Today’s spotlight is on an early twentieth century piece of Western American History. Recently we took a look at the authentic Native American jacket we found at the Malden Bridge Community Center Appraisal Day event. The jacket is characterized by intricate beading and design.
Though the history of this garment is still speculative, the original owners believe that it was crafted by Plains Indians primarily as a costume in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows. Shows like Buffalo Bill’s and others characterized late nineteenth and early twentieth century entertainment in the central and eastern United States.
The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show started in 1883 under the leadership of William Fredrick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody employed a cast of over one hundred Native Americans, and sharpshooters like Annie Oakley to portray a theatrical and abbreviated history of the “conquering” of the western frontier to an audience that knew little of the American Indian wars of the 18th and 19th century.
The Wild West Shows were created to romanticize pre-war Native American civilization. The shows featured live “buffalo hunts” and even reenactments of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Some of the cast in the Wild West Shows had even been present for the battle, and -for the most part- willingly participated in the battle’s caricature. Though the Wild West performances originated in Nebraska, they became so popular in the late 1800s that the cast went on tour to New York and Europe, accumulating a large fan base that included Queen Victoria.
The beaded jacket here was not created for traditional use in everyday Native American life. It was created as an eye-catching garment to be worn by performers in the Wild West Shows. The details are more intricate and the colors are brighter than one would normally see on a traditional Native American item. This particular jacket is a costume that was worn by a Wild West Performer during the early 1900s, and it is estimated to be work between $3,000 and $5,000.
On Saturday, April 25th, we were in residence at the Malden Bridge Community Center Appraisal Day event. The event is similar to the Antiques Roadshow: individuals bring in their family treasures for appraisers to evaluate, looking for information and hoping for a pleasant surprise. We had a great time at the event, meeting lots of people and seeing some really interesting things. This week we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the highlights from the day.
This small box held one of the tiniest surprises of the day: four intricately carved peach pits from China. Carving fruit and walnut pits has been an admired form of folk art in China for centuries. The art of fruit pit carvings is called Heidao (“nut carving”). It may have began from the Chinese belief that the peach symbolized life and longevity, or may be because “peach” is pronounced the same as the word for “escape”. The origins are mysterious, but using or wearing peach pits to ward off evil and avoid misfortune was a firmly established tradition that likely evolved into this art form. While Heidao means “nut carving”, the art form has primarily used peach stones. The art of nut carving gained popularity over 700 years ago, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the intricate miniature sculptures had become one of the most appreciated art forms as well as a fashionable accessory. Even the emperor himself owned several decorative pieces by master artisans.
Each peach stone is unique, with an irregular shape covered in bumps and holes. A master carver was capable of producing an exquisite three-dimensional sculpture on a very tiny scale. The finest master carvers could create complex historical scenes, poetic themes, overflowing flower baskets, rustic landscapes, on a peach stone usually measuring somewhere between 3/4″ to 1 3/4″ long. Each tiny work of art was an incredible feat of creative vision, technical skill, and patience.
The carved peach pits brought to Saturday’s Appraisal Event probably date to the 19th century. Each has a unique design, miniature in scale and finely detailed in technique: a fishing boat, a person driving a wagon, a city market scene filled with merchants and customers, and an intricate landscape arrangement of flowers, leaves, and vines. These fruit pit carvings are a really nice example of how this traditional folk art has persevered for centuries.
Have you stumbled across an old interesting item while spring cleaning? Have you always wondered about that unusual painting that once belonged to your grandparents?
On Saturday, May 9th 2015, Mark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques and sponsor of Antiques Road Show will be doing an evaluation of your antiques and other items of interest at the Malta Community Center. The event begins at 10am.
Mark Lawson will speak about antiques and publicly evaluate each interesting item and fantastic estate find that registered participants have brought in. Bring an item to be appraised or come just to watch!
Pre-registration is required and can be done at the Malta Community Center website. The registration window has been extended.
Item appraisal will be $15 for Malta residents, $17 for non-residents.
General Admission for the show only $2 (Resident) / $3 (Non-resident).