Ralph Meyers spent his childhood in Denver, Colorado and moved to Taos in 1909 to take a job as a fire guard. This move was the beginning of a path that was to shape the rest of his life.
He began traveling to and trading with the Taos Indians in the pueblo and surrounding area and opened a trading post in 1912. Meyers was one of few white men who became well known and trusted by the Native Americans. Through taking many photos and teaching himself how to paint, Ralph began to document the dramatic landscapes and the interesting culture of the native people he grew to love. His first exhibition was for the Museum of New Mexico in 1917. The Russian artist Leon Gaspard considered Meyers to be one of the finest colorists of the period.
Out of his great respect for the native traditions, Ralph learned how to create beadwork, deerskin clothing and ceremonial pieces. He also taught himself silversmith skills and eventually trained and employed Navajo and Taos Indians to make jewelry and crafts for the growing tourist trade. Millicent Rogers, Mabel Dodge Luhan and Queen Marie of Romania were some of his customers and friends.
He began making reproductions of Spanish-Colonial furniture and filled large commissioned orders for clients such as the one for oilman Waite Phillips for the Philmont Ranch in Cimarron and the Philbrook Estate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He supplied German author Karl May items for his museum collection and study in Radebeul, Germany.
In 1933, Ralph married Rowena Matteson. The couple ran the trading post together and opened a restaurant called La Dona Luz which they operated until Ralph passed away in 1948. They had a daughter named Nina who currently oversees the trading post (now called El Rincon) and a son named Ouray, after Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Utes. Ralph became the subject of his friend Frank Waters’ book called The Man Who Killed the Deer, which was about an Indian trader in the early days of Taos.
Meyers work is in many museums including the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site and the Smithsonian Institute.
1. Michael Coleman, Chicago, Illinois
2. Artists of the American West, Vol. II by Doris Ostrander Dawdy
3. La Dona Luz Inn, Taos, New Mexico