Our quest for the origin of the long, hollow, tubular ornament, known since late colonial times as a hair pipe, has taken us back to prehistoric times, when ornaments of this general pattern were worn by Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in necklaces and perhaps as hair and ear ornaments as well. These native-made shell, bone, stone, and copper prototypes of the trade hair pipe were Indian inventions. Furthermore, Woodland Indians recognized these ornaments as desirable articles in intertribal trade long before the first white trader appeared among them.
The introduction of glass and metal hair pipes among the Indians of the Eastern Woodlands by white traders in the colonial period illustrates the efforts of these traders to induce the Indians to accept substitutes for ornaments with which they had been familiar, both as accessories to costume and as articles of intertribal trade. Through trial and error the traders were attempting to provide at profit to themselves substitutes which would be acceptable to the Indians. Probably the glass ornaments offered by the French in the 17th century were too fragile and the silver ones supplied by the English in the 18th century were too expensive to gain widespread popularity among the Indians.
The invention of the shell hair pipe by New Jersey wampum makers prior to 1800 may have been motivated by the desire to produce a cheaper hair pipe which could be sold to Indians in greater numbers. It is not improbable that the inventor or inventors of the commercial shell hair pipe had knowledge of the earlier use of native-made conch-shell ornaments by the Woodland Indians. However, they made these ornaments from the lips, not the columns of shells. The early shell hair-pipe makers had had previous experience in working clamshells into wampum and they adopted the same tools employed in wampum making to the manufacture of hair pipes. The efforts of the Campbell family of Pascack (now Park Ridge), N.J., to control the manufacture of shell hair pipes for the Indian trade, although not completely successful, must have had the effect of limiting the output of shell hair pipes in the first half of the 19th century, when the drilling of these ornaments was a laborious, hand-tooled operation. Through the great fur-trading companies of Canada and the United States, through independent traders, and through agents of the United States [p. 74] Government shell hair pipes were distributed widely, and in increasing numbers, among the Plains Indian tribes prior to 1850. Nevertheless, during this period the Plains Indians appear to have used hair pipes rather sparingly as ear pendants and hair ornaments and in necklaces.
The development of the elaborate breastplate, an ornament requiring large numbers of hair pipes, by the Indians appears to have coincided in time with the shift of hair-pipe manufacturing from a hand to a mechanized operation after 1850. Although the invention of the hair-pipe breastplate by the Comanche may have antedated the invention of the laborsaving, pipe-drilling machine by the Campbells, it is certain that the widespread use of hair-pipe breastplates among the Indians followed the perfection of that machine and resultant increase in hair-pipe production.
The invention and Indian adaptation of the cattle-bone hair pipe about 1880 shows still more clearly the interplay of Indian and white ingenuity in the development of a cheaper, more sturdy hair pipe. It was an Indian, the Ponca chief White Eagle, who first recognized the superiority of bone over shell material in costume ornaments when he acquired some corncob pipestems of bone from a trader. Once acquainted with the Indian desire for hair pipes of bone, men who supplied the Indians proceeded to locate a supply of raw bone material, to perfect methods of manufacture of bone hair pipes, and to supply quantities of the finished pipes to Indian traders in the field. The form of the bone hair pipe was patterned exactly after the shell one which it replaced. So superior was the bone hair pipe in the eyes of the Indians that within a decade the demand for shell hair pipes decreased to the point that it was no longer practical for the New Jersey manufacturers to make them. Meanwhile, on the Indian reservations of the West a period of greater and more elaborate use of hair-pipe ornaments was inaugurated, employing the cheaper, stronger bone articles. Not only did larger breastplates for men and more complex necklaces for women come into use, but a new use of hair pipes as bandoliers gained some popularity. Indians looked upon these articles as valuable possessions and desirable gifts. They continued to wear them on occasions for which "Indian dress" was preferred - in traditional dances on their own reservations, on visits to Washington, in their appearances in Wild West shows, at exhibitions, and at fairs.
Not until after the beginning of World War I did the demand for bone hair pipes decrease to the point that it was no longer practical for local traders on western reservations to stock them. Yet the custom of wearing hair-pipe ornaments has persisted. They are still owned and worn on occasion by some western Indians. To a limited extent ornaments still are made by Indians either through reuse of [p. 75] old bone hair pipes in the possession of Indians or from hair pipes ordered by mail from the Plume Trading Co. of New York.
The continued use of hair pipes in Plains Indian adornment over a period of a century and a half, affords a remarkable example of stability in a trait of material culture. It is especially remarkable in view of the facts that material culture traits are generally regarded as highly susceptible to change and that the great majority of traditional material culture traits of the Plains Indians have disappeared within the Reservation Period. It is true that older types of hair-pipe ornaments became obsolete and newer types of ornaments were invented and diffused widely. But the basic form of the hair pipe employed in making these ornaments has persisted throughout the entire period.
I have prepared a series of six maps to illustrate the diffusion and distribution of the six methods of employing hair pipes in Plains Indian adornment. Tribal occurrences of each method of use are indicated by chronologically ordered numbers on the basis of available information from pictorial sources, from the literature, and from field data relative to the earliest record of the use of a particular type of ornament by a member or members of each tribe.
