In 1932, Lorenzo Hubbell of the Hubbell Trading Posts in Ganado, Arizona, commissioned the Joe family–Julia, Sam, and their daughters Lilly and Erma–to weave the world’s largest Navajo rug. Sam Joe studied ancient pottery to find unique designs and symbols. Julia, Lilly, and Erma then used the wool of 78 sheep–the dying, carding, and spinning of which took two years in itself–to create the yarn for the rug. Of course, weaving the “World’s Largest Navajo Rug” required the world’s largest loom as well–Hubbell had a special building made to accommodate the 27-foot-wide loom.
After three straight years of weaving, the rug was finally completed in 1937. As is evident when you see the rug today, it was made of the finest quality yarn and with great attention to detail. The finished product is a beautiful, seamless, 26′ x 36′ rug.
Because of the rug’s size, though, storage and display are difficult. In fact, the public was deprived of the opportunity to see the World’s Largest Navajo Rug for 50 years. Fortunately, the Winslow Arts Trust acquired the rug in 2012, and it is now being put on permanent display at the La Posada Hotel historic train depot (located along the old Route 66).
If you are interested in Navajo rugs and Amerindian art, it is definitely worth a trip to Arizona to check out this beautiful rug. You can also watch this moving video about a special event in which the Joe family was invited to see the rug–many of them for the first time ever.
For those of you interested in learning more about large-scale Navajo rugs, we also highly recommend reading Jennifer McLerran’s article “The Spectacle of Navajo Weaving: Monumental Navajo Rugs” in the spring 2014 American Indian Art magazine. Unfortunately the article is not currently available online, but the magazine can be purchased here.
As always, feel free to contact us with any questions. Charley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.