Loom woven beaded bands or chains

American Indians have made beaded bands or 'chains' for personal use and for sale to tourists in the United States since the 1830s, and they continue to be made and sold today.  In the late 19th and early 20th century they were made and sold across the lower 48 and particularly in the Great Lakes region.

The manufacture of beaded 'chains' was also a popular activity among non-Indians, especially girls and young women learning needlework skills in the early 19th century.

Historic photographs show American Indian women and men wearing bead 'chains' to pow wows and on other occasions.  They are also documented as decorative cradleboard wraps on the protective bent wood bow at the top of some cradleboards.  The strips of beadwork can be stretched between the foot rest and the bow to provide some protection for the child should the cradleboard tip over and to also served as a colorful visual element.

Advertisements in Minnesota newspapers suggest the popularity of loomed beadwork in the early 20th century.

Minneapolis Tribune, April 3, 1903, pg. 6

 Vrooman's Little Shop advertisement

SPECIAL EXHIBIT and SALE--FRIDAY.....Made at White Earth & Red Lake Reservations.  A large display of Bead Chains and Purses, Belts, Bags, Pouches, Window illuminations in gorgeous symbolic designs, bead and birch bark Napkin Rings, accurate birch bark Canoe Models, Bows and Arrows in Buckskin Sheaths, Moccasins, and a fine Bead-Trimmed Buckskin Coat has recently been collected by J.C. McKusick, of Bemidji, for Vrooman's Shop.  The collector will be present Friday to show the work and explain it.  FREE LESSONS IN BEADWORK GIVEN TO CHILDREN EVERY SATURDY MORNING FROM 8 to 12 O'CLOCK


Minneapolis Tribune, April 17, 1904, pg. B8

Submitted to the Little Mother's Club: Letter to President Elsie Gordon, by Marion Reed, [age 11].

Dear Madam:  I think some of the other Little Mothers would like to try Indian bead work.  The supplies are: One spool of linen thread, No. 80, one spool of linen thread No. 50, [unclear], a package of bead needles, [several bunches of beads are described by type and color and beading steps are described]....Use this pattern over and over again until the chain is five feet long.  Then finish with fringe and the chain is done.  I think all the little mothers will enjoy this, and belts, purses and many other things are also made of beads. 

Age 11 years.  Yours truly, MARION REED.


Loom woven beaded bands or chains