Tinwork

The 1821 opening of the Santa Fe Trail coincided with the worldwide acceptance and use of British tinplate and an increased popularity of tin crafts. In New Mexico, imported tinplate became more readily available. The increase in tinplate crafts and the immigration of Anglo tinsmiths to New Mexico during the period are well documented.

The 1930s also saw the revival of “poor man’s silver,” the tin art, much of it religious, that began to flourish after the United States Army occupied New Mexico in 1846. The appearance of imported tin cans coupled with Bishop Lamy’s 1850 appointment to New Mexico in part caused certain forms of local religious art, such as retablos, to fall out of fashion while European prints framed in tin came into vogue.  Until 1890, when commercial picture frames began to replace tin frames and coal and gas lighting replaced the need for candle holders, tin artists provided art made for pennies that today sells for thousands. Lane Coulter and Maurice Dixon, Jr. claim that “the New Mexican production of tinwork primarily for religious purposes is unparalleled elsewhere in American folk arts.”excerpted from an article by Donna Pierce inSpanish New Mexico, The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection