collection numberNAU.MS.303
Language English.
Repository Cline Library. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Northern Arizona University
Box 6022
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-6022
Phone: 928 523 5551
Fax: 928 523 3770

Biographical Note

Raymond Blair was a trader to the Navajo Indians, 1938-1976. For a U.S. Marine stationed half the world away in the Philippines such a future, surely, was unimaginable. Besides, Raymond was from the Bluegrass country of Kentucky. And Navajos lived in the red sand country of the Four Corners. But, it was a young girl in the Navajo community of Toadlena, during the Depression Years of the early 1930's, who converted an improbability to reality.

Marilene was her name, thirteen years old and lonesome. Responding to a dare, she listed her name in Ranch Romances magazine, inviting pen pals to write. Amazingly, Raymond was one who saw it. And so did others, and letters began arriving in Toadlena. But those from the fellow over in the Philippines gradually became more special. Upon discharge from the service in Virginia, Raymond boarded a bus for Gallup, New Mexico, instead of heading home to Kentucky. This beginning, and details of their subsequent life together as traders to the Navajo stem from an interview given by Marilene and Raymond's brother, Elijah, to Karen Underhill and Bradford Cole of NAU's Cline Library.

The Gallup rendevous confirmed their feelings and culminated in their marriage on Christmas Day of 1937. Raymond first took a job at the local refinery, however, George Bloomfield, Marilene's father, influenced Raymond to try the trader's life. George was the trader at Toadlena, a Navajo trading post. This led to Raymond acquiring half interest in Roscoe McGee's post at Mancos Creek in southwestern Colorado. But, World War II interrupted this endeavor. And once more the Marines needed Raymond. The Marines also got many Navajos. They wanted to join the fight, but training them proved a problem for few understood English. The perfect solution appeared in Raymond since he not only spoke Navajo but also had earned status as a sharpshooter in prior service. Years later, Raymond proudly recalled that every one of his Navajo "pupils" earned a sharpshooter citation, too.

After the war, a new opportunity arose in 1948, and the Blairs acquired the trading post at Rock Point, north of Chinle, Arizona. Later, its long time employee, A.T.Witt, acquired half interest. Next year, the Blairs added the old post at Round Rock, built in 1890 and sorely in need of repair.

Everyday life in a trading post was characterized by Marilene: a crowded four rooms served as living quarters, and a central "bull pen" area usually filled with Navajos gossiping on the wooden benches arrayed near a large pot-bellied stove (with her often joining in since she also could converse in Navajo). Groceries and medicines lined walls behind counters, and all manner of cooking utensils, lanterns, harness and hardware hung from the ceiling. The accounting records (Series four and five of the Inventory) reveal merchandise in astonishing variety. "Wholesalers of Everything" was the motto of Blair's principal merchandise supplier, and that boast seems not far off the mark.

Principally, the Navajos bought lard, flour, sugar, coffee, and shoes. Yet the trader was more than a merchant. From them he bought wool, mohair, worn out ewes, goat hides, rugs and baskets. He was the source of cough medicine for a sick child and worm syrup for an ailing sheep. His pickup truck furnished transportation in times of emergency. He willingly advanced goods without payment until the Navajos could bring in their wool and lambs to market. When cash was needed, he furnished it against the pledge of personal property the Navajos might bring in to pawn. The trader was banker to the Navajo for they had no bank.

Raymond earned favor among the Navajos for his pawn dealing, because even afer declaring pawn "dead" (i.e., forfeited for nonpayment), he would not sell it unless his borrower no longer cared for it. And even after repayment, it often remained in the pawn room for it was far wiser to entrust it to an honest and vigilant trader than to gamble its safety in a remote hogan while the owners were away at a sing. Traders often let a borrower withdraw her jewelry so she might wear it to a ceremonial; afterward she returned it to hang again in the pawn room. But, in later years the Blairs ceased dealing in pawn because intervention by the Legal Aid Service saw injustice in it, and with tribal support, new and unacceptable restrictions were imposed. So, the pawn business was forced into off-reservation cities where traders there were quick to sell in order to retrieve investment in dead pawn. Thereby, many Navajos lost their valuables.

"The Thief" and other less than flattering names often grab one's attention in the columns of account ledgers. Marilene characterized Navajos as very good people who often looked after her needs when Raymond was away from the post. However, she declared, "if they could get away with stealing it was not a sin; but if caught, it was a sin." But most were trustworthy and honest, a trait, according to Marilene that the Blairs found less prevalent in the final trading years.

