Wedel (1936, pp. 86-87, 121, fig. 8) has described and illustrated shell hair pipes from the Hill site on the south bank of the Republican River, Nebr. In all probability this is the site of the Republican Pawnee village visited by Zebulon M. Pike in 1806. The village was abandoned about 1810 or 1811. The specimens illustrated range in length from 4 inches to less than 3 inches, and exhibit the characteristic, even tapering of commercial shell hair pipes. They occurred "as grave finds, always in pairs, and nearly always one on each side of the head." Dr. Wedel concluded that "doubtless their purpose was for ear or hair ornamentation."

Matthew W. Stirling found a single pair of shell hair pipes at the Leavenworth Village site, above the mouth of Grand River, S. Dak. [p. 52] This site was occupied by the Arikara from about 1800 to 1832. The specimens are illustrated by Stirling (1924, fig. 67). One pipe measures 3 1/4 inches in length, the other 2 5/8 inches. They were found in company with other trade goods, including copper, iron, and glass beads, by the skull of an adolescent male. Probably they too served as ear or hair ornaments. This Arikara find is of peculiar interest inasmuch as there appears to be no descriptive or pictorial record of the wearing of hair-pipe ornaments by this tribe. We do have the definite statement, however, that St. Louis traders were offering hair pipes to the Arikara in 1831 (see p. 48).

I have found no reported finds of commercial shell hair pipes in documented archeological sites in the Great Plains of the 18th century. The archeological evidence, though limited, appears to support the evidence obtained from historical records regarding the introduction of hair pipes among the Plains tribes. Available evidence from both sources indicates that commercial hair pipes began to reach the Plains Indians about the year 1800.


In view of the great number of contemporary field descriptions of the Plains Indians written by explorers, travelers, fur traders, and Government officials prior to 1880 it is really remarkable how meager is the information on Indian use of hair pipes appearing in the literature. Our most complete and most accurate source of information on the uses of hair pipes is the considerable body of dated and tribally identified artists' drawings and paintings of the precamera period and of early dated photographs.

The earliest pictorial representation of the use of hair pipes by a Plains Indian appears is C. B. J. F. de Saint-Memin's crayon portrait of an Osage warrior who was a member of a delegation from that tribe brought to Washington by the St. Louis trader Auguste Chouteau in 1806. The original portrait, in the New York Historical Society, is reproduced in plate 18, a. Pendent from the left ear of this young dandy is a complex ornament which includes what appears to be a long, shell hair pipe strung vertically on a cord. Presumably this ornament was balanced by an identical pendant from the right ear, hidden from view in the profile drawing.

Other members of that delegation, who posed for the same artist, did not wear hair-pipe ear pendants. They may have been something of a novelty among the Osage at that time. However, it is certain that Osage men made considerable use of paired hair-pipe ear pendants prior to 1850. Catlin depicted them in a painting of an Osage warrior executed in 1834 (USNM No. 386034). Tixier's portraits of the prominent Osage chiefs, Majakita and Chonkeh, drawn [p. 53] in 1840, show this ornament (Tixier, 1940, frontispiece, opp. p. 240). John Mix Stanley's "An Osage Scalp Dance," painted in 1845, portrays the wearing of hair-pipe ear pendants by several of the dancing men (Kinietz, 1942, pl. 20). A photograph of Pawnee-No-Pashee (Governor Joe) taken in 1874, indicates the survival of the hair-pipe ear pendant among the Osage (BAE neg. 4139-b).

When the Kansa chief, White Plume, visited Washington in 1821 or 1825, Charles Bird King painted his portrait which clearly shows a pair of long hair-pipe ear pendants (Birket-Smith, 1942, opp. p. 22). The popularity of this ornament among the Kansa is attested by the fact that all six of the chiefs and warriors of that tribe whose portraits Catlin painted in 1831 wore long hair-pipe ear pendants (USNM Nos. 386022 through 386027). Catlin's portrait of The Wolf, a Kansa chief, is reproduced in plate 18, b.

