Native American

New to the Collection: Native American Shriner Blankets

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Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 2018, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added to its collection two 1920s wool blankets with Native American-inspired patterns and Shriner emblems as their featured central design. One of these, pictured at left (and the reverse, below), was manufactured by Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills. It bears a label reading “Copyright 1921.” At that time, in fact, blankets of this style enjoyed popularity in American culture.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s—ending right around the Great Crash of 1929—a vogue for Native American goods held sway in the U.S., for art collectors and fashionable types all the way down to Americans of more modest means. Popular magazines touted domestic displays that ranged from just a few items, to entire rooms arrayed with Native American baskets, bowls, and blankets. Known as "Indian corners," these displays became a common feature in home design, with many of the goods used in them created specifically for the market by Native artists. Merchants and makers sold these goods in department stores, “Indian stores,” and other commercial outlets.

Blankets like this one—called trade blankets, since they were originally exchanged between Native Americans and European settlers—were among the most popular collectors’ items. Pendleton Woolen Mills was the first American company established solely for their manufacture. Although there were other mills that also produced this kind of blanket, Pendleton took the craft to a new level. This was thanks in part to its employment of loom artisan Joe Rawnsley (d. 1929). Rawnsley toured the West to work with Native populations in creating specific designs and color schemes inspired by different tribes’ traditions. He used the Jacquard process in which punched cards guided automatic looms to produce blankets of much greater variety and detail than previously possible.

But what about that Shriner emblem, with its familiar crescent and scimitar? Around the time of this blanket’s design copyright, the Shriners—and Freemasons in general—were growing in strength and number throughout the country. National membership in the Shrine had grown to approximately 500,000 by 1921. Possibly this blanket was created to attract the purchasing dollars of this Masonic group. Regardless of what prompted its creation, this blanket reflects the popular interest in both Native American objects and Freemasonry in the 1920s.

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Reverse, Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

References:

Crazy Crow Trading Post, “American Indian Trade Blankets: The Rise of Pendleton Woolen Mills as the Primary Trade Blanket of Contemporary Native Americans,” https://www.crazycrow.com/site/rise-of-pendleton-native-american-trade-blankets/, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).

The Henry Ford, “Sparking Innovation: The Jacquard Loom,” https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/sparking-innovation-the-jacquard-loom/, (accessed Apr. 16, 2019).

Elizabeth Hutchinson, The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890-1915 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009). 3, 11-13.

William D. Moore, Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006). 106-7.

Pendleton, “Indian Trading Blanket History,” https://www.pendleton-usa.com/indian-trading-blanket-history.html, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).

 


Lecture: Native American Contributions to the Mapping of North America, 10/4

Long before European explorers and colonists arrived in North America, indigenous inhabitants had already explored and created maps of the vast landscapes of our continent. Come to our lecture to learn how Europeans venturing into unknown territories were dependent on collaboration with Native Americans.

JRS_smallerSaturday, October 4, 2:00 p.m.

Cartographic Encounters: Native Americans in the Exploration and Mapping of North America

John Rennie Short, Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In this lecture Professor Short will outline the role of indigenous people in the exploration and mapping of North America  Drawing on diaries, maps, and official reports, he will demonstrate how Native American guides, informants, and mapmakers were essential to European and American exploration and mapping in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, John Rennie Short is an expert on urban issues, environmental concerns, globalization, political geography and the history of cartography. His Cartographic Encounters: Indigenous Peoples and the Exploration of the New World appeared with the University of Chicago Press in 2009.

Join Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development, at noon on Oct. 4 for a gallery talk in an exhibition she curated, "Prized Relics: Historic Souvenirs from the Collection." She will trace how fragments of a cherished quilt, gavels made from wood from famous trees, or bits of wood and stone collected on tourists’ journeys all tell us something about their collectors and what places and events they deemed historic.

Mark your calendars for the last program in our Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History series:

Saturday, November 22, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Workshop: How to Do History with Online Mapping Tools

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use an online tool to create maps that chart Metro Boston area history. Staff from the MetroBoston DataCommon, a provider of free applications that make it possible to map data, will collaborate with Joanne Riley, University Archivist at UMass Boston, to show lay historians, data fans, and map enthusiasts how visualizations of data related to our region can help us understand our history. Whether you are interested in exploring demographics, economy, the physical environment, politics or more, bring your curiosity and your questions. Our presenters will share examples and point the way to potential uses of digital mapping for your local history research. Space is limited; registration is required by November 5. Contact: programs@monh.org.

