Beaded Match Safe

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Object Name: 
Beaded Match Safe
Accession Number: 
Overall L: 21 cm, W: 13.4 cm, D: 2.9 cm
Not on Display
about 1917
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Stillman Family
Web Description: 
As early as the 16th century, the Europeans who explored the Americas brought with them goods to initiate a system of trade with the indigenous cultures, including materials such as wool and glass beads. As glass beads made their way across North America, they were quickly accepted and incorporated into the crafts of many American Indian tribes, most of which had distinct artistic styles and craft forms. In the 19th century, the traditional lifestyles of American Indians were drastically changed as new government policies led to their forced relocation to reservations, which took away both their lands and their livelihoods. There was little left to occupy their time, and almost no means by which to maintain a prosperous way of life. This led to a marked increase in the production of beadwork for use both within their culture and as a new occupation to create marketable goods. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), also known as the Six-Nation Confederacy, lived in New York State. They were able to translate the beadwork that their women had originally created for their own use into salable goods for the outside world. The earliest known pincushion in this region was probably produced in the late 18th century, and goods of this type began to be sold at public venues, including the New York State Fair, in the 1880s. These very decorative versions of Iroquois beadwork became souvenirs, a way for many travelers to and within North America to return home with tangible evidence of their visit and their encounter with the indigenous people. This was a period of Victorian excess, especially in the accumulation of bibelots for the home, and the Iroquois beadmakers recognized that their goods needed both to fulfill this Victorian sensibility and to remain exotic. They adapted new forms of beadwork for display in the home, but remained “native” in their style. Both dates and words began to be incorporated into the works in the 1890s, making the goods even more suitable as souvenirs. This example is a match safe or holder, developed in the late 19th century from original forms in materials such as metal and wood, and made decorative through beadwork. It was thought to have come from Chautauqua, New York, an area renowned since 1874 for its summer institute of adult education in a vacation setting. This piece was probably a souvenir from someone’s vacation to New York State around 1917. It is a typical example of the crafts being produced, but also exceptional as work that helped American Indians to redevelop their own economy and to fight against the oppressive reservation life that had been forced upon them.
Stillman, Bonnie (Mrs. Paul), Source
Stillman, Paul, Source
Primary Description: 
Beaded Match Safe. Transparent yellowish green, opaque white, transparent bluish red, colorless, multi colored glass beads, cardboard, cotton; tooled, pulled, cut, fire polished, strung, sewn, mounted. Cardboard base in the shape of a shield with scalloped edges, to which a cardboard pocket with two compartments is mounted. The cardboard is covered (glued?) with cotton fabric of natural color and sewn along the edges. A double border of green beads, sewn to the fabric, outlines the shield and the pocket. Suspended from the bottom edge are three beaded tassels. Each compartment of the pocket is decorated with a stylized sheaf of wheat (feathers?) in opaque white and transparent bluish red beads. Beneath the pocket is the beaded date "1917" and a stylized spray to the right. Above the pocket is a bird in profile acing left, made of opaque white beads with a bluish red beak and a blue eye. The field to its right and left is decorated with a stylized spray. Two colorless beads are sewn beneath the beak.
Corning Museum of Glass 2013-05-18 through 2014-01-05
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, pp. 60-61, no. 38; BIB# 134720