This is a picture, from The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, of a Cheyenne woman, Woxie Haury, in a ceremonial three-hide dress.

The Native American three-hide dress is made from three different hides: one worn as a poncho on top with two sewn together for the skirt. Originally these were made as separate pieces so the poncho could be removed in the summer but gradually in the mid-19th century the poncho would be sewn to the skirt. The dresses were sewn by hand using porcupine quills as needles. The outline of the animal was kept largely intact to honor the animal’s spirit. It is not clear when these dresses came into being, but the tradition began centuries ago, long before European contact. 

The three-hide dress was used predominately amongst the women of the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, and Ute tribal groups, in the Southern Plains, but could be found amongst many native groups in the nineteenth century. These dresses were not only for functional use but also as a means of self-expression in adding adornments to the animal hides. The dresses were primarily ceremonial in use with extremely elaborate embellishments. These dresses became symbols of the Native American culture as certain dresses were created for specific dances or customs.

Women had to prepare the hides by hand, originally using stone tools but later metal tools, like scissors, obtained from Europeans. Native American women would decorate their dresses with fringe, shells, bone or teeth, and cloth. In the nineteenth century, women were able to obtain glass beads from trading companies, particularly those from from Italy and Czechoslovakia. Colors and designs on the dresses symbolized various tribal traditions or were created from dreams or visions.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. government increased pressures for Native Americans to assimilate. Many started to decorate their dresses in red, white, and blue as tribes complied with demands to participate in patriotic ceremonies, like 4th of July. The dresses were important to many indigenous people because they symbolized the Native American’s solidarity against the U.S. even as they were forced to celebrate. 

In other regions of North America, groups favored the side-fold (in the Northern/Central Plains) or two-hide (Northern Plains/Great Basin) dresses, which were also decorated in similar ways.

Today, Native Americans still create three-hide dresses for use in weddings and ceremonies. There are also a handful that are housed in museums such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (as is the one below). These are now seen as a way to connect with a tribe’s past and traditions as well as an art form. 



Modern Cheyenne Version

Modern Cheyenne Version




-Lauren M.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

January 31st, 2009

         This object is a First Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1853. Being the best selling novel (and best selling book, behind the Bible) of the 19th Century, it was very influential and meaningful to Americans during this time period. In it’s storytelling, it brought to the attention of Americans all the horror and cruelty of slavery. It humanized African American slaves and proved to change people’ 

s minds about the morality of slavery. The book helped to bring slavery to forefront as a political issue. It was very meaningful to Northerners and Southerners in different ways. It energized the North to start becoming more abolitionist and anti-slavery, and made the South uncomfortable and forced them to become more defensive of their attitudes supporting slavery. It is often credited with being a factor in the rising tension between the North and South, tensions that eventually escalated to the eruption of the Civil War.  It is claimed that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said to her, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.”


The novel has been adapted into a number of film and play versions. This allowed it to reach an even wider audience, because maybe people viewed stage versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin rather than reading it. This provided a medium for the illeterate to appreciate Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well, however, some of the stage adaptations were not faithful to the message in Stowe’s book. There were many instances in which versions of the show were essentially minstrel shows, white actors dressed up as African-American characters for comic effect in order to perpetuate black stereotypes. This went against the serious nature of the novel and it’s anti-slavery message. There were even stage versions of the book that expressed a blatant pro-slavery message. However, the novel’

s true message has been restored to the general public, in that it continues to be popular to this day, while blackface minstrel shows are not.


This First Edition book was bound in cloth and sold for the price of $1.50. A slightly more expensive version, sold at $2.00, was bound in cloth extra guilt, and was, presumably, stronger. 



Uncle Tom’

s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811-July 1, 1896) and published by John P. Jewett and Company on March 20, 1853, with illustrations by Hammatt Billings. 





Guinness is Good For You!

