About the year 1880, at a time when the demand for large numbers of hair pipes for use in making elaborate breastplates was increasing, the Plains Indians began to obtain a cheaper and much less fragile hair pipe than the shell one long in use. The peculiar circumstances of the origin of this substitute - the bone hair pipe - comprise an interesting chapter in the history of Indian use of hair pipes which is at the same time a noteworthy case history in invention.

While I was stationed on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana in the early 1940's, both Frank Sherburne and his brother Joseph Sherburne, Browning merchants, independently told me of the role their father, the late Joseph H. Sherburne, had played in the invention of the bone hair pipe during his early days as a trader among the Ponca Indians. The Records of Licenses to Trade (vol. 5, p. 115) in the National Archives state that Joseph H. Sherburne was issued a license to trade with the Ponca Indians between Arkansas and Shawkaskia Rivers in the Indian Territory on September 10, 1878.

Frank Sherburne said that in his father's first year of trade with the Ponca he had among his wares a quantity of corncob pipes. The corncob bowls were equipped with bone stems. These pipes sold readily but without comment from the Indians. Upon his next trip to the Ponca, Mr. Sherburne found the corncob pipes in great demand. White Eagle, chief of the tribe, showed him an elaborate neck ornament made of the bone stems of the pipes strung on buckskin thongs. He wanted more pipestems in quantity.9

[p. 63] Mr. Sherburne, desirous of pleasing the chief, wrote to S. A. Frost, in New York, from whom he had purchased glass beads and other articles for the Indian trade, explaining the problem and asking if it would be practical to furnish a quantity of long, tubular bone "beads." Frost considered the matter and after he became convinced that the demand for this product was great enough to justify its perfection, set about having the bone articles made. However, a delay of more than a year was encountered before the new bone "beads" were ready for the market. When they became available in quantity Frost not only sold them to Mr. Sherburne but to many other traders on other reservations as well.

I have not seen a sample of the bone pipestem furnished the Ponca by Mr. Sherburne in 1878. However, Carl V. Otto, vice president of the Missouri Meerschaum Co., established in Washington, Mo., by Henry Tibbe, inventor of the corncob pipe in 1872, kindly furnished me for study a pipe known to have been made by that firm prior to 1900. It is shown in plate 30, a and b. The bone stem bears only a superficial resemblance to the bone "beads" perfected by Mr. Frost. In designing the bone beads Frost seems to have followed the pattern of the shell hair pipes which for so many years had been made for the Indian trade at Park Ridge, N.J., some 25 miles from his New York headquarters. Not only did the new bone beads follow the tapered form of shell hair pipes literally but they were made in approximately the same lengths as the shell pipes. They were, in reality, bone hair pipes and became known to Indian traders as hair pipes.

The Sherburne brothers had no knowledge of where or how the bone hair pipes were made. However, Mr. Otto supplied a valuable clue when he wrote me that the bone stems of corncob pipes were furnished his firm by Armour & Co. of Chicago. Through the kind cooperation of J. V. Hurson of Armour & Co.'s Washington Office, Edward N. Wentworth, director of Armour's Livestock Bureau in Chicago, was interested in the problem of the manufacture of the bone hair pipes. In the absence of written records, he discussed the matter with long-time employees of the company, some of whom are now retired. He concluded that Armour & Co. definitely furnished the bone material from which the hair pipes were made, and that the raw material was supplied to Mr. Frost, of New York, in quantity. Mr. Wentworth further stated that the bones from which hair pipes were made were the metacarpal or lower leg bones of cattle. A specimen of this bone, kindly furnished by him, together with a finished bone hair pipe in the collections of the United States National Museum are shown together in plate 30, c and d.

No definite information is available regarding the process of manufacture of bone hair pipes. Power tools probably were used. They [p. 64] may have been drilled with a rotary, belt-powered drill and shaped on a lathe. Such methods of rapid manufacture of large numbers of bone hair pipes would have made it possible to offer them to Indians at a lower price than had been asked for shell hair pipes. It must have been the pressure of competition with this cheaper, stronger bone hair pipe that caused the New Jersey shell hair-pipe makers to discontinue operations in 1889, less than a decade after bone hair pipes began to reach the Indian country.

