|Figure 1 Delaware blouse before treatment, from the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania|
|Figure 2 Blouse after treatment|
|Figure 3 closeup detail of the German silver disc adorning the collar of the Delaware blouse (Tàkhwèmpës). From the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania.|
Many associate beadwork with Native American cultures but often don’t realize that the designs created are symbolic to the creator and their tribe. The earliest beadwork was created before European contact featuring designs made from shell, bone, porcupine quills, seeds, and leather. Unfortunately, many of these elements did not survive burial in the acidic soils of the Eastern Woodlands, the homelands of the Delaware, Seneca, Cayuga, and many other groups. The tradition of beadwork has survived, however, and is skillfully executed by Native American artists across the country, many who have multi-generational heritage as beadworkers.
A visit from Lucy Parks Blalock of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, now located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to the State Museum was an opportunity for us to meet the creator of a beaded belt in the museum’s collection. Mrs. Blalock made the belt in the late 1920s when ethnohistorian Frank Speck visited the Delaware peoples living in Oklahoma. Mr. Speck was collecting pieces for the Pennsylvania Historical Commission at the time. Mrs. Blalock did not know that her belt was in the museum’s collection and was surprised when she was reunited with her beadwork. Mrs. Blalock spoke the Delaware language and was an important resource for linguist Jim Rementer, who has compiled the Lenape Dictionary and recorded songs and stories, helping to preserve these for future generations.
|Figure 4 Lucy Parks Blalock with her beaded belt, photo from the Collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania|
|Figure 5 beaded purse from the Collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania|
This beaded purse was also collected by Frank Speck and illustrates a combination of beading and silk ribbon trim in a colorful design. Denise Neil-Binion’s discussion of Delaware beadwork attributes floral motifs as a common design element of the 19th century. The red ribbon work on this piece has faded, but the striking design and vibrant colors of the beadwork remain as an example of skilled craftsmanship.
We hope you have enjoyed this blog and will continue to visit us as we highlight the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology. View additional pieces from our collections.
J.A.M.,. "Frank Gouldsmith Speck." Museum Bulletin XV, no. 1 (July, 1950): 3-5. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/3223/