Artifact of the Month: Great Smoky Mountains souvenir plate

In September 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to the North Carolina/Tennessee border for the dedication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To mark the anniversary of this occasion, our September Artifact of the Month is a commemorative plate highlighting some of the park’s notable features.

Great Smoky Mountains commemorative plate

The plate, for which we have no date, depicts seven Smoky Mountain attractions:

  • The native black bear (which gets central billing)
  • The “loop-over” (a place where the road loops over itself)
  • Gatlinburg’s observation tower, known as the Space Needle
  • The traditional Cherokee Eagle Dance
  • The outdoor drama Unto These Hills, a historical play about the Cherokee people
  • The observation tower on the top of Clingman’s Dome
  • An “Indian chief”

This last image, the Indian chief, shows a stereotypical “Hollywood Indian” rather than a Cherokee in traditional Cherokee dress — a nod to the controversial practice of intentionally dressing with tourists’ expectations in mind. (The Museum of the Cherokee Indian’s website covers the topic of Cherokee dress concisely and well on its FAQ page.)

A quick look around eBay reveals that the seven attractions featured on this plate appear over and over in vintage Smoky Mountain souvenir items. But, of course, there’s much more to love about the Smokies. If you have a favorite Great Smoky Mountains attraction, activity, or memory, leave a comment and tell us about it!

9 thoughts on “Artifact of the Month: Great Smoky Mountains souvenir plate”

  1. I have a very old plate with the Indian eagle dance, pottery making, the great black bear, Cherokee Indian, and basket weaving. I took a picture to send but I don’t know how

  2. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for sharing information about your plate. Unfortunately, there’s no way for you to post a picture to our blog. Does it resemble the plate pictured above? As my colleague Emily Jack suggests, plate makers seemed to like using the same images over and over.

  3. I have a rectangle type plate with a raised and painted picture of bears. It looks ceramic and 3d. Do you have any information?

  4. My ancestors were from the smoky ,full blooded Indian,I got a artifact flat 2 stones ,tied together with buffalo hide an a beautiful picture of N middle a real gold leave tree an blue water hoe an mountain S in back an 2 paint horses with Indian braves on them very detailed .must look with a looking glass to really see the perfection.please does anybody know what it’s called an do you have anything like this in any museum in our smokys.ty sincerely Debra cupp. ..

  5. What I have I can take a picture but needs blew up an it really should be in the Smithsonian Institute please if anyone has an artifact like this it’s on a small thin piece of a flint rock so detailed with colors blue gold different colors the horses are there so tiny everything is and so detailed engraved into it and then painted and the gold is real gold it must have been a piece of jewellery that a Indian chief war or his wife it had a piece of stone on the front of it tied with a buffalo hide to cover the picture and it must have made a flapping noise if anyone knows what this kind of Indian jewellery artifact is please let me know on my email thank you very much I would love to share. It has on the picture of the Smoky Mountains in the background it has in the middle a large real gold on the leaves of the tree a huge tree of life I think it is it has to paint horses very detailed with an Indian chief with long headdress and another paint horse that’s rare enough so detailed with Indian feathers on their heads it has blue hole with blue water it’s so detailed a must see to appreciate I hope someone sees this and gets back in touch with me thank you very much Debra Cupp Facebook DebraCupp from Beaumont California with picture of my kids an husband on my fb.

  6. I have a long picture of The Smoky Mountains National Park Dedication by president Roosevelt September 2 1940 i was told it was very rare any help would be greatly appreciated kind regards Gail

    1. Ms. Baird,
      Thank you for sharing your comments. I’m unable to advise you on the rarity of your photograph. I can tell you that there a number of different images of President Roosevelt at the dedication. It appears that the Tennessee Department of Conservation had a photographer at the event or, at least, collected photographs of the event. Here are the links to two examples: and

      I suspect there were also a few newspaper photographers in attendance.

      Images of President Roosevelt at the dedication are also found on postcards. The North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill Library, the department responsible for this blog and my employer, holds such a postcard:

      A appraiser who specializes in evaluating photographs could likely help you determine the value of your photograph. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. maintains a list of professional appraisers:

      John Blythe
      Assistant Curator
      North Carolina Collection

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