Marilene and Raymond raised two children, but a baby did not survive. Daughter Diane was born in 1940 and Michael in 1946. Following the death of A.T. Witt, his widow Lorraine succeeded to his trading post interest. Later, exchanges between partners resulted in the Blairs obtaining full ownership in Round Rock and one-third interest in Rock Point. And finally, in 1976, Marilene and Raymond ended their trading days by selling Round Rock to Celia and Clarence Wheeler, and their interest in Rock Point to Bob and Theda Cook. Raymond Blair was born March 6, 1914, and died December 6, 1990. Marilene, of Farmington, New Mexico, and Elijah, of Page, Arizona, both survive as of this date.

Scope and Content Note

The Raymond Blair manuscript collection consists of four boxes together with eight separate large post-type accounting ledgers that constitutes the business records of Rock Point Trading Post and of Round Rock Trading Post, both located near Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation. The boxes contain various ledgers and books of account which are organized in the Inventory into nine series. Loose papers are assembled into folders, located in box number 3.

These posts were owned in various partnership interests by A.T. Witt, Raymond Blair, and Lorraine Witt. Included also (in Volume 1), is a fragmentary record that begins in 1903 of an earlier, unidentified trading post. Aside from the business records common to most small partnerships, the collection is rich with the details of barter transactions with the Navajo Indians - of the type of goods acquired, the prices paid, and prices obtained upon sale by the trader. These are not confined to specific ledgers but recorded in various books that contain other types of accounting information. Other ledgers reveal the great number of pawn transactions with the Navajos and list the wide range of personal goods pledged for cash loans or supplies; these can be found in Volumes 2, 9, and 27 through 33.

Volumes of business conducted, operating expenses, and profits realized for the trading posts are summarized in the Licensed Indian Traders Annual Reports located in Box No. 3, Folder 7.

The collection also includes the original partnership documents of A.T. Witt and Raymond Blair, of reformation of partnership interests following the death of A.T. Witt, of exchange of partnership interests between Lorraine Witt and Raymond Blair leaving Blair with full ownership of Round Rock Trading Post and one-third ownership of the Rock Point post, and of the ultimate disposition of Rock Point ownership to Bob and Theda Cook in 1976.


Organized in 9 series.
I. Accounts receivable, Red Rock and Round Rock trading posts, 1903-1975.
II. Tax returns, 1970-1976.
III. Invoices, 1948.
IV. Account ledgers, 1949-1976.
V. Inventory ledgers, 1948-1973.
VI. Pawn redemptions and merchandise sales receipts, 1973-1976.
VII. Payroll, merchandise and cash books, 1949-1976.
VIII. Unemployment claims manual, 1970.
IX. Pawn books, 1954-1973.





It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents for Northern Arizona University, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Related Material

Day Family Collection [manuscript], NAU.MS.89.
NAPHS Richardson Collection [manuscript], AHSND.MS.48.
Harold F. Osbourne papers, 1947-1949, bulk 1947 [manuscript], NAU.MS.6.
United Indian Traders Association records [manuscript], NAU.MS.299.
Babbitt Brothers Trading Company [manuscript], NAU.MS.83.

Access Points

Personal Name(s)
Blair, Marilene Bloomfield, 1919---Archives.
Blair, Raymond--Archives.

Corporate Name(s)
Rock Point Trading Post.
Round Rock Trading Post.

Geographic Name(s)
Chinle (Ariz.)
Rock Point (Ariz.)
Round Rock (Ariz.)

Indian traders--Arizona.
Navajo Indian Reservation--Economic aspects.
Navajo silverwork.
Navajo textile fabrics.
Trading posts--Arizona.

Genre Form(s)
Business records.
Ledgers (account books)

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Raymond Blair Collection, NAU.MS.303, Cline Library. Special Collections and Archives Dept.

