The Neville Public Museum

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Why Was Ebenezer Childs Left Out of Green Bay History?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Last month in Part I of this blog we introduced the colorful character of Ebenezer Childs.  Early in our research for Life and Death at Fort Howard we encountered this larger-than-life figure who was apparently involved in many of the “firsts” in Green Bay’s history.  Childs’ memoirs have been used as a source by countless researchers studying this time period, but no one has taken the time to learn more about Childs himself.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, Childs is unknown in Green Bay today and very little was written about him by the people that worked and lived with himLetter from Childs to his lawyer accusing his wife of having an affair (May 28, 1839), Neville Public Museum Collection .  

One of the unfortunate truths about working on exhibits like Life and Death at Fort Howard is that, eventually, you have to stop researching and start actually building the exhibit.  Our team had moved on to researching other aspects of the Fort Howard story when our Research Technician, James, made an unexpected discovery about Childs. 

This discovery was a letter written by Childs which was sent to Morgan L. Martin, his attorney.  (Read the letter here)  In the letter we learned that Childs had married into the prominent Grignon family and that his wife had recently given birth; however, Childs alleges that he is not the father of his wife Margaret’s child.  He names a man who he believes to be the father, and reveals that “one thing is certain… I can never live with my wife anymore.”  This revelation was shocking, as Childs had never mentioned a family in his memoirs.  We later found a reference to the Childs’ wedding in another source, but otherwise this letter was the sole indication that Childs had ever been married.

Recently we had a chance continue researching more about Childs and his life after Green Bay.  We utilized the Area Research Center at UW-Green Bay and were able to find marriage and birth certificates that back up the contents of this letter, along with a Childs v. Childs divorce file.  During the divorce Margaret Childs wrote a scathing and lengthy statement alleging that her husband was often intoxicated and “neglectful”.  

This letter may explain why we know so little of Childs; we can only assume that the divorce was an embarrassment to all involved, and after Childs left Green Bay it is reasonable to assume that it was not a topic of polite conversation.  Perhaps the residents of Green Bay avoided speaking of Childs, and that is why his name has not made it into the history books until now.  It is also quite possible that he was intentionally omitted from the record, essentially “erasing” him from history.

The thing that attracted me to Childs in the beginning was the sheer outrageousness of his claims mixed with an element of mystery.  As we continued to uncover his story, however, I began to think;  Is it really my place to expose this incident in the life of a man who lived 150 years ago that he himself would have preferred to stay secret?  As a historian I try to use the stories of the past to make sense of the present.  Ebenezer Childs was truly a “founding father” of Green Bay, and he deserves to be remembered as such.  Understanding this chapter of his life not only explains why he hasn’t been viewed in this light until now, but explains the decisions he made after his time in Green Bay.  It also reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and that as historians all we have to work with is what has been left behind.

Ryan Swadley

Museum Education

 

*Within two years of his divorce Ebenezer had left Green Bay, served as a state legislator, and spent his final days in La Crosse.  Further research will need to be done regarding Margaret and Louis, but it appears Margaret never remarried and lived near Kaukauna for the rest of her life.  We have not yet found any records of Louis.

The Moon: A Dangerous Place?

Monday, July 18, 2016
The moon seems like such a familiar place these days.  We know how big it is, what it is made of, the atmosphere around it and its relationship to the Earth.  Now think back fifty years.  Scientists during the 1960s had no idea what the moon was like.  Was there a solid surface?  Was there a layer of dust on that surface?  If there was a layer of dust, how deep was that layer?  Was it a couple of feet deep or a couple of hundred feet deep?  If the United States was going to send a man to the moon, these were the kinds of questions that needed to be answered.

Segment aired on WBAY in September 1963, Neville Public Museum Collection 

I had the opportunity of working with the film held in the museum’s collection.  Here I was able to see just how unknown the moon was and NASA's thoughts on their ten year plan and budget for sending a man to the moon.


NASA spent billions of dollars making and launching rockets, satellites, space probes and space crafts into space in order to gather information.  Every one of their programs was essential to the United States’ goal of a landing a man on the moon.  Each program was made to teach the scientists something new about space and the moon.  

Space Programs:
Mercury: 1958-1963
Project Mercury was for sending a man into the Earth’s orbit.  This would help scientists learn how the Earth’s atmosphere works and how to send a man into space and return him safely.  Alan Shepard was the first American man to be launched into space and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.
Astronaut John Glenn  responds to letter from a local resident, Neville Public Museum Collection
Echo: 1960
The Echo project was used for improving communication knowledge.  