When Bear-in-the-Forks-of-a-Tree, Sauk and Fox delegate to Washington, posed for C. B. King in 1837, he wore a pair of hair-pipe ear pendants (McKenney and Hall, 1868, vol.1., opp. p. 139). These pendants also were worn by four Sauk and Fox delegates to Washington 31 years later, including the head chief, Keokuk the Younger (BAE negs. 622-b, 654, 713, 714).

None of the Iowa Indians painted by George Catlin in the field in 1832 wore hair-pipe ear decorations. Yet when he executed portraits of two Iowa men on their visit to Europe in 1845-6, both wore a long hair pipe under each ear (USNM Nos. 386312 and 386313). Catlin's portrait of The Walking Rain, Iowa war chief, appears as plate 18, d. No Heart, Iowa head chief, wore a pair of hair-pipe ear pendants when he sat for his photograph shortly before his death in 1862 (BAE negs. 3898-a). They were also worn by two Iowa chiefs who were delegates to Washington in 1869 (BAE negs. 3897 and 3900-b).

During his visit among the Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita in 1834, Catlin apparently saw little use of hair pipes as ear ornaments. However, the four tubular ornaments hanging on cords under the right ear in his portrait of Wee-ta-ra-sha-ro, Wichita head chief, may have been hair pipes (pl. 18, c).

At Fort Edmonton, in present Alberta, in 1847, Paul Kane painted a portrait of a Cree chief wearing hair pipe ear pendants. This painting is now in the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto.

By the time the camera began to record the portraits of Indians of the present Oklahoma region in the decade 1868-78, prominent men of several tribes of that area were wearing hair-pipe ear pendants. Seventeen photographs taken during that decade among tribes of the Oklahoma region, showing the wearing of hair-pipe ear pendants are in the Bureau of American Ethnology files. These include 3 Comanche, 9 Kiowa (among them the prominent chiefs Lone Wolf [p. 54] and Satanta), 2 Kiowa Apache (including head chief Pacer), 1 Kichai, 1 Tawaconie, and 1 Waco.3

William H. Jackson's series of Pawnee field photographs, taken in 1871, portray the wearing of this ornament by only one man, Good Chief, a band chief of the Republican Pawnee (BAE neg. 1296).

That the hair-pipe ear pendant was not unknown to the Siouan peoples of the high plains prior to 1840 is demonstrated by two of Alfred Jacob Miller's portraits executed in the field in 1837. One portrays the wearing of hair-pipe ear pendants by the Crow chief High Lance, the other by "a Sioux man" (Ross, 1951, pls. 6, 39). Early photographs portray the wearing of these pendants by Siouan men, including the Ponca, Iron Whip, in 1859? (BAE neg. 4180); the Yankton chief, Black War Eagle, in 1867 (BAE neg. 3567-a); Medicine Horse, Oto head chief, in 1869 (BAE neg. 3835-d); and two Yanktonai and three Hunkpapa visitors in Washington, in 1872. 4

Early photographs also show the wearing of hair-pipe ear pendants by representatives of three marginal peoples including the Delaware chief Great Bear prior to 1869 (BAE Neg. 817-a), the Winnebago, Winnishick (BAE neg. 3793-b), and the Jicarilla Apache, Kle-zheh, prior to 1877 (BAE neg. 2569).

Although hair-pipe ear pendants were predominantly men's ornaments, there are a few references in the pictorial sources to their use by women. Catlin's portraits of the Mink, a Mandan girl (USNM No. 386133), and Red-Thing-that-Touches-in-Marching, a Teton Dakota woman (USNM No. 386081), seem to show relatively short hair-pipe ear pendants. However, an unnamed Wichita woman wore long hair-pipe ear decorations when photographed in 1868 (BAE neg. 1335-d).