January 30th, 2009

Guinness is Good For You

The Guinness draught. An Irish beer styled after the popular English Porters of the 1770s. Originally brewed with unmalted barley, in an attempt to avoid the tax on malted barley, Guinness was unique for its distinctively Irish characteristics, and also by virtue of the fact that it was the first Irish brew to be specifically defined by this distinction. With the great influx of Irish immigrants to America, throughout the entire 19th century, the Guinness brand of beers was an integral part of Irish cultural heritage in America. The recipe kept the brew separate from the imported Ale’s coming from England, Scotland, and Wales, and the purely Irish heritage of the Guinness family worked to cement the cultural meaning of the brand as a birthright belonging to all Irish people. The coming of the Irish to America included to coming of Guinness almost by default. Drink existed within the primary social ways of many cultures. In Ireland, where the Guinness brand gained the popularity to become nearly synonymous with the institution of drinking, it is easy to understand the influence of Guinness wherever there are Irishmen. Despite all of the prominence of Guinness among the Irish, and other beer drinkers around the world, it is still an alcoholic beverage. The development of many negative stereotypes surrounding Irish Americans centered on the concept that their fervent love of the beer in many ways was responsible for their degenerate behavior and substandard culture as a whole.

Throughout the 19th century Guinness was still owned and operated by the Guinness family, specifically the sons and grandsons of the founding brewer Arthur Guinness. Arthur was in turn succeeded by his son Arthur Guinness II in 1803, and Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness in 1850, and finally by Edward Cecil in 1868 through the end of the century. Brewed from St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin beginning in 1759 and continuing throughout the modern day, the specifically secret recipe features many essentially Irish ingredients including Irish grown barley. The stout beer quickly gained worldwide renown and by the 1817 it was being imported to America, while it had already earned distinction as the most popular beer in Ireland, and eventually the world. Subsequently the mass importation of Guinness to America, as well as other parts of the globe, began in the 1840s at the onset of the Irish Potato Famine and therefore the mass exodus of Irishmen out of Ireland.

In addition to being the largest and most popular brewery from Ireland, Guinness has set the standards for many hallmarks of the nation in the development of their beer making over the centuries. As a trademark Guinness employs the harp of Brian Boru, however it is positioned towards the left instead of the right, as in the Irish coat of arms. The beer itself continues to be brewed Dublin as well as in 140 countries worldwide. Adding to the popularity, earmarked in this advertisement, was the concept that Guinness was nutritionally sound, although the manufactures now deny any claims to the medical properties of Guinness.

Guinness Family

Guinness Family

Guinness is Good For You: The Guinness Family of Beers

Museum Exhibit #1

January 30th, 2009

The object seen in this image is a set of calipers. A tool used often in the measuring of an individual’s skull in craniology and phrenology. They were used to measure the distance between two points, that are symmetrically opposite one another. As in the book, “The Mismeasure of Man” by Stephen Jay Gould, craniometry is described as the measuring of a person’s skull to determine the size of one’s brain, and therefore gauge the person’s intelligence. The significance of a set of calipers to this course is the racial context in which this sort of tool was implemented in. The scientists and doctors of the time were all white males who held pre-determined conclusions of the inferiority of the black race. This tool exemplifies that racist idea because like the data that they produced the tool could be manipulated or purposeflly mis-read to produce racist results.

At the time, it was considered a perfectly acceptable medical science and accurate measurement of human intelligence. However, as Gould exlplains in detail it was heavily affected by the scientist’s pre-determined racial ideas and all results pointed to whte’s having the most intelligence based off of skull size.

An overview of Craniometry can be found at this link,…

at this link there are more images of calipers and a discussion of the science of Craniometry and how the skulls of lower and higher humans were compared.

Calipers were significant in the 19th century because of their use as a scientific tool, and the research they were used for in establishing white supremacy through medical science. They were also significant, and still are today, because they can be used to measure the distance between any two symmetrical points and can be used in every day life, as well as in scientific and medical research. Calipers are still used by some in the medical profession today as a measure of body fat. This particular style of caliper is called an outside caliper, and is obviously used to measure the external size of an object.

Calipers are generally made of materials such as wood, steel or iron. Modern calipers can also be found in plastic models.