The Kiowa breastplate shown in plate 25, b, illustrates the transition from shell to bone hair pipes in Indian ornament. Of the 144 hair pipes in this specimen, 49 (at the top) are of bone. The remainder, including two broken pipes, are of shell. This specimen, USNM No. 152842, was collected by James Mooney in 1891. It must have been made up during the preceding decade when bone hair pipes were beginning to replace shell hair pipes in the Kiowa trade.


In the period of general economic depression among the Plains Indians following the extermination of the buffalo, during which they subsisted largely upon Government rations, possession of an elaborate hair-pipe breastplate or necklace was a coveted symbol of greater-than-average prosperity among these proud people. Not only did the Indians wear these ornaments when they attended ceremonies and participated in traditional social dances on their own reservations, but they wore them when they dressed to visit the Great White Father in Washington, when they took part in wildwest shows, such as the famous one organized by William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) in 1883, and when they appeared in costume at national, regional, State, and local exhibitions or fairs.

The cessation of intertribal wars after the Plains Indians were settled on reservations was followed by a period of increased friendly contacts between neighboring tribes formerly hostile to one another. Visits back and forth among these Indians were accompanied by the exchange of gifts between members of different tribes. These conditions encouraged diffusion of hair-pipe breastplates and necklaces during the Reservation Period.


Pictorial sources reveal the continued use of hair-pipe breastplates during the Reservation Period by men of all those tribes known to have made use of this ornament prior to 1880, i. e., the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, Ponca, and Pawnee in the south; the Arapaho and Cheyenne in Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Montana; the Teton Dakota of the Dakotas; and the Ute west of the Rockies.

[p. 65] Tribes of the Oklahoma region preferred the wide, relatively short breastplate comprising 4 or more rows of short to medium-length pipes, rarely more than 30 pipes per row. This type was worn by Quannah Parker, the famous Comanche chief, in 1892 (pl. 32, a). It was also worn by the prominent Kiowa leader Running Bird when he attended the intertribal Indian council on the Little Big Horn in 1909 (Dixon, 1913, illus. opp. p. 52).

Other tribes of the Oklahoma region appear to have adopted this type of breastplate during the Reservation Period. Bureau of American Ethnology photographs show it worn by Sauk and Fox (before 1892), Oto and Tonkawa (1898), and Osage (1906). A 3-row breastplate was worn by a Caddo delegate to Washington in 1898.10

The Teton Dakota and Ute preferred a breastplate of long hair pipes, usually 2 but in some cases 3 rows in width, and not uncommonly more than 40 pipes per row. The famous Oglala chief, Red Cloud, was repeatedly photographed wearing this type of breastplate. One of these portraits appears in plate 32, c. Spotted Tail, the noted Brule chief, also wore this type of breastplate (pl. 32, b). 11 Among these two tribes of Teton Dakota the hair-pipe breastplate was very popular in the Reservation Period. The longest breastplates pictured were worn by men of these tribes. About 1900 George Little Wound wore a breastplate composed of 2 rows of 63 long pipes each (pl. 31, a). At the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, Little Soldier, an Oglala, wore a 2-row breastplate containing a total of 140 long pipes (Chicago Mus. Nat. Hist., neg. 15932). This is the largest hair-pipe breastplate of which I have knowledge.

It was apparently from the Teton that this type of breastplate was diffused to other Siouan tribes north of the Platte River. Photographs portray the wearing of the 2- or 3-row breastplate by men of the Assiniboin (1882), Omaha (1909), Yanktonai (1903), and Yankton (1904) tribes.12 My elderly Assiniboin informants in 1953 stated that the first breastplates worn by men of their tribe came from the Sioux (Teton), although the Assiniboin themselves began to make them in the 1880's. They claimed the Assiniboin of Fort Peck Reservation began to wear these breastplates before they were adopted by men of that tribe living farther west on Fort Belknap Reservation.