The great majority of the pictorial references to the wearing of hair-pipe ear pendants by Plains Indian men prior to 1850 portray them adorning men with roached hair. This suggests the possibility that this method of using hair pipes was first employed by men of the eastern or prairie plains who commonly employed that style of hairdress. Certainly the hair-pipe ear pendant was less well suited to use by long-haired Indians whose lengthy tresses might hide all or part of the ornament from view. Effective display of these pendants by long-haired men required modification in hairdress. Mooney (1898, p. 150) observed that it was an old custom among Kiowa warriors to "cut the hair from the right side of the head, on a line with the base of the ear, in order to better display the ear pendants, while allowing it to grow to full length on the left side, so as to be braided and wrapped [p. 55] with otter skin after the common fashion of the southern plains." Possibly, therefore, the long-haired Kiowa first adopted the hair-pipe ear pendant as a decoration for the right ear only. However, photographs of Kiowa men taken in the period about 1870 show that they sometimes wore these pendants from both ears at that time and trimmed the hair forward of the ears on both sides to show off these decorations.

The Kiowa and their neighbors of the southern plains commonly suspended their hair-pipe ear pendants on buckskin cords from large, hoop-shaped, brass earrings. Long brass chains and small silver pendants hung downward below the hair pipes. James Mooney collected specimens of this type among the Kiowa in 1891. Two of them are illustrated in plate 19, a (USNM Nos. 152842, 152847). The shell hair pipes are each 1 inches long, the hoops and chains are of brass, and the small end pendants are of German silver. The prominent Kiowa White Horse wore ear pendants of this type when he posed for his photograph in 1870 (pl. 19, b).


A second method of wearing hair pipes was employed by long-haired men, especially among the northern tribes. The hair pipes were displayed on vertical cords at the sides of the head, forward of the ears. The suspension cord might pass over the head, thus connecting the pendants at either side, or suspension cords were tied to the hair high on each side of the head.

Although Peter Rindisbacher may indicate the wearing of this ornament in one of his paintings, "Drunken Frolic amongst Chippeways and Assiniboins," in the Rindishbacher Collection at the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., probably executed prior to 1826, George Catlin was the first artist to clearly portray this use of hair pipes. His portrait of the Plains Cree chief, He-Who-Has-Eyes- Behind-Him, known also as Eyes-on-Both-Sides and Broken Arm, painted in the fall of 1831, displays four long hair pipes, two of which are pendent at each side of the head from a cord passing over the forehead above the hairline (pl. 20, a). Catlin's paintings of The Six, a Plains Ojibwa chief, and Mouse-Colored-Feather, a young Mandan warrior, both executed in 1832, also show this use of hair pipes. Carl Bodmer's portrait of Wolf Calf, a young Piegan, painted at Fort McKenzie in the fall of 1833, plainly shows the wearing of similar hair ornaments.5

[p. 56]

The Crow chief Rottentail wore hair-pipe hair ornaments when his portrait was drawn by the artist R. F. Kurz at Fort Union in 1851 (Kurz, 1937, pl. 48).

Two photographs taken prior to 1880 portray the wearing of hair-pipe hair ornaments by the son of the Kiowa Apache head chief about 1870 (BAE neg. 2580) and by Plenty Horses, a Cheyenne (USNM print).

In the summer of 1953, I showed photographs of Catlin's portrait of the Cree chief (pl. 20, a) to elderly Assiniboin informants on Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations. They informed me that in the late 1870's and early 1880's some Assiniboin men wore this type of hair ornament, but it was not a common Assiniboin one.

More data on the use of this ornament certainly are needed. The facts that both the earliest and the greatest number of the few occurrences reported refer to wearing of hair-pipe hair ornaments by tribes of the Missouri-Saskatchewan region suggest that the first Plains Indians to adopt this ornament were those long-haired peoples who traded with Canadian merchants. As pointed out (p. 47), Northwest Co. traders were offering hair pipes to Indians of the Upper Missouri as early as 1805-6. The fact that George Catlin also depicted this ornament worn by The Great Cloud, son of the Menomini head chief, in 1836, is further suggestive of its early northern occurrence (USNM NO. 386220).


