Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wabanaki basketry

Since I was a teenager I have been collecting old post cards and other antique images of Native people from the Northeast. They’re an incredible window into a time gone by. Some postcards were produced and sold by Native people themselves. Occasionally old cards are found that feature a Native person with a stack of them in hand that they were likely selling to tourists visiting one of the many vacation destinations in the Northeast where Native people could be found selling their baskets.

There are many Native basket makers today who are continuing what is one of the oldest, and most viable traditional arts practiced by the Wabanaki, and following in the footsteps of their ancestors. Producing baskets for resale dates back to at least the 1700s when the making and selling of baskets became an important means of survival for Native people. Usually made from ash splints, some of the earliest examples were strictly utilitarian. By the mid-nineteenth century, so-called “fancy baskets” with interesting shapes and weaves and often dyed in bright colors were produced, and the images that follow is just a small sampling from my collection. Most of these images are from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and most feature Wabanaki (Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Abenaki) basketmakers. 
Figure 1 – Real Photo postcard of the Indian Basket Store on Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. 1920 -1940. This was located at the boat landing on Indian Island and was likely the precursor to Chief Poolaw’s Teepee, a basket store that was later located on the same site. 
Figure 2 – Real Photo postcard of Chief Poolaw and his wife Lucy Nicolar, aka Princess Watawaso, in front of their Teepee basket store. Lucy was born on Indian Island in 1882 and her winters were likely spent making baskets which she and her family sold to tourist in Kennebunkport, Maine during the summer. Circa 1950.
Figure 3 – Real Photo postcard of Chief Poolaw and his wife Lucy inside the Teepee basket store, showing a wide variety of the fancy baskets they offered for sale.

Figure 4 – Real Photo postcard of Bruce Poolaw, aka Chief Poolaw, a Kiowa entertainer from Oklahoma inside the Teepee basket store. He married Lucy and together they built the Teepee store.  Circa 1950.
Figure 5 – Real Photo postcard titled “From Chief Poolaw’s Basket Store.” These women were no doubt some of the basketmakers who were supplying his shop. Circa 1950.
Figure 6 – Business Card from George Hunt, the Indian agent to the Penobscot, who also ran a shop in Old Town, Maine where he sold Penobscot baskets and other novelty items. An early view of Indian Island and the boat landing can be seen on his card. Circa 1900.

Figure 7 – Real Photo postcard of Mamie Joseph on the right, Russell Joseph, a.k.a. Russel Joe, and Maime’s sister Frances Joseph Sapiel, Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. Circa 1907. 

Figure 8 – Real Photo postcard of Mamie Joseph (seated) and her sister Frances Joseph Sapiel (holding a basket) outside their home on Indian Island. Circa 1910.