Both programs are part of a series related to the Museum and Library’s collection of historic maps. They are free thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website: www.monh.org.

Photo courtesy of John R. Short


Lecture Series: Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History, Fall 2014

Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History, Fall 2014

In the fall of 2014, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library continues its program series, “Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History." All programs will be free to the public thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

Maps were among the first objects that the Museum collected after its founding in 1975. Our collection holds maps dating from the 17th century to the present. Using this collection as a touchstone, the series reflects current research that helps us value historical cartography. We hope you are as eager as we are to delve into the past worlds historic maps describe and forge paths to the new ones that digital mapping promises to chart.

Mark your calendar with these dates; future blog posts will share more details about the speakers and their topics.

Historical_Geography_SmithSaturday, September 13, 2:00 p.m.

Susan Schulten, Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Denver

Reinventing the Map

We live in a culture saturated with maps. We have become accustomed to making them instantly and representing virtually any type of data. Technology makes this possible, but our contemporary use of maps is rooted in a fundamental shift that took place well over a century ago. Professor Schulten will illustrate how, beginning in the nineteenth century, Americans began to use maps not only to identify locations and represent the landscape, but to organize, display, and analyze information. Through maps of the environment, the distribution of the institution of slavery, the census, epidemics, and even their own history, Americans gradually learned to view themselves and their nation in altogether new ways.

JRS_smallerSaturday, October 4, 2:00 p.m.

John Rennie Short, Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Cartographic Encounters: Native Americans in the Exploration and Mapping of North America

In this lecture Professor Short will outline the role of indigenous people in the exploration and mapping of North America. Drawing on diaries, maps, and official reports, he will demonstrate how Native American guides, informants, and mapmakers were essential to European and American exploration and mapping in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

MetroBostonDataCommonSaturday, November 22, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Workshop: How to Do History with Online Mapping Tools

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use an online tool to create maps that chart Metro Boston area history. Staff from the MetroBoston DataCommon, a provider of free applications that make it possible to map data, will collaborate with Joanne Riley, University Archivist at UMass Boston, to show lay historians, data fans, and map enthusiasts how visualizations of data related to our region can help us understand our history. Whether you are interested in exploring demographics, economy, the physical environment, politics or more, bring your curiosity and your questions. Our presenters will share examples and point the way to potential uses of digital mapping for your local history research. Space is limited; registration is required by November 5.  Contact: programs@monh.org.

Image credits:

Historical Geography, [S.l.], 1888. John F. Smith.  llus. in: Harper's weekly, February 28, 1863. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, LC-2002624023. This and other maps can be explored at Schulten's website, Mapping the Nation.

Courtesy of John Rennie Short.

Courtesy of MetroBoston DataCommon.


Aboriginal Style and Victorian Excess

91_055_55DI1 I love the aesthetic shown by beaded purses like this one, which were made during the late 1800s and early 1900s by members of Native American tribes in upstate New York. The two-tone beading, the rich velvet and silk fabrics and the floral designs make these artifacts recognizable at one glance. So, when selecting objects from the National Heritage Museum collection for our current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection, I just had to pick one of the Native American-made purses from our collection.

Capitalizing on the Victorian love of decoration, Iroquois women beaded purses, wallets, pincushions and numerous other kinds of “whimsies” to sell to tourists at Niagara Falls and other popular vacation spots. Making and selling souvenir beadwork was a means of cultural as well as economic survival. The beadworkers created a successful mixture of aboriginal style and Victorian excess, allowing them to make a living in an manner deemed “acceptable” by white society, while also manipulating the market to not only accept, but prize, their aesthetic, which retained a sense of ancient beliefs and an independent spirit.

Paper patterns were frequently employed as guides to create the beaded motifs. The beadworker would anchor the pattern to the fabric and apply strings of beads across the surface, filling in the space. Some purses include a beaded fringe around the edge. This was a recognizable “Indian” characteristic for consumers, bringing to mind “traditional” Indian costumes made from animal hide and fringed at the ends.

Purse, 1860-1890, probably New York, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Prescott Richardson Collection, 91.055.55.