Necklaces composed of hair pipes, large trade beads, and, in some cases, short lengths of clamshell wampum strung on cords appear in many of George Catlin's portraits of Indian men and women of the Woodlands and Great Plains painted in the year 1831-46. Catlin rendered the details of some of these necklaces in a very sketchy manner, as illustrated in the reproduction of his portrait of the wife of Keokuk, the Sauk and Fox chief, painted in 1834 (pl. 21, a). However, a careful study of Catlin's original paintings in the United States National Museum leads me to believe that he intended to depict hair pipes in the necklaces worn by 30 of his Indian sitters (table 1).

Catlin's pictorial record clearly indicates the popularity of the hair-pipe necklace among the prominent leaders of the Comanche in the mid-1830's. His portrait of the Mountain of Rocks, second chief of that tribe in 1834, wearing a hair-pipe necklace appears in plate 22, a. A statement in the literature to the effect that the Comanche wore long "wampum beads" around their necks in great quantities in 1842, appears to corroborate the testimony of Catlin's paintings (Clift, 1924, p.139).

[p. 57]

No other artist of the precamera period depicted hair-pipe necklaces worn by Plains Indians. I have seen only four photographs of Plains Indians, taken before 1880, showing the wearing of hair-pipe necklaces. All of them were taken in 1868. One portrays the necklace worn by Old-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses, noted Oglala chief. Another shows the necklace worn by an Osage man. Two photographs portray the wearing of hair-pipe necklaces by Wichita women. One of these, reproduced in plate 22, b, depicts a single-strand necklace of long hair pipes.6


Catlin alone of the artists of the precamera period illustrated still another use of hair pipes. His portrait of Tee-too-sah (better known as Dohasan), first chief of the Kiowa, painted in 1834, shows him wearing a close-fitting choker of four rows of horizontal hair pipes (pl. 23, a). The hair-pipe choker was also worn by The Sea, a Sauk and Fox man, who posed for his photograph in 1869 (BAE neg. 640). I have seen no other illustrations of this ornament of hair pipes depicting its use prior to 1880. However, the wearing of a similar ornament of dentalium shells was not uncommon among the Dakota tribes. The photograph of Iron Black Bird, a Yankton Indian, taken in 1867, shows the wearing of the dentalium shell choker (pl. 23, b).

[p. 58]

The most striking and ingenious method of employing hair pipes in adornment was that of stringing considerable numbers of them on buckskin cords horizontally or diagonally in two or more vertical rows to form an elaborate breastplate. This breastplate was not illustrated in the works of any artists who drew or painted the Plains Indians in the first half of the 19th century. It is possible, however, that Parker referred to it when he observed that Naroni, a Southern Comanche chief, was wearing "a wampum necklace almost equal to a breastplate" in the summer of 1854 (Parker, 1856, p. 201).

We know that the Comanche were fond of wearing hair-pipe necklaces in Catlin's time (1834). Available evidence suggests that the Comanche invented the hair-pipe breastplate, probably before 1854 and certainly before 1867. In the latter year Dr. Edward Palmer collected what appears to be the oldest dated specimen of a hair-pipe breastplate while he was among the Comanche. This specimen (USNM No. 6968) is illustrated in plate 25, a. It was accessioned November 12, 1868. It consists of 30 shell hair pipes, each 4 inches long, strung horizontally on buckskin cords in two vertical rows of 15 pipes each. At each end of each pipe is a large yellow glass trade bead. A strip of commercial leather three-eighths of an inch wide and one-eighth of an inch thick separates the two rows of hair pipes, and the outer ends of the buckskin cords are tied to vertical strips of the same material. The latter strips are covered with bindings of trade cloth. A large German silver ornament hangs from the center of the breastplate. The breastplate was suspended from the neck of the wearer by a buckskin cord. This simple breastplate of 30 pipes may be regarded as the type specimen of the hair-pipe breastplate in the Plains. Although later examples were much larger, they employed the same general method of construction. Generally, however, they lacked the trade-cloth wrapping and the German silver pendant.