Gemini: 1961-1966
The Gemini Project was intended to learn space travel techniques that would help with the actual moon landings.

Lunar Orbiter: 1966-1967
The Lunar Orbiter Program was a handful of unmanned space crafts sent to the moon to take pictures and help narrow down landing spaces for the future Apollo missions.

Surveyor: 1966-1968
The Surveyor Program’s mission was to send satellites to land on the moon.  This would help determine the kind of surface there was on the moon so then when the time came to send astronauts there, they would know they could land safely on the surface.

Apollo: 1961-1972
The Apollo Program’s purpose was to use all of the information gathered from the previous programs to send a man to the moon, walk on the moon and then return safely home.  On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts landed and walked on the moon.  In 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts were able to drive on the moon.
1971: Apollo 15 astronaut standing next to the Lunar Rover Vehicle on the moon. Neville Public Museum Collection #7636

It is hard to think that the moon was once an unknown, scary place to not only the public but to scientists as well.  Years and years of intense research went in to determining if space travel was even possible and if a moon landing could be on the long list of future goals.  Fortunately, with dedicated scientists constantly researching, the United States was able to remove the fear of the moon and send astronauts to walk on it.  Since then, NASA has been developing new technology to further their knowledge of space.  This technology is how we are able to learn information about the planets, stars and galaxies and how we are able to view amazing pictures of the incredible Space.


Visit Eyes on the Sky: July 16-November 6, 2016

Andrea Schroeder
UW-Green Bay Intern

Who is Ebenezer Childs?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
The best part about history is that no matter how much you think you know, there’s always something more to every story.  We’ve been learning that lesson again herEbenezer Childs 1856  From the Wisconsin Historical Societye at the Neville Public Museum as part of our research into Fort Howard and the early foundations of Green Bay.  Wealth and power, marriage and divorce, drunkenness and defiance, and even an alleged affair and paternity scandal come together in the story of Ebenezer Childs.

Over a year ago, when we began our initial research for our exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard, we naturally looked to our collections from the prominent “founding fathers” of Green Bay.  Men like Morgan L Martin, Henry Baird, and many members of the Grignon family were all connected with the first settlers in Green Bay.  However, we kept coming across a man named Ebenezer Childs, who was mentioned throughout many official records and personal correspondences, but who he was and what he did was never really explained.  Using books and articles that researchers before us had written we finally identified this character, and even found that he had written a very short autobiography.

Childs’ memoirs were the piece of the puzzle we needed…or so we thought.  He writes of his many exploits; some as simple as building the first framed home in Green Bay, building the first ox yolk here, partnering with John Arndt to build the first sawmill in the area, and even claiming to have brought the first piece of lead to Green Bay.  Other tales, such as how he eluded the authorities of the fort to illegally sell alcohol to the soldiers, survived harrowing journeys to St Louis and Madison, and outran tax collectors as a young man in his home state of Massachusetts are more fanciful.  However, in a letter to his lawyer, Morgan L Martin, we discovered a whole side of Childs’ life that he did not share in his remembrances.
Ebenezer signs the letter he wrote to his lawyer Morgan L. Martin in 1839.  This letter revealed an unknown part of his life and his connection to a prominent family in Green Bay.
As historians, the case of Ebenezer Childs reminds us of two things.  First, the process of doing history is messy and murky.  Researchers in the present day can only use the sources that have not been destroyed or lost.  Who knows how many stories, people, and events have been forgotten simply because no record of them survives?  The second lesson is that you can’t always believe everything you read.  Childs makes many claims in his own autobiography, but we can also prove he left many things out.  Neither a modern day Facebook profile nor a 150 year old autobiography can tell us the complete story of a person’s life, and it’s easy for the writer to embellish, omit, or simply misremember the facts.

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, where we reveal the scandals that may have caused Ebenezer Childs to have been “erased” from history.  Or, even better, visit Life and Death at Fort Howard to discover what we know about Childs’ life.  And even better than that, visit us on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m. for our Exhibits Exposed program, where we will share new information about Childs that has been discovered even after the exhibit opened along with additional artifacts and stories about the people of early Green Bay.

Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions will be bringing the vivacious character to life this weekend only at the museum.  For more information and tickets visit Ticket Star.  