Figure 8a – Detail of Figure 8.
Figure 9 – Real Photo postcard. Basketmaking, Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. The individual seated on the steps may be Governor Joe Francis. Postmarked, Sept. 11, 1911.  
Figure 10 – Real Photo postcard titled “Splitting Ash for Baskets and Braiding Grass. Indian Island, Old Town, Maine.” Circa 1910.
Figure 11 – Real Photo postcard showing a display of Penobscot baskets. Old inscription on the back reads: “Old Town, Maine, July 6, 1936.
Figure 12 – Real Photo postcard. Similar to figure 11. 
Figure 13 – Real Photo postcard of Clara Neptune and some of her beautiful baskets. Circa 1912.
Figure 14 – Real Photo postcard titled: “Famous bowmaker Newall and wife” with a fine display of baskets nearby. Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. 1920s.
Figure 15 – Real Photo postcard of Sylvia Stanislaus (died 1938) selling her baskets near the Farragut Hotel at Rye Beach, New Hampshire. She and her husband Stephen and son Francis lived in the Penobscot community on Mattanawcook Island near Lincoln, Maine until 1910. Her husband served as tribal governor for several terms. Sylvia is said to have been a Passamaquoddy orphan. She represented the Penobscot at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and again at the San Francisco Exposition in 1906. Card is postmarked Sept. 7, 1911.
Figure 16 – Another Real Photo postcard of Sylvia Stanislaus. Old inscription on the back lists some of the baskets that someone had purchased from her: “I had waste basket, flower basket, bark baby basket, vegetable basket, and Ken - pie basket, sewing basket.” Circa 1920. 
Figure 17 – Real Photo postcard of Pauline Shay’s basket display. No location indicated. 1927-1940.
Figure 18 – Real Photo postcard of a Penobscot basket display in Lincolnville, Maine. Circa 1950.
Figure 19 – Real Photo postcard of Chief Blue Jay and Blanche Perham. An inscription, rubber stamped on the back of the card reads: The Indian Work Shop on the Penobscot Reservation, Old Town, Maine. It lists that war clubs, baskets and canoes were available in their shop. Circa 1940.
Figure 19a – A business card from Chief Blue Jay’s store. Slightly earlier than the image in figure 19.
Figure 20 – A printed postcard illustrating the Indian village in Bar Harbor, Maine where many Wabanaki sold their baskets to area visitors. Circa 1905.
Figure 21 – Real Photo postcard of an unidentified Wabanaki basket maker working on a splint basket. Circa 1940.
Figure 22 – Printed postcard of three Penobscot basket makers. Printed text on the back reads: Souvenir Card, Penobscot Indian Reservation, Indian Island, Maine. 1940s.
Figure 23 – An old glass slide of Molly Susep and Mary Moil, Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. Made by Edward Little Rogers, of Boston. Circa 1900. I wish this one was in better shape but it is what it is.
Figure 24 – From June to September of 1921, the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts celebrated the three hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims with their Pilgrim Tercentenary Pageant. In conjunction with this a number of Wabanaki travelled from Maine to Plymouth to take part in the pageantry and many Real Photo postcards exist of the event. Pictured in this Real Photo postcard is Horace Nicholas and his family. This is Joseph Nicholas’s parents and older siblings. He was a Passamaquoddy representative to the Maine legislature. In his retirement he ran a basket shop at Pleasant Point and said his family sold “novelty” goods at Massachusetts fairs. A beautiful selection of their baskets can be seen in this image. 1921.
Figure 25 – This is another Real Photo postcard from the Plymouth Tercentenary Pageant and Horace Nicholas and his family is also pictured here. This postcard was mailed to someone in Canaan, New Hampshire on August 16, 1921 and it contained the following hand written note: V. & I motored here today – Indian village is about a mile from the town. Afterwards parked on Pageant ground at the water’s edge, lunched, & saw boat leave for Boston. 
Figure 26 – Real Photo postcard of a Passamaquoddy family at the Pilgrim Tercentenary in 1921. A few baskets can be seen on the table inside the tent. The young girl is also wearing a beautiful beaded cap.
Figure 27 – Real Photo postcard of a group of Passamaquoddy at the Plymouth Tercentenary Indian encampment. Both women are holding baskets. 1921.
Figure 28 – Real Photo postcard of Chief William Neptune and his wife making baskets. Likely taken on the Passamaquoddy Reservation. Taken sometime between 1927-1940.
Figure 29 – Real Photo postcard of Peter Stanley, a Passamaquoddy basket maker. He died sometime in the 1960s. Text at the bottom of the image reads: Basket Maker, Passamaquoddy Reservation, Pleasant Point, Maine. This image is from the 1930s – 1940s.
Figure 30 – Albumen photograph of a group of Wabanaki at the spiritualist camp in Onset, Massachusetts. A Mrs. Weston was the president of the spiritualist camp and she had Wabanaki friends from both the Skowhegan, Maine area as well as from Nova Scotia attend her Spiritualist Group in Onset. The individuals in this image are believed to be Mi’kmaq from the Annapolis Royal area of Nova Scotia. Two Mi’kmaq women, Mary Tony and Mary Paul, were among this group and are possibly the women depicted in this image. Numerous baskets can be seen in the image. Photographer: Burrell, of Brockton, MA. Dated 1879. 