That the hair-pipe breastplate was worn by men of other tribes of the Southern Plains by the year 1867 is proved by Private Hermann Stieffel's original watercolor entitled "Sa-tan-ti addressing the Peace Commissioners at Council Grove, Medicine Lodge Creek, Ks." (USNM 384183). The artist was an eyewitness at this Medicine Lodge Treaty Council attended by representatives of the Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes in October of 1867. His watercolor, reproduced as plate 24, illustrates the wearing of hair-pipe breastplates by the Kiowa chief Satanta and by two other Indians present. (Note figures in center and at extreme left and right of this reproduction.)

Early photographs, taken in 1868-72 attest to the popularity of the hair-pipe breastplate among Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa Apache, [p. 59] and Arapaho men at that time. (See table 2.) Many of these photographs show the alinement of hair pipes in four rows of relatively short pipes similar to the breastplate worn by the Kiowa, White Horse, reproduced in plate 19b.

These data indicate that the size of the breastplate was not standardized among these tribes in about 1870. The range of variation extends from 2 rows of 10 pipes to 4 rows of 37 pipes each. The breastplate worn by White Horse (pl. 19, b) was of about average size for the Southern Plains tribes at that time. It is of the most common four-row pattern.

The wearing of hair-pipe breastplates by the Northern Arapaho, Powder Face and his son (pl. 26, a) may be of significance in connection with the diffusion of the hair-pipe breastplate. It is noteworthy that these Northern Arapaho were photographed at Camp Supply in Indian Territory, apparently while visiting among the Southern Arapaho. Perhaps Powder Face and/or other Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne visitors to their kinsfolk in the south obtained their hair-pipe breastplates from the Southern Plains Indians. Through the Northern Arapaho and/or Cheyenne the hair-pipe breastplate may have been diffused to their northern neighbors about the year 1870.

By the early 1870's hair-pipe breastplates began to appear in photographs of Indians of tribes distant from the apparent center of origin of this ornament among the Comanche and Kiowa. Jackson's photographs at the Loup Pawnee village in 1871 depict two Pawnee wearers of hair-pipe breastplates (BAE negs. 1228, 1248). On his visit to [p. 60] Washington in 1872, a Moache Ute, One-Who-Wins-the-Race, wore a simple 2-row breastplate of 16 hair pipes (pl. 26, b). Hillers' 1873 field photograph of a Uintah Ute warrior depicts a much larger 2-row breastplate (Steward, 1939, pl. 26). 7

The adoption of the hair-pipe breastplate by the Teton Dakota tribes is of particular interest because men of those tribes came to be such common wearers of this ornament in later years that they might erroneously be considered its inventors. It is true that the Teton Dakota did wear a necklace of similar form made of the shorter dentalium shells for some years prior to 1870. Mooney (1898, p. 281) claimed that the Dakota were the originators of this dentalium shell breastplate. Dentalia were also supplied the Indians by fur traders, who referred to these shells as "Iroquois beads." The large series of photographs of Teton Dakota Indians at the Fort Laramie Treaty Council in 1868, taken by Alexander Gardner, depict the wearing of dentalium shell breastplates by several Brule and Oglala men and boys. Hair-pipe breastplates are not shown in these photographs. Two Yankton Dakota men, photographed in 1867, wore dentalium shell breastplates (BAE negs. 3556, 3559).

The earliest photographs of Teton Dakota men wearing hair-pipe breastplates appear in the pictorial record of delegations to Washington in 1872. Of the 15 men in Red Cloud's Oglala delegation in that year, 2 wore the hair-pipe breastplate. However, it is apparent that both wore the same breastplate when posing for their portraits. It is a 2-row ornament, of 15 pipes per row, in which one pipe is definitely broken. This breastplate is shown in High Wolf's portrait reproduced in plate 27, a. In the same year one member of the Hunkpapa delegation wore a breastplate comprising 2 rows of 10 hair pipes each, and a member of the Brule group wore a 2-row breastplate of 12 pipes each (BAE negs. 3188-a, 3124-a). These simple breastplates are elementary in form compared with the elaborate breastplates worn by Southern Plains Indians at that time. They are reminiscent of the earliest known Comanche specimen made at least 5 years earlier.