However, the Crow Indians were little impressed by the hair-pipe breastplates of their former enemies, the Teton. The large [p. 66] series of Crow photographs in the Bureau of American Ethnology files do not depict a single example of the use of this ornament. In the spring of 1953, an elderly Crow informant told Dr. Claude Schaeffer that hair-pipe breastplates were not favored by the older Crow men and that it has been only in recent years that young Crow Indians have worn these ornaments in the grass dance.

Men of the Blackfoot tribes also showed relatively little interest in hair-pipe breastplates. Piegan and Blood informants told me that men of their tribes did not make them but acquired a few breastplates from the Assiniboin as gifts, possibly as early as 1893. Among the Blackfoot they were worn primarily in the grass dance and other social dances. R. N. Wilson's photograph of Assiniboin grass dancers on a visit to the Blood Reserve in 1893 depicts the wearing of hair-pipe breastplates by two or three participants (pl. 36, b). The Chicago Museum of Natural History possesses a photograph (neg. 26672) taken at the Piegan Sun Dance of 1899, showing two wearers of hair-pipe breastplates.

By the turn of the century the hair-pipe breastplate had been adopted by Indians of the Plateau tribes west of the Rockies. Photographs show the wearing of this ornament by men of the Bannock (1897), Flathead (no date), and Yakima (1902) tribes. Major Moorhouse's photographs, taken about 1900, show hair-pipe breastplates worn by Shoshoni, Nez Percé, Walla Walla, and Sinkiuse men.13 Two undated prints in the Division of Ethnology, United States National Museum, portray hair-pipe breastplates worn by Colville and Wasco men.

Spinden (1907, pp. 217-218) was of the opinion that the bone-bead (hair pipe) breastplates worn by Nez Percé men were "undoubtedly introduced from the Plains." He found these breastplates were less common among the Nez Percé than were breast ornaments composed of several strings of small disk-shaped beads. Teit (1930, p. 81) reported the wearing of "breastplates of long, polished bone beads" [hair pipes] by Coeur d'Alêne men in the early years of the present century. However, his statement that they were "adopted by the Coeur d'Alêne about the beginning of the 19th century" must be discounted. It is unlikely that that tribe began to wear hair-pipe breastplates before the 1890's. Teit's informants showed their lack of long familiarity with hair pipes in their testimony as to their origin. Some thought "the bones were polished buffalo bones made by the tribes east of the Coeur d'Alêne; while others claim(ed) that they were introduced by the fur traders and were quite unknown to all Indian tribes long ago."

[p. 67]

The hair-pipe breastplate does not appear to have gained popularity among the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. However, a portrait of Joseph Sherritt of the White Earth Band of Chippewa, taken in 1911, shows him wearing a two-row breastplate of hair pipes (pl. 31, b). Another two-row breastplate, collected in 1911 among the Chippewa of White Earth Reservation, Minn., is in the collection of the United States National Museum (cat. No. 392661).

In 1917 the Plains Cree leader, Little Bear, gave Frank Bird Linderman a breastplate of bone hair pipes of the 2-row pattern, 35 pipes per row. The hair pipes are 4 inches long. This specimen (Museum of the Plains Indian, cat. No. 539L) may have been in Little Bear's possession for a number of years prior to 1917.


In contrast with the breastplate, which was always a man's ornament, the necklace of hair pipes continued to be worn by both men and women in the period 1880-1910. Of the tribes of Plains Indians known to have worn hair-pipe necklaces in earlier days, photographic sources illustrate their use by Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Mandan, Oglala, Osage, and Sauk and Fox after 1880. Among all these tribes except the Oglala the necklace is shown as a woman's ornament.

Plate 21, b, depicts a hair-pipe necklace worn by a Sauk and Fox woman in the period 1895-97. Note that the hair pipes are strung on cords along with short lengths of clamshell wampum. The appearance of this necklace is remarkably like that worn by the wife of Keokuk, Sauk and Fox chief, in George Catlin's painting executed more than a half century earlier, which is reproduced on the same plate.

