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Local History

Fake relics

"Columbia,Mo.: War on the 'fake Indian relic racket' in Missouri and a campaign against amateur archaeologists who ruin valuable discoveries were brewing here today at the first meeting of the Missouri State Archaeological Society.

"A movement against the sale of spurious arrowheads, tomahawks, idols, pipes, and other remains of a long past civilization was urged by J.B.L. Davis, Marshall insurance man, whose hobby is detecting fake relics.

“'It’s a widespread racket with a turnover of thousands of dollars annually in Missouri,' Davis told the Associated Press.

“'Regular factories, particularly in southeast Missouri and around Springfield and Neosho, are kept busy turning out fake Indian pipes, banner stones, spearheads, arrows, etc., for sale as the genuine articles.'

"Veteran collectors as well as untrained tourists are victims of the 'racket,' he said.

"From a long tray of assorted genuine and fake relics, Davis challenged old time collectors to distinguish the real thing from the modern replica and won. Many of the collections on display at the meeting included an ample supply of fakes, Davis said.

"Aged in tobacco juice or boiled oil, the manufactured articles are easily mistaken by the untrained eye, Davis said, reporting that 'suckers' are paying from $3 to $25 for arrowheads, with prices as high as $150 for fake tomahawks.

"Some manufacturers near Springfield hire boys to comb the woods in search of Indian relics after first scattering the fake items in the Ozarks mountains.

"Special legislative action should be taken to combat the 'racket,' he said."

Leader & Press, April 12, 1935 p.1

The above artifact was found at the Bingham School in Springfield, Missouri, during an excavation on the school's playground. It is part of the digital archive From the Darkroom.

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