Calipers can be found at any hardware or tool store. Here is an example of a much more modern version of the same style of caliper.

The first image of a caliper is from this location,…

This particular set is housed at this medical antiques location.

As previously mentioned calipers are still a commonly used tool all over the world. They are used for measuring as well as other things, there have also been calibers created as part of a car’s brake system. A different style of caliper can be seen at this link,…

these are called vernier calipers.

The use of calipers has come a long way since the 19th century, however it is important to remember that they were once used as a primitive form of medical research that was said to determine which race of humans was the most intelligent.

Maple Leaf Rag

January 30th, 2009

“Syncopations are no indication of light or trashy music, and to shy bricks at ‘hateful ragtime’ no longer passes for musical culture,” contends Scott Joplin.  Maple Leaf Rag, one of his most famous piano compositions, demonstrates the freshness of Joplin’s use of syncopations.  Written in 1897, Joplin’s title honors the Maple Leaf Club, a black nightclub, in Sedalia, Missouri.

Maple Leaf Rag was one of his earliest works.  The structure of the piece is a multi-strain ragtime march and includes upbeat melodies along with athletic bass lines.  There are four parts with a repeating theme and a progressing bass line topped with many seventh chords.  The piece is unique in that is more precisely constructed than early ragtime works, and Joplin’s use of syncopations was daringly different.

First published in September 1899 on sheet music, Maple Leaf Rag soon sold over one million copies.  This was the first time an instrumental piece sold so many copies.  Joplin recorded the ragtime tune on a piano roll in 1916, along with other works.  The composition was popular with dance and brass bands as well.  Jazz band New Orleans Rhythm Kinds adapted the tune in the 1920s, and Sidney Bechet continued its timeless legacy in the 1940s.  Further, Maple Leaf Rag was heard on the big screen in the movies The Public Enemy, The Sting, and Walt Disney’s The Whoopee Party.

Maple Leaf Rag is a timeless piece.  Ragtime pianists, solo artists, and bands play the popular tune in concerts.  Over one century later, its welcome has not worn out yet and likely never will, as it is one of those classic musical compositions of Americana.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers

January 30th, 2009

The First Fisk Jubilee Singers

The First Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1871

The image displayed is from a nineteenth century group of students called, “The Fisk Jubilee Singers.” The Fisk Jubilee Singers was an all African American group organized in 1871. The singers were from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The university was established in 1866 and was one of the first institutions that provided a liberal arts education to men and women of different color.

George L. White, treasurer and music professor at Fisk University, created the nine member ensemble and toured around America to help raise money for the school. The music group first performed in small towns until their popularity grew, which then allowed them to perform in bigger cities such as Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois. While on the tour, White, in a gesture of encouragement, named the group “The Jubilee Singers” after the year of Jubilee from the Biblical source, the Book of Leviticus.

White encouraged the ensemble to sing hymns of their ancestors. The Fisk Jubilee Singers focused on “spirituals,” which were songs that expressed faith in God. Spirituals originated from slaves in America; the songs helped the African Americans keep their belief in God, helped survive the work day, and even decoded secret plans of slave revolts against their owners. The genre is similar to blues and gospel music. Many of the spiritual songs were influenced by white Christian communities during the nineteenth century. One of the famous songs The Fisk Jubilee Singers were known for performing was “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The song’s message is about how the slaves at the time were asking the Lord to come save them from this terrible place and free their souls. The songs are sung without the accompaniment of instruments.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were one of the groups that opened the doors for other African American musicians during the 1800’s. An example is from 1876, when two women organized the first African American musical-comedy group called “The Hyers Sisters Comic Opera Company.”

The Fisk Jubilee Singers’ music became very well known in America. In 1872, the group was invited to perform for President Grant at the White House, and by 1876 the singers toured in Europe for Kings and Queens. The money raised from their European tour allowed the group to construct the first permanent building on campus called Jubilee Hall. Jubilee Hall still stands and is considered a historic landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. Today the new generations of the Fisk Jubilee Singers still keep the traditions going strong and even sing the same hymns that their ancestors once sung.

