Railroad men and movie stars
Gallup got its start in 1881 with the arrival of the railroad. Workers would say they were "going to Gallup's" to collect their wages from railroad paymaster David L. Gallup. Descendants of Japanese, Slavic, Mexican, and Italian immigrants who built the railroads and worked the coal mines still live in this community.
Later the town became a travelers' oasis along Route 66. Gallup's stretch of highway inspired such classic roadside architecture as the El Rancho Hotel, which became home-away-from-home for movie stars (Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas, and Alan Ladd among them) who were filming on location during the heyday of the Hollywood western. The El Rancho is still decked out in Old West style; inside, you can gaze at autographed pictures of the stars or spend the night in the John Wayne room.
The Native American world long ago designated Gallup its busiest trade center. Locals claim that 80 percent of all Native American jewelry has passed through Gallup. While it's impossible to calculate that figure down to the last squash blossom necklace, on weekends Gallup's population of 22,000 doubles as Native Americans from the nearby Navajo Reservation come in to shop, trade, and visit.
And, of course, in August, Gallup hosts the rodeos, dances, and markets of the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, now in its 81st year. One of the largest gatherings of native peoples in the United States, this is an event that anybody who considers her- or himself a Westerner needs to experience. The Indoor and Outdoor Marketplace showcases Native American pottery, jewelry, basketry, and rugs. There are four days and nights of dances, rodeos, and a Saturday downtown parade.