The dated pictorial records do not indicate that the hair-pipe necklace was popular among the Oklahoma tribes after 1880. Of the tribes of that area not known to have worn hair-pipe necklaces before 1880, its use by the Pawnee and Ponca is revealed by photographs.14

The hair-pipe necklace appears to have enjoyed a much greater popularity among northern tribes in the Reservation Period. Not only did it become a common ornament for women among the Oglala and Brule, but it was made into a much more elaborate form by those tribes than the more simple necklace worn by Southern Plains Indians.

As was the case with the breastplate, the hair-pipe necklace appears to have been diffused from the Teton Dakota tribes (primarily Oglala and Brule) to neighboring tribes during the Reservation Period. At the Omaha Exposition of 1898, hair-pipe necklaces were worn by a Winnebago woman, by an Omaha woman and two men of that tribe, and by an Assiniboin woman. A Winnebago man, photographed in 1899, wore a hairpipe necklace. Single photographs show the wearing [p. 68] of the hair-pipe necklace by a Hidatsa woman (1903), a Yankton man (1904), and a Gros Ventres woman (1905). Dr. P. E. Goddard collected a hair-pipe necklace among the Sarsi of Alberta, which is now on exhibition in the American Museum of Natural History.15

My Assiniboin field data indicate that the hair-pipe necklace was adopted by Assiniboin women prior to 1885, and from them it was diffused to the Piegan in Montana and Blood in Alberta through trade and/or gift about 1892. The extension of its distribution coincided with the diffusion of the hair-pipe breastplate to these Upper Missouri tribes. Assiniboin women made hair-pipe necklaces, but Piegan and Blood women were content to obtain them ready-made from the Assiniboin. Informants from all three of these tribes stated that their people employed hair-pipe necklaces only as women's ornaments for use as dance and dress costume accessories. The Assiniboin said that in the 1880's their necklaces were relatively simple affairs consisting of a few strands of vertical pipes, but after about 1895 they began to make necklaces of a much greater number of pipes in which the lower rows were connected.

The elaboration of the necklace among the Teton Dakota and their neighbors definitely took place during the Reservation Period. The more simple necklace forms common to the 1880's and early 1890's are illustrated in plate 33. The single strand Northern Arapaho necklace (pl. 33, a) contains but four long, shell hair pipes (all of which are broken or chipped) strung on a buckskin cord together with large brass trade beads. This specimen (USNM No. 290365) probably was made prior to 1890. Plate 33, b, is a portrait of Susie-Shot-in-the-Eye, an Oglala woman, taken prior to 1900, wearing a 3-strand necklace composed of 24 long (bone?) hair pipes separated by large trade beads. Plate 34, b, illustrates a more complex necklace type worn by a Teton Dakota woman prior to 1900. This type was developed during the 1890's, probably by one of the Teton Dakota tribes. A museum specimen of this type of necklace appears in plate 34, a. It is composed of 120 bone hair pipes. The lower 40 pipes are 3 inches long, the remainder are 4 inches in length. The pipes are so arranged that the upper portion forms a 10-strand necklace while the lower 2 rows are connected to form continuous rows of 20 pipes each. Complex necklaces of this type were not made until after bone hair pipes were introduced in quantity. The use of commercial leather strip dividers between the vertical rows of hair pipes apparently was adapted from the similar (but vertical) dividers used in hair-pipe breastplates. This specimen (USNM No. 358117) is not tribally [p. 69] identified, but probably is of Teton Dakota origin. The largest necklace of this type that I have seen was owned and still worn in traditional social dances by Mrs. Henry Black Tail, Assiniboin woman of Fort Peck Reservation, in 1953. No less than 225 bone hair pipes were used in its construction.

West of the Rockies the hair-pipe necklace, of more simple form, was adopted by several tribes prior to 1900. It appears in a portrait of a Ute Indian girl which was copyrighted in 1884. Major Moorhouse's photographs, taken about the year 1900, illustrate its use by a Paiute man (whose home reservation is not stated), and by tribes on the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon (including 2 men and a woman of the Umatilla tribe, 2 Cayuse men, and 1 Walla Walla man).16

Two photographs illustrate the wearing of hair-pipe necklaces by prominent men of tribes east of the Mississippi in the early years of the present century. One necklace was worn by Fish Carrier, a Cayuga chief, photographed in 1901. The other was worn by Eniwube, a Chippewa singer of Lac du Flambeau Reservation, Wis., prior to 1913.17