 

Ryan Swadley 

Museum Education

Public Archaeology at the Site of Fort Howard

Friday, May 27, 2016

On May 20th  and 21st I had the pleasure of leading a public archaeological survey at the site of the historic military site, Fort Howard, in downtown Green Bay. Thanks to special permission from Brent Weycker, owner of Titletown Brewery, we were allowed to set up a survey area behind the brewery along the railroad tracks.  Based on historic maps and previous research, this area is thought to be the location of the southeast section of the former fort.  

More than one hundred people came out both days to learn about the fort’s history and the technology being used to locate it.  Although we know the approximate location of the fort we do not know exactly where the stockade or any of the buildings stood.  The main technology used in the survey was the museums’ Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). 

GPR is a technology that uses radio waves to “look” into the earth without digging.  The radio waves bounce off of buried objects and are captured on a computer chip.  After the survey area is mapped the data can be sliced in layers using special computer software.  This can reveal patterns that might give clues to the size and shape of buried features and how deep these features are located.

Over the course of the 2 days, 3 survey grids were collected with a total area of 5,433 cubic feet.  The depth that the GPR was looking was just over 6 feet deep.  After processing the data, it was clear that there is large amount of disturbance in the first 2 feet or so, likely from the past hundred years of railroad activity. However below 2 feet things got interesting. 

GPR Maps showing anomalies at 1.2 meters below the surface.  Red and Green shaded areas indicate buried objects / features.

Around 3 feet below the surface, a series of anomalies appeared in all of the survey grids we collected.  Once the grids were stitched together at the same depth, a pattern emerged that strongly points to these anomalies as being human-made and possibly associated with the historic Fort Howard.   At this time we cannot confirm that what the GPR is showing us is the fort but if there was to be a controlled archaeological excavation, we can recommend an exact location to dig.  Known as “ground truthing,” an excavation would prove if what we’re seeing are the remains of wall foundations or something else.  Aerial view of the Fort Howard Military Post prior to its demolition, ca. 1867

In the meantime, we hope to continue surveying the area behind Titletown Brewery, and hopefully beyond, in order to piece together a much larger understanding of Fort Howard.  If the patterns in the data below one meter continue, then it will make for a compelling case that we have located the foundations of the fort that made Green Bay American.  

I will be presenting the findings of our GPR survey at a special Hardcore History event on August 9th at 6pm.  If you want to learn more about the history of the site and Fort Howard’s influence on Green Bay visit our current exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard open through April 2017! 

Kevin Cullen

Deputy Director

Lure of the Ocean with Exhibition Director, Mike Rivkin

Friday, March 11, 2016

Last night the tour director of Lure of the Ocean, Mike Rivkin was able to visit the exhibit during its opening reception.  We had the opportunity to chat with Mike about his passion for the artwork    

How did you become involved with the SStanley Meltzoff Underwatertanley Meltzoff Foundation?

I’ve always been a fisherman by trade, frequently going on sea fishing trips. While attending school in New York in the Late 1970s I walked into a gallery hosting a show by Stanley Meltzoff. I was mesmerized by the pieces and began following Stanley’s work.  After selling my mail order business in 2004, I was looking to purchase an art piece and immediately remembered the work I had seen at Stanley’s gallery show. I went to the Stanley Meltzoff website to inquire about purchasing a painting. To my surprise, I actually received an e-mail back from Stanley Meltzoff himself. Sadly, Stanley passed away later that year; however, I became friends with his family and continued to purchase and collect Stanley’s artwork.
Secrets of Arcimboldo's Reef, Stanley Meltzoff
Which painting in the exhibition is your favorite?
All of the pieces in the exhibition are great but my two favorites are Bluefin Tuna and Ballyhoo and Secrets of Arcimboldo's ReefBluefin and Ballyhoo is one of Stanley’s most powerful works. The painting’s realistic representation of the Bluefin tuna as the apex predator that I know it to be makes it one of my favorites. I also enjoy Secrets of Arcimboldo's Reef because of its sheer beauty. It is a gorgeous representation of marine life and it is the personification of seeing this fish in person.

Why should people in Green Bay come to see Lure of the Ocean?

People should come and see this exhibit because although there are other marine artists, none of them are able to paint these fish as realistically as Stanley Meltzoff.  Meltzoff created his works with such realism that it is as if you are seeing them in their habitat. I understand that, here you are not near the ocean, but people in the area may never have the opportunity to see these fish in real life.  Coming to see Stanley Meltzoff’s work is about as close as you can get.

Bluefin Tuna and Ballyhoo, Stanley Meltzoff

 

One thing worth repeating is that he is not an artist nor does he consider himself an art specialist.  His is an avid lover of deep sea fishing and marine life.  This is what drew him into Stanely’s work and now he travels sharing these pieces of art with people around the nation.   See the works yourself and explore oceanic life through these inspired pieces.  Lure of the Ocean is open through May 8th.  