In the photograph from left to right are the members: Jennie Jackson, M. Porter, E.W. Watkins, Marbel Lewis, Ella Sheppard, Maggie Carnes, H.D. Alexander, F.J. Loudin, and America W. Robinson. All the members in the photo shown were children of slave parents. The photographer who took the picture of the Fisk Jubilee group is unknown. The photo was taken during the peak of the Fisk Jubilee’s popularity. The style of clothing in the image shows that they had some money to purchase nice outfits for performances. The men are wearing nice black and white suites while the women are wearing long formal matching dresses. The clothing could display the style of upper-middle class during the nineteenth century.

Link Source

The Highbinders

January 29th, 2009

This Image is from the newspaper Harpers Weekly.  It was published on February 13, 1886.  It is located on pg. 100 of the XXX volume of Harpers Weekly.

The main picture in the image is of a street in Chinatown, San Francisco.  In this image two Highbinders are seen standing in the middle of the street.  The caption of this image is the Haunt of the Highbinders in Chinatown.  This could be meant to illustrate how the Chinese Highbinders were an ever-present force of crime over the Chinatowns in San Francisco.  In the San Fransisco Chinatowns of the 19th century  Highbinders were the criminal element.  They were member of Tongs whcih were social gruops who controlled much of the leisure activities in Chinatown and crime.  The fame of the Highbinders and the Tongs became so well known by the white community, Tong wars were often staged for the white Tourist.

On the right of the main image four Chinese men are pictured.  They are four Highbinders, or Chinese criminals.  They are named in order of top to bottom is Wong Ah Bang, Chu Ah Lung, Chung Ah Kit, and Lee Ah Fook.
The top most images is titled the Highbinders favorite weapons.  It shows pictures of pistols, knives, clubs, hatchets, and swords.  Many of the weapons appear to be of Chinese design.
Background information on the Highbinders society depicted in the newspaper image.  Highbinders were a secret society formed in the Chinese Quarters of San Francisco; they were formed for blackmail and police purposes.  The Highbinder societies became a nest for criminal activity.  The Harpers Weekly article say they were known for their violence and disregard for human life.  They were seen to be very evasive for the authorities, even to be completely out of the scope of American Law.  The men pictured on the right of the image were all Highbinders.  They were kidnappers, murders, and robbers.  They were also known to wield weapons from their homeland even wearing chain mail for protection.
The Highbinders have made there way into pop culture through film.  There were two silent films made by the title of the Highbinders, one in 1915 and one in 1926.


January 29th, 2009



Above is the cover to a piece of sheet music entitled “We Mourn Our Country’s Loss: National Funeral March” by Augustus Buechel. After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April 14, 1865 the country was in shock. Lincoln had just reunited America and put an end to slavery. History remembers Lincoln as the man who freed the slaves. However, even though Lincoln freed the slaves he did not necessarily believe in social equality. But he still ended the practice of slavery in the United States. During Lincoln’s presidency and after his death, well into the 1900s, many composers, not just in the United States but around the world, wrote songs about him to commemorate Lincoln for his stance on equality. Music was the one form of entertainment at the time but because there were no radios people learned songs through the sheet music and people all over the country were able to hear the songs written about Lincoln, to remember what he did for America and the idea of freedom.

The cover of this sheet music is similar to other pieces of music written about the death of Lincoln. This one uses many american symbols, like Lady Liberty comforting the American eagle while looking mournfully at Lincoln’s casket with the American flag draped over it. Above the casket is Lincoln surrounded by the angels. These images show how important Lincoln was to people, many even regarded him as a savior. 

This cover, along with many others, is currently held in the Library of Congress’ Rare Books and Special Collections Division which was donated by Alfred Whital Stern.

Here is a link to other covers of sheet music written about Lincoln.

