Bandolier or shoulder bags

Bandolier bags are a form of shoulder bag that came into use in the second half of the 19th century in the Great Lakes region. They are generally constructed of wool and are usually decorated with designs (geometric and/or floral) employing glass beads. The beads are either sewn on using applique' techniques or loom-woven panels of beads are mounted on a cloth foundation.  Ribbon and bias tape edgings or trims are also present and the bottom edge is often trimmed with beaded fringe, loom-woven tabs or, yarn and bead tassels.  Early bags may also be trimmed with porcupine quillwork. While still in use and made today, new examples are relatively rare due to the time involved in their creation.

Bandolier bags were made primarily by American Indian women with extraordinary design and bead working skill (spot stitch embroidery and/or loom-woven construction could be involved).  They were particularly popular in the Great Lakes region and especially among the Ojibwe.

While historically they could serve the purpose of carrying personal items such as tobacco, the bags appear to have been prized for their decorative qualities and were worn on special or important occasions, including dances and treaty trips to Washington, D.C.  Contemporary Ojibwe elders have told us that these beaded bags were decorative articles of clothing that could be worn by any man or woman.

There are more than twenty bandolier bags in the collections acquired by Bishop Whipple.

Bandolier or shoulder bags