An Undelivered Love Letter

Thursday, February 11, 2016
With the opening of Life and Death at Fort Howard right around the corner, I thought what better time than Valentine’s Day to share a love letter from Fort Howard written in 1826.  Unfortunately, this letter isn’t all hugs and kisses.  Lt. Loring’s “dear Caroline” never received this letter that was given to John Lawe for delivery. 

Caroline, the 16 year old daughter of the fort’s Commanding Officer, Major William Whistler, was being courted not only by Lt. Loring, but also Lt. Bloodgood.   In the end Caroline never received the letter and married Lt. Bloodgood.  This water stained letter in our collection is all the remains of Lt. Loring and Caroline Whistler's short lived romance.    

Read the letter for yourself below! 

  Letter to Caroline Whistler from Lt. Loring (Martin Papers)

 

Fort Howard, Sunday morning
My dear Caroline,
        
A short time before I left this place I mentioned to you that Mr. Bloodgood had said to me that he was desirous of speaking to me on a particular subject & that I thought it was concerning you and myself this turned out to be the fact for on the day previous to our regiment’s starting, he in conversation with me stated his feelings toward you & wished to know from me positively our situation in regard to each other, at the same time disavowing any wish to supplant me in your esteem or affection- he was so frank in his avowal & remarks- that I was led to declare to him what I did then & must still believe to be the fact- that I considered myself bound and engaged to you by every tie that could possibly bind a man of honor to the woman he loved & that nothing but your father’s consent was in the way of our being united before I left the bay- he appeared satisfied and requested permission to mention the conversation to your parents and yourself, as he thought it necessary to account you and them for discontinuing his visits and attentions which from regard to me he intended doing.  I told him I had no objection to his telling you what I had said- but being fearful that your mother would be offended and probably make your time more disagreeable, I requested him not speak to your parents on the subject & continue his visits as usual.


Yesterday he walked out with me and told me that he had spoken to you on the subject a few days after I left- & that you stated to him the amount of what follows-  “That you did not consider that there was any engagement between us- that I had formerly been very attentive to you, but for some time past had neglected you very much- that your parents had objected to your marriage with me & for this reason & your having been advised by your friends not to connect yourself with me, you had concluded that we never should be married & in fact considered me as only a common acquaintance”  

The above, Caroline, is as near as I can recollect the amount of what he told me- but I shall make no comment upon it for I cannot unless I hear from yourself believe that you are so much altered- there must have been some mistake.  

I must see you if possible Caroline & immediately, therefore I wish you to make some arrangement to pass the evening from home& inform me what I shall meet you- say at the doctor’s, or you might walk in the garden with Rachel and your Cousin Abbot-

Nothing that may happen will ever change my feeling towards you & believe me my dear girl,
        Yours as truly as ever,

        H.H. Loring

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

The Murder of Lt. Foster and His Frock Coat

Friday, February 05, 2016
In our core exhibition On the Edge of the Inland Sea, you can get lost in all the stories and artifacts between the mastodon and the 1908 Holsman Car.  But one thing that caught my eye, even before becoming the curator, was a blue military coat tucked in a corner by the “Fort Howard” section of the exhibit.   Behind the Fort Howard in "On the Edge of the Inland Sea"coat is a sketch of a man pointing a musket at another man and below is a small label with a story.   The story of the coat’s owner's fate is captivating.  But the stories untold in the exhibit are even more remarkable.    

The first part of the story is what you find in the exhibit on the second floor of the museum.  The young U.S. Army lieutenant who wore this coat 185 years ago died in it. Lt. Amos Foster was shot and killed by one of his own soldiers, Private Patrick Doyle.   In February 1832, Doyle was detained in the guardhouse for being drunk and disorderly.   Alcohol consumption was a real problem at Fort Howard, especially since part of the soldier’s rations included two gills of whiskey or rum (the equivalent of four shots today).   After a few days, on February 7, 1832, Doyle persuaded a guard to escort him to the Lt. Foster’s quarters to talk to him.  After harsh words and a scuffle Doyle stole the guard’s musket and killed Lt. Foster.  Doyle was immediately arrested.  He was tried and sentenced to death in July of 1832.  It is said Doyle was hanged outside the stockade wall of the fort for all to see. 
Painting of Fort Howard from 1899 by B. Ostertac (#2704/1757)

My big question when I started to look at the coat more closely was how do we know?  How do we know what happened and the supposed words exchanged between Lt. Foster and Doyle?  How do we know this was Lt. Foster’s coat?  After I started pulling at this thread I found there is far more to this story than has been told in that label on the 2nd floor.  After digging through historical documents, different stories of the incident were revealed.  Interesting tales of Doyle’s time while he was incarcerated and even a ghostly haunting of the officer’s quarters are mentioned in people’s memoirs.  