Beaded Moccasins

January 29th, 2009

A Plains Indian delegation to a Washington, D.C. peace conference presented this pair of beaded moccasins to President Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870s. The shoes are most likely made from deer or buffalo hide. Small glass beads, which became popular among the Plains Indians in the mid-nineteenth century, create the intricate red, white, and blue flags and stars. The exact tribal origin of the moccasins appears to be have been lost, but some experts point out that both the Lakota and the Cheyenne frequently incorporated the image of the American flag into their work during this era.

It is interesting that any Indian group would adopt the use of the American flag, considering the government’s history of violence and oppression towards them. And, though some Indians referred to him as the Great Father, Grant’s presidency was an especially great time of upheaval for Native Americans. He signed the Indian Appropriation Act in 1871, essentially declaring all Indians wards of the state. His administration continued the trend of herding tribes on to reservations and erecting schools to assimilate and “civilize” Indian children. Perhaps the makers of these moccasins wished the shoes to be a peace offering, a sign of solidarity with the oppressor that would allow them to keep their lands or acquire special assistance from the government. Flags, indeed, had long been exchanged with peace treaties, while Wild West shows and celebrations surrounding the American centennial made the stars and stripes an even more common image across the country. Then again, Native Americans may have incorporated the flag as an image of ironic defiance and a reminder that the tribes continued to exist despite what seemed the best efforts of the US government to eradicate them. The flag was often depicted upside-down as well, which, knowingly or unknowingly to the Native Americans, is an official signal of distress.

Grant’s grandson Chapman donated the moccasins to the Smithsonian, where they are currently housed in the National Museum of American History, in 1973.

Here is another example of Native American art featuring the American flag. This is a Navajo tapestry from 1876 which is now found in the National Museum of the American Indian:

[From A larger version can be seen here]

This object is a ten-cent stamp commissioned in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America. The stamp shows Columbus presenting a group of half-dressed Native Americans to the king and queen of Spain. The stamp’s caption reads “Columbus Presenting the Natives.” By 1893, America’s expansionist wars against Native Americans had mostly come to an end. In showing Columbus presenting a group of “natives” to a European audience as though they were souvenirs, the stamp reaffirms a feeling of superiority over the defeated Native Americans.

The dress of the natives in question also shows the Western stereotype of natives. The natives are dressed like the recently defeated western American tribes, such as the Sioux, though Columbus would not have met those tribes on his journeys. The stamp’s release coincided with the release of an essay by Frederick Turner Jackson titled “The Significance of the Frontier on American Life.” This essay was considered in its time extremely significant and helped to justify the westward expansion. That essay, along with the popular idea of the “noble savage” made the western Lakota native a popular image in the American mind. The artist of the stamp went for the popular stereotype that would be recognized by Americans and turned the vast tribes into just one. What should have been a moment of uniting the New World with the Old, was instead turned into a scene of Europeans capturing Native Americans.

It should also be noted that in the bottom right corner sit a group of what can be presumed to be slaves watching the proceedings. Along with the natives on the left corner, the two groups flank the properly-dressed, regal Europeans. The stamp’s composition put this white Europeans in a place of prominence, highlighting their “civilized” way over the “barbarous” natives who are forced off to the side.

The stamp was commissioned by the United States Post Office as part of a series of commemorative Columbus stamps. According to a note on the below a row of three stamps, the stamps were produced by the American Bank Note Company, an engraving company that had a contract with the United States Post Office. These stamps would have been used by the majority of the American public in order to send mail.

The stamp was created in 1893 in the United States. The image is an engraving that has been transferred to India paper using gray/black ink. This stamp can now be found The Benjamin K. Miller Stamp Collection in the New York Public Library.

This stamp is similar in style to other stamps of the late nineteenth century. It is engraved and heavily detailed. The composition of many stamps were dissimilar to the Columbus stamp, favoring profile portraits or busts of American presidents. All of the stamps available on the website from the latter half of the nineteenth century feature the words “United States” and “Postage” on the stamp and also feature intricately detailed borders. The Columbus Exposition stamps are unique in their crowded pictures; few stamps in the nineteenth century or today feature such detailed scenes.