Indian men also adopted the hair-pipe necklace of several strands to use as a bandolier extending over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. The earliest dated photograph illustrating this use appears to be James Mooney's portrait of the Oglala, Weasel Bear, taken on Pine Ridge Reservation in 1893 (pl. 35, a). The bandolier of hair pipes was worn by three Omaha men in 1898. By 1900 this use of hair pipes began to appear in photographs of men from a number of tribes of the Columbia River Valley. A Yakima man who visited Washington in 1901, wore a bandolier of hair pipes, as illustrated in plate 35, b. Major Moorhouse's photographs, taken in the field at about the same time, show hair-pipe bandoliers worn by men of the Palouse, Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Wasco tribes.18

n 1911 a bandolier of hair pipes was worn by a Chippewa man of the White Earth Reservation, Minn. (BAE neg. 594-b-1). The survival of the wearing of the hair-pipe bandolier among the Chippewa is illustrated in a photograph of a group of Indians in ceremonial costume, taken at Mille Lacs in 1928, and reproduced in Coleman (1947, pl. 2, fig. f).

[p. 70] The adaption of hair pipes to use as men's bandoliers, as well as the perfection of the complex woman's necklace, provides proof that the Indians were still developing new uses for hair pipes in the Reservation Period.


In contrast to the increased popularity of the breastplate and necklace, the less elaborate forms of hair-pipe ornaments were little worn during the Reservation Period. The formerly popular use of hair pipes as ear pendants appears to have survived among a few tribes after 1880. Feathered Lance, an aged Kiowa, clung to the old custom of wearing hair-pipe ear pendants in 1892-93. They appear in Mooney's field portrait of him taken at that time. Two Sauk and Fox men wore them in 1890. Four members of an Oto delegation wore these ornaments in 1895, and two of the same men, in addition to another Oto, wore them in 1898. At the Omaha Exposition of 1898 hair-pipe ear pendants were worn by 6 men - 2 Omaha, 1 Winnebago, 1 Tonkawa, and 2 Santa Clara Pueblo Indians. The most recent pictorial reference to the wearing of these ornaments appears in a portrait of a Yankton visitor to Washington in 1905.19


The wearing of hair-pipe hair ornaments appears to have become nearly obsolete by 1880. The only post-1880 pictorial reference to this ornament appears in the portrait of Medicine Crow, a handsome Crow Indian, taken during his visit to Washington in 1882 (pl. 20, b). None of the other Crow delegates who accompanied Medicine Crow wore hair pipes in any way.


The close-fitting hair-pipe choker, a rarity prior to 1880, appears but rarely in the pictorial record of subsequent years. The Sauk and Fox seem to have been most fond of this ornament. Five men of that tribe wore hair-pipe chokers when photographed during the period 1887-93. Plate 23, c, illustrates the choker as worn by one of these men. Plate 23, d, shows the choker worn by an Osage visitor to Washington in 1904. Other wearers of hair-pipe chokers when photographed were two Oto (one in 1896, the other in 1908), a Tonkawa (1899), and a Santa Clara Pueblo Indian (1898).20

[p. 71]


Hair-pipe breastplates, necklaces, and bandoliers were popular ornaments worn by Plains Indians when they dressed for Indian dances near home or for exhibitions in 1910. There was still a demand for bone hair pipes from the traders' stores. In more recent years the demand has dwindled and local traders have discontinued stocking hair pipes. I have obtained field data on more recent trends in the history of the use of hair pipes among three tribes who formerly were fond of hair-pipe ornaments.

As we have seen, the Oglala were among the most common users of hair-pipe ornaments in the early years of the Reservation Period. John Choloff, a mixed-blood Oglala, son of a trader on Pine Ridge Reservation, told me that in the late nineties, when he worked in his father's store, the Oglala bought large numbers of hair pipes. His father purchased them wholesale from Frost's in New York City, and sold them in two sizes. The longer ones sold for 15 cents each, the shorter ones for 10 cents each. Yet John said that by the time of World War I, there was so little demand for hair pipes among the Oglala that the traders stopped carrying them in stock. Perhaps the discontinuance of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which had employed some 65 Sioux performers, following the death of William F. Cody, January 17, 1917, brought in its wake a slackening of demand for spectacular hair-pipe ornaments among the Oglala. Of course these Indians had large numbers of the almost indestructible breastplates and necklaces on hand.