Beyond historical documents the coat itself can tell you another part of the story.  It reveals Lt. Foster’s role in society while he wore it (a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry based on the coat construction and rank insignia).  It can also share insight to his early demise.  We can clearly see where the bullet entered and exited.  We can see loss of wool from blood staining.  It is also probable the surgeon at the time, Dr. Clement Finely, tried to get at the wounds quickly.   The bottom 7 buttons appear to have been cut off, probably because they were buttoned at the time of the murder. 


   
 
The coat Lt. Foster was wearing when he was murdered on February 7, 1832 (#1988.78.1)
 Entry point of the bullet that killed Lt. Foster

Now if you look at the photograph of the coat on exhibit in our main gallery on the second floor, you may notice it has all of its buttons.  That’s because the one on exhibit there is a replica.  Why would we not put the real thing out?  Because of all the coat has been through.  It has been through 19th century Wisconsin winters, a gunshot, blood stains, and several years in an attic in Texas.  That is why the exhibit team is beyond excited to pull the real thing out of storage for Life and Death at Fort Howard.  Not only will the coat be displayed for the first time at the Neville, but the team has created exciting new ways of explore the coat and Lt. Foster’s story. 

There is so much more we can and will share about this special artifact but nothing beats seeing the real thing.  Life and Death at Fort Howard is open through April 9, 2017!

Lisa Zimmerman
Curator 

    

Exhibits Exposed

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
One of my favorite things about working at the Neville is that there is always something new to see or do at the museum.  This past year we’ve borrowed two great exhibits (Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs and Extreme Deep:  Mission to the Abyss), developed a great exhibit about local history (Building Our Community: 100 Years of Architecture and Design), and hosted several art exhibits showcasing works from the region and beyond. 

When our team met recently to discuss ideas for 2016, one of our goals was to find new ways to provide our visitors with unique, one-of-a-kind experiences.  In response, we developed a new program series called “Exhibits Exposed,” which will take place the third Wednesday evening of each month, starting at 6:00.  In this program you’ll join one of our experts on staff for a tour of a featured exhibit, and learn some of the facts and stories that didn’t make it onto the labels.  Then, you’ll have a chance to view some iconic artifacts pulled from our collection that are usually not available to the public.

My colleagues and I are very excited for the chance to share these rarely-heard stories, and even more rarely-seen artifacts from the Neville’s amazing collection.   We hope you’ll be able to join us for these intimate and lively discussions.

 

 

Exhibits Exposed Schedule
January 20:  Iroquois Beadwork and Sisters in Spirit
February 17:  The Fur Trade in Green Bay
March 16:  Feline Fine and the Art of Cats
April 20:  Stories of Life and Death at Fort Howard
May 18:  Art and Artists of Green Bay
June 15:  The Ice Age is Coming
July 20:  Interstellar Overdrive – Eyes on the Sky
August 17:  More of Life and Death at Fort Howard
September 21:  Frozen Green Bay
October 19:  Haunted Wisconsin
November 16:  Holiday Memories

All programs take place the third Wednesday evening of each month at 6:00 and are free with regular museum admission.  Sessions will be capped to ensure a personalized experience; additional sessions will start on the half hour as needed.

Ryan Swadley
Education Specialist

A Fort Howard Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

 

192 years ago a cheerful holiday feast was held just across the street from the museum near Leicht Park at Fort Howard. 

Once a fort officer, Col. McNeil (later commander of Fort Howard 1824-1825), found out how important it was to the French residents of the area to celebrate Christmas, he planned an elaborate party.  The officers invited the French, the Americans and native people living in the area.  The 4’ o’clock dinner is said to have fed a hundred people.  The evening included a feast of fish, bear, and porcupine along with a dance that lasted late into the night.  