Figure 31 One panel from a stereo view depicting a group of Wabanaki basket makers camped at the foot of Mt. Kineo, on Moosehead Lake, Piscataquis County, Maine. Photographer: C.A. Paul of Skowhegan, Maine. Numerous baskets, model canoes, bark containers and other souvenir items can be seen in the image. Circa 1870.
Figure 32 – Printed Postcard. From left to right :Aimé Msadoques, (1884-1949) splits an ash splint while Ambroise O'Bomsawin (1886-1980) and Elie Wawanolett (1883-1944) stand ready to pound the trunk of ash. 1930s. From the Odanak Reserve in Quebec, Canada. My thanks to Chris Siouiw at the Musée des Abénakis for the identification.
Figure 33 – Printed postcard. Dora O'bomsawin (1889-1952).

From the Odanak Reserve in Quebec, Canada. 1930s. My thanks to Chris Siouiw at the Musée des Abénakis for the identification.
Figure 34 – This circa 1900 printed image is identified as Caroline (Tahamont) Masta by Christopher Roy. No other information is available.
Figure 35 – The two printed postcards are of Abenaki craftspeople with a display of their handicrafts in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.  The top card is postmarked 1908. The individuals in the lower image, also taken in Bethlehem, NH were identified by Christopher Roy as follows: Robert Robert Wawanolett, Florence Lagrave (later Florence Benedict), Hermine (Wawanolett) Msadoques, Walter Lagrave, Mary Jane Lagrave (later Mary Jane Sioui), Maud Msadoques (later Maud Hannis), Georgina Roy (French Canadian with an Abenaki step-father), and Louise Msadoques. Chris Siouiw at the Musée des Abénakis added the following information: the group in the lower postcard is Hermine Wawanolett’s family (1868-1955). She is sitting on the floor at the left. (1868-1955). She was the wife of Samuel Msadoques (1860-1942).Lower card is circa 1915.
Figure 36 – One panel from a stereo view depicting a family of Abenaki basketmakers with their display of fancy baskets at Echo Lake, in New Hampshire. Photographed by the Kilburn Brothers of Littelton, New Hampshire. This image dates from the last quarter of the 19th century.
Figure 36a – Detail of the baskets in figure 36.
Figure 37 – Real Photo postcard of Sipsis, identified as an Abenaki basket maker. The sign at the base of the basket display reads: Genuine Indian Baskets hand made by the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians. Image is copyright 1934 by C.T. Bodwell.
Figure 38 – A circa 1900 advertisement of an Indian souvenir shop in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia that likely sold baskets.
Figure 39 – Real Photo postcard of a Mi’kmaq group that highlights many basketmakers. 1927-1940.
Figure 40 – Printed postcard of a Mi’kmaq camp, Rocky Point, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. The seated individual in the foreground is holding two fancy baskets. Card is postmarked 1906.
Figure 41 - Real Photo postcard of Mi’kmaq chief Noel and his wife. Between them is a display of their baskets.  Circa 1910.
Figure 42 – Real Photo postcard of a Mi’kmaq camp in Nova Scotia with an assortment of splint baskets and weaving material visible in the background. Circa 1905.
Figure 43 – A printed postcard of two Mi’kmaq children from Baie Ste-Marie, Nova Scotia. Circa 1910.
Figure 44 – Printed postcard of three Mi’kmaq basket makers from Chester, Nova Scotia. Circa 1905.
Figure 45 – Real Photo postcard of Chief Jim Meuse of Bear River, Nova Scotia selling baskets with his family. Circa 1910.
Figure 46 – Printed postcard of two Mi’kmaq women marketing their baskets. Published by the Yarmouth Portrait Company in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Circa 1910.
Figure 47 – Real Photo postcard of a Mi’kmaq camp in Chester, Nova Scotia. Beautiful assortment of baskets on display. Dated 1907.
Figure 48 – Tintype of two unidentified individuals. They could be Mohawks or Abenaki. Beautiful pedestal basket on the right with fancy weave. Not sure why all the short branch segments are in the larger baskets. 1860s – 1870s.
Figure 49 – Real Photo postcards of two Native basket weavers working for the Eastern States Packaging Company in Peterborough, New Hampshire. No other information available. Circa 1910.