Kiowa informants told me that hair-pipe ornaments had been popular among their people in their youth. A well-made breastplate was then considered equal in value to a horse. However, they said that breastplates had not been made by members of that tribe for a number of years prior to our interviews in 1948-49. In 1948, the late Robert L. Boake, of Anadarko, Okla., who had traded with the Kiowa and their neighbors since 1891, told me he used to buy bone hair pipes in several lengths from Frost's in New York, and sold them in quantities to the Indians. He discontinued handling them in 1926.

Elderly Assiniboin informants on Fort Peck Reservation could remember the sale of shell hair pipes to their tribe prior to about 1893, although they did not recall that the old "white" pipes were made of shell. Yet from their statement that those pipes "were whiter and stayed white longer" and "did not show long streaks" like the later hair pipes, we can be sure that they had reference to shell hair pipes as contrasted to bone ones. One informant said these "white" (shell) pipes sold at Aubrey's Trading Post in the middle eighties at nearly 50 cents each, while the bone ones a decade later sold [p. 72] for 10 to 15 cents, depending on their lengths. He definitely attributed the remarkable increase in the sizes of breastplates and necklaces that took place in the 1890's to the availability of the cheaper bone hair pipes. Fort Peck informants knew of no trader on or near their reservation who sold hair pipes to the Indians after the death of Sherman T. Cogswell, Wolf Point merchant, about 1923.

Assiniboin informants on Fort Belknap Reservation recalled that Charles A. Smith, a merchant in nearby Harlem, Mont., sold them hair pipes at $10 a hundred about 1895. They claimed he continued to sell hair pipes "until he couldn't get them any more" which was "more than 15 year ago" (i. e., before 1938).

These references indicate that the sale of hair pipes was discontinued on some reservations earlier than on others. It seems probable that few hair pipes were sold to Indians by local traders after the middle twenties.

Nevertheless, Indians have continued to wear hair-pipe breastplates and necklaces on dress occasions. At the American Indian Exposition at Anadarko, Okla., in the summer of 1948, I observed that a number of young Southern Plains Indian competitors in the dance contests wore hair-pipe breastplates. I photographed a Taos Indian shield dancer who participated at that Exposition wearing a bone hair-pipe breastplate (pl. 37, a). When Crazy Bull, an elderly Hunkpapa, came to Washington in 1948, he brought his dress costume and posed for his photograph in it. His outfit included a hair-pipe breastplate (pl. 37, b). In the summer of 1953 my Assiniboin informants on Fort Peck Reservation showed several breastplates and complex women's necklaces which they owned and told me they still wore them in Indian dances and on other occasions when they felt it desirable to wear "Indian dress."

Two incidents occurred during my visit among the Assiniboin that demonstrated concretely their continued interest in hair-pipe ornaments. In my presence an elderly Fort Belknap informant sold her 4-strand necklace of about 40 bone hair pipes to my interpreter for $5. My interpreter later explained to me that she was going to make it over into a breastplate for her adolescent son, an accomplished Indian dancer, to wear in grass dances. On Fort Peck Reservation, Bernard Standing, a middle-aged Assiniboin, showed me a breastplate of bone hair pipes which he had made the previous winter. It was one of several he had constructed for use by grass dancers. When I asked him where he obtained his hair pipes he brought out the current mail order catalog of the Plume Trading Co. of New York City, dealers in Indian craft supplies, and showed me the listing of "real bone hair pipes." James Luongo, president of that firm, has kindly informed me that his stock of bone hair pipes is a large one. It was [p. 73] purchased from S. A. Frost's son when that old Indian trading company discontinued business about 1943. So hair pipes still are available to Indians as well as to Whites who may wish to use them in making traditional Indian ornaments. The distributing center is still, as it has been for more than 150 years, New York City.

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