Container List

Series 1, box 1-box 2, containing accounts receivable and other business records of Rock Point and Round RockTrading Posts, 1903 - 1975.
Multiple accounts of business dealings are often contained within a single ledger which reveals an overall view of the nature of business conducted. Vol. 1 includes a 1903 ledger worthy of future investigation as it apparently relates to a predecessor post
1.1 1903 accounts receivable; cost of goods; supplies purchased 1909 - 1911 cost of goods; supplies purchased; inventory 1933; purchase of sheep and goats 1934; customer list, pg. 290, 1903-1934.
1.2 Pawn transactions, sales and accounts receivable; customer list by census number pg.130, 1947-1948.
1.3 Accounts receivable; purchases; purchase of lambs pg.135, 1949-1950, 1955.
1.4 Rock Point Trading Post, barter transactions; purchase of merchandise; operating expenses; partnership capital accounts; sales of animals, hides and rugs (located on shelf), 1948 - 1976.
1.5 Round Rock Trading Post, barter transactions; purchase of merchandise; operating expenses; partnership capital accounts; sales of animals, hides and rugs (located on shelf), 1954 - 1975.
2.6 Accounts receivable; purchases of wool, mohair, lambs, 1955 - 1960.
2.7 Accounts receivable; personal charges of A.T. Witt; lambs purchased, 1939-1954.
2.8 Accounts receivable; sales journal, 1962 - 1970.
2.9 Pawn transactions at Rock Point Trading Post, 1954 - 1961.
Series 2, box 3, trading post documents, 1970-1976.
Tax returns, ownership exchange, licenses, annual reports, Federal and Navajo Tribe Codes and Regulations,. Ownership changes can be traced by the legal documents, and volume of business and profits are found in the annual reports to the NavajoTribe.
3.1-3 Tax returns, 1970-1976.
3.4 Exchanges of partners ownership. ,
3.5 Business licenses; United Indian Traders Association Membership. ,
3.6 Property tax returns; Code of Federal Regulations; Code of Fair Trade; Navajo Tribe memo; Navajo Tribe Resolutions; Navajo Lending Program. ,
3.7 Licensed Indian Traders Annual Reports, 1970 - 1976.
Series 3, box 2, invoices for merchandise purchased, 1948.
These are of more than ordinary interest for they recount the broad range of articles needed by the Navajos. The motto of Farmington Mercantile Co. was AWholesalers of Everything@, which appears not far from the truth.
3.8-10 Invoices of Farmington Mercantile Company, 1948.
3.11 Vendor invoices, 1946-1948.
Series 4, box 4, trading post ledgers, 1949-1976.
These ledgers pertain to barter and other financial transactions with Navajos. They show the wide range and the amount of personal property obtained from the Navajos.
4.10 Information about the purchases of lambs, wool and mohair; records of wool and mohair shipped, 1959 - 1969.
4.11 Information about transactions in lambs, mohair, wool and Navajo rugs, 1949-1958.
4.12 Information about purchases of wool, mohair, lambs, ewes, and goats, 1969 - 1975.
4.13 Accounts payable,miscellaneous expenses, barter transactions in livestock, rugs, jewelry, and baskets, 1976.
Series 5, box 4, two ledgers containing inventories of trading posts, 1948-1973.
4.14 Inventories of Round Rock Trading Post, 1953-1973.
4.15 Inventories of Rock Point Trading Post, 1948-1975.
Series 6, box 4,five volumes containing money receipt books for pawn redemptions and merchandise sales, 1973-1976.
4.16 Pawn books, 1970-1975.
4.17 Pawn books, June 1972 - August 1973.
4.18 Pawn books, November 1972- November 1974.
4.19 Pawn books, September 1973-February 1974.
4.20 Pawn books, January 1975-October 1975.
4.21 Pawn books, Ocotber 1975-June 1976.
Series 7, four volumes containing miscellaneous account books, 1949-1976.
5.22 Payroll of Jack S. ,
5.23 Expenses and personal expenses of Scott, A.T. and Lorraine Witt, 1949-1976.
5.24 Ammunition sales, February 1969-July 1976.
5.25 Rifle sales (Adead pawn@); details the payment of wages, often a combination of merchandise and cash, 1972.
Series 8, box 5, one volume SUCA Manual for Unemployment Claims, 1970.
5.26 SUCA Manual for Unemployment Claims, 1970.
Series 9, box 5, seven volumes, pawn transactions, 1950-1973.
These ledgers include name, item, amount, and payments made. Also, the ledgers note when pawn becomes dead. Regulations for dealing with dead pawn is found in Series two, Fd 6, Code of Fair Trade. Volume 27 is in box 5, the remainder of the volumes of this series are shelved individually.
5.27 Pawn books, 1950-1954.
28 Pawn books, 1961-1969.
29 Pawn books, 1962-1970.
30 Pawn books, 1969-1972.
31 Pawn books, May 1970-December 1972.
32 Pawn books, 1973.
33 Pawn books, 1973.