It is noteworthy that the more traditional type of Dakota breastplate, that made of dentalium shells, was worn by a greater number of the 1872 delegates than was the hair-pipe ornament. Dentalium shell breastplates were worn by 2 Hunkpapa, 2 Brule, and 1 Oglala, suggesting that the hair-pipe breastplate had not yet replaced the one of dentalia in popularity among these tribes.8

The transition from dentalium shell to hair-pipe breastplate among the Teton Dakota tribes is graphically portrayed in the two photographs [p. 61] of the Brule White Thunder appearing in plate 28. Figure a shows White Thunder wearing a dentalium-shell breastplate on his visit to Washington in 1872. Figure b shows the same man wearing a hair-pipe breastplate on his return to Washington 5 years later. Photographs of the Teton Dakota delegations of 1877 depict no use of dentalium-shell breastplates, while the hair-pipe breastplates worn are not only more numerous but larger and more elaborate than the ornaments worn by delegates from these tribes 5 years earlier. It appears, therefore, that during the period 1872-77 the hair-pipe breastplate supplanted the one of dentalium shell as a popular ornament among Teton Dakota leaders.

Henry Ulke's portrait of the Miniconjou chief, Touching-the-Cloud, painted in Washington in 1877, probably is the earliest representation of the use of this ornament by that Teton tribe. It is also the first of many artists' renderings of Sioux wearers of hair-pipe breastplates (pl. 32, d).

By 1877 the Ponca, who were moving south to Indian Territory, also had adopted the hair-pipe breastplate. Four delegates from that tribe to Washington (1877) wore these ornaments. Included among them was their head chief White Eagle. His breastplate, shown in plate 27, b, is of the 4-row pattern, with 20 pipes per row, resembling the breastplates then worn by Southern Plains Indians more closely than the 2-row ornaments popular among the Teton Dakota.


In the years prior to 1880 the hair pipe in common use among the Plains Indians was the one manufactured from the shell of the Strombus gigas by Whites in New Jersey. Although this material was used in making hair-pipe ear and hair pendants, necklaces, chokers, and breastplates, it was not ideal for those purposes. The long shell tubes were breakable, and broken hair pipes certainly decreased the attractiveness of the ornaments from which they were made. It was possible for the Indians to replace the broken pipes with new ones, but it is clear from the pictorial record that they did not always do so. Bodmer's literal rendering of the hair-pipe hair ornament worn by Wolf Calf, the Piegan, in 1833 definitely shows a broken hair pipe. A number of photographs of breastplates worn by Indians prior to 1880 depict one or more broken pipes. Perhaps the Southern Plains tribes revealed their greater experience in working with hair pipes than had the Northern Plains Indians by developing a breastplate comprising four rows of relatively short pipes in preference to one of two rows of longer pipes. The short pipes, sometimes apparently made by sawing long hair pipes in two (note the pipes in White Horse's breastplate, [p. 62] pl. 19, b, tapered at one end only), were less apt to break than were the longer ones.

Thrifty Indians seem to have been loathe to discard broken hair pipes. They may have reused solid portions of broken pipes as pendants in the decoration of small beaded containers. Such reuse appears probable in the decoration of a Mandan awl case collected in 1869 (pl. 29, a). The two short segments of shell hair pipes measure 1 inches in length (USNM No. 8437). The pipes appearing on a Kiowa toilet case collected in the 1890's are 1 7/8 inches long (pl. 29, b. USNM No. 385886). However, whole shell hair pipes in short lengths sometimes were employed in the same way. Witness the Northern Cheyenne awl case with two full-length 2-inch shell hair-pipe pendants, illustrated in plate 29, c. This specimen, USNM No. 129887, was received by the Museum in 1888. These specimens afford examples of still another use of hair pipes in Plains Indian decoration.

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