A local land surveyor who attended the fort’s Christmas dinner/dance in 1823 describes the evening...   
    The hall was well filled… men and women, were attired in all the grades of dress, from the highest partisan down to the buck-skin coats, pants, petticoat, and moccasins of the aboriginals.  Yet as no one of the elite thought himself over-dressed, so, on the other hand, none of the citizens, French or half-breeds reproached themselves with least want or etiquette, or of intended disrespect of their host, on account of costume.
    -Albert G. Ellis

The fort hosted several gatherings like this one during its existence.  Maj. Zachary Taylor (Commander of Fort Howard 1816-1818 and later President of the United States) has been known for hosting social events but the truth is several officers enjoyed throwing hosting parties, including Col. McNeil.  

An Invitation addressed to Mrs. Lawe for a ball at Fort Howard in 1820 (NPM #1989.26.48) 

These gatherings led to some interesting stories including one murder and dangerous trip across the river during a violent storm.  These stories will be featured in our upcoming exhibit, Life and Death at Fort Howard opening in April 2016.  

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

Iroquois Raised Beadwork with Karen Ann Hoffman

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Over the last year the museum staff has had the pleasure to work with two Wisconsin artists in the creation of our current exhibit Sisters in Spirit: Native American Stories in Rocks and Beads.  Geri "Sisters in Spirit" on exhibit until February 14, 2016Schrab contributed the rock art watercolors featured in the exhibit, many of which are based on rock art sites in Wisconsin. Karen Ann Hoffman uses her tribe’s traditional Iroquois raised beadwork to celebrate the legends of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).  Together the exhibit presents a compelling glimpse of the continuing influence of Native Americans on contemporary Wisconsin art.

Karen Ann’s contemporary work takes inspiration from the historic pieces like the artifacts in the museum’s collection.  When Karen Ann took some time to look at our collection’s Iroquois raised beadwork we asked if she’d be willing to share her thoughts in a blog.   So here is a guest blog post from Karen Ann Hoffman about the art of Iroquois raised beadwork and the museum’s collection.  Enjoy!

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

Iroquois Raised Beadwork 

Iroquois Raised Beadwork is a rare and beautiful style of Native American art which originated in the Eastern Great Lakes region. This art is a material language which embodies, preserves and expresses Iroquois world view. Its forms and designs reach back over ten-thousand years. The motifs were first executed with bone and shell, later with moose-hair and hide and, since the 1500’s, with glass beads and trade cloth.


I want to thank my teachers: Samuel Thomas and Lorna Hill for instructing me in the the cultural connections and responsibilities that make Iroquois Raised Beadwork so rich and meaningful. Thanks are also due to the Neville Museum for exhibiting my contemporary Iroquois Raised Beadwork. I have come to understand that pieces I produce today, should stand, not for me as an individual; but for our Iroquois world view. That someday, long after my name is forgotten, my beadwork will need to speak about us in a strong, clear voice.

The Iroquois Raised Beadwork pieces in the Neville Museum’s collection represent a different segment of Iroquois beadwork often termed “Whimseys”, though some feel this term trivializes the artform (Elliott, Preserving Tradition and Understanding the Past: Papers from the Conference on Iroquois Research, 2001–2005). They were likely made in New York or Canada by members of the Mohawk and Tuscarora communities specifically for sale to the tourist market in the mid to late 1800’s.

Mohawk-style beadwork of this period, is often characterized by a heavier, more opulent beadwork style using larger seed beads than the Tuscarora-style work which may exhibit more intricate beadwork patterns using smaller seed beads. Some pieces have characteristics of both styles.
Whisk Broom Holder dated 1905. Mohawk style (#R32-5)
Iroquois beaders developed items which would appeal to the souvenir market: pin cushions, needle cases and match holders.

These items were sold at locations popular among Victorian Era middle and upper middle class tourists including: Niagara Falls, New York State Fairs, and exhibitions up and down the Eastern Seaboard and were often embellished with the location name or date of purchase. Heavily Beaded pincushion circa 1880 (#L6802)

Perhaps because so many of the pieces were purchased during honeymoon trips, the heart became a popular form. A tri-lobed heart was not uncommon and examples of this shape appear as pincushions in the Neville’s collection, all in the heavily raised “Mohawk-style” so popular in the last quarter of the 19th-Century.

This large, stuffed pincushion (circa 1880) is a fine example of Mohawk-style exuberance.                                         The original purple color of the velvet has faded over time.  (#4523/2169)
Iroquois Raised Beadwork is fascinating and important. It relates its maker to the long chain of Iroquois beaders who came before and provides a connection to beaders whose faces we have yet to see. For myself, when I bead sometimes I swear I hear the whispers of the beaders of our past encouraging me to, “do it right, do it well. Keep our voices alive.”

Yaw^ko
Karen Ann Hoffman 

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