The reader will note that the geographical locations of tribes on these maps are not consistent. A number of tribes of the area changed their locations between the time of their first recorded use of one type of hair-pipe ornament and their first known use of another type of ornament made of hair pipes. It appears to me that a truer picture of the tribal and geographical distribution of each type of ornament is presented by placing each tribe in its approximate location at the time of its first known use of the specific ornament in question.21
The early distribution of the hair-pipe ear pendant (as shown on map 1) suggests that the hair pipes found archeologically at Pawnee and Arikara sites probably were worn by members of those tribes as paired ear pendants. (See p. 52.) The earliest recorded use of hair-pipe ear pendants in the Plains was among the Osage (1806), who had trading relations with St. Louis merchants, as well as with the Government traders in the first decade of the 19th century. Before 1850 some men of a number of Siouan tribes as far northwest as the Crow were wearing hair-pipe ear pendants, as were also the Caddoan, Wichita, Pawnee, Arikara, and the Algonquian Plains Cree and Sauk and Fox. The early popularity of this ornament among men who roached their hair suggests that this hair-pipe ornament originated within a tribe which followed this fashion of hairdress, and later was [p. 76] adopted by some of the long-haired tribes of the Plains. In the third quarter of the 19th century it was reported for a number of other Siouan and Caddoan tribes, as well as the Delaware and Winnebago removed from east of the Mississippi, and the Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, and Comanche of the southern High Plains. Only two tribes westward of the Great Plains have been shown to have worn these ornaments, the Jicarilla Apache and Santa Clara Pueblo in the Southwest. By and large the hair-pipe ear pendant appears to have been a popular pre-Reservation-Period ornament among men of the Central and Southern Plains. It does not appear to have spread to the majority of the tribes of the Upper Missouri, to the Plateau, or Great Basin tribes. Its popularity waned after the invention and diffusion of the hair-pipe breastplate and the development of the bone hair pipe.
[p. 77] The wearing of hair pipes as hair ornaments (map 2) appears to have been the most popular use of hair pipes among men of the Upper Missouri above the Teton Dakota in the first half of the 19th century. In view of this distribution we may surmise that the Crow and Hidatsa men who obtained hair pipes from Larocque and Alexander Henry in 1805-6 probably made use of them as hair ornaments. With the exception of the Crow and Plains Cree no tribe of this group is known to have worn hair-pipe ear pendants. The occurrence of hair-pipe hair ornaments among the Menomini in 1836 further indicates that the wearing of these ornaments was a northern trait. The two cases of the wearing of these ornaments by tribes farther south (Cheyenne and Kiowa Apache) were both reported relatively late in the pre Reservation Period. I have found no indication that the wearing of hair-pipe hair ornaments was common among men of tribes living south of [p.78] Montana and North Dakota. The single pictorial example of the wearing of this ornament after 1880 depicted its use by a Crow Indian, a representative of a tribe which did not readily adopt the more elaborate hair-pipe ornament, the breastplate. Among the other Upper Missouri tribes the popularity of this ornament was on the wane before their acquisition of bone hair pipes and their adaptation of the hair-pipe breastplate.
We have no record of the wearing of hair pipes in necklaces by Plains Indians prior to the travels of the artist George Catlin among these tribes in 1831-34 (map 3) . However, his paintings depicting the wearing of these ornaments by men and women of 11 widely [p. 79] separated tribes at that time suggest that the hair-pipe necklace was known to Plains Indians a number of years earlier. He also depicted these ornaments worn by Indians of five widely distributed Woodland tribes, among some of which the use of long tubular ornaments in necklaces may have occurred in aboriginal times. Available information reveals little diffusion of the hair-pipe necklace in the Plains in the period 1845-80. However, after the introduction of bone hair pipes a more complex, specialized form of woman's hair-pipe necklace was invented, probably by the Dakota, which was diffused up the Missouri to the Gros Ventres, Blackfoot, and Sarsi. Meanwhile the older and simpler form of necklace was diffused to tribes of the Great Basin and the Columbia River Valley. West of the Rockies the hair-pipe necklace served primarily as a man's ornament. In the Northern Plains the necklace has survived as a woman's ornament.
The wearing of the close-fitting, hair-pipe choker seems to have been confined to Indians of the Southern Plains, from whom it was diffused to the Santa Clara Pueblo (map 4). Probably the failure of this ornament to gain acceptance among the Dakota tribes was due to their preference for and quite common use of a very similar choker of dentalium shells. Hair-pipe chokers do appear in use among Southern Plains tribes for an extended period (i. e., 1834 to after 1900), indicating a relatively long, if not a common, use of this pattern of ornament among tribes of that subarea.
The origin and diffusion of the man's hair-pipe breastplate can be traced with greater precision than was the case with any of the preceding types of hair-pipe ornaments. (See map 5.) It was invented later than the other ornaments and was adopted by the majority of tribes who used it within the period covered by abundant pictorial records. There is no contemporary proof of the existence of the hair-pipe breastplate among any Plains Indian tribe in the first half of the 19th century. Yet by 1854 the Comanche had it. We may consider that it was invented by that tribe. By 1867 it had been adopted by neighboring Kiowa, and before 1872 it was worn by men of the Kiowa Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Pawnee tribes. It appears logical to assume that the Arapaho and/or Cheyenne, who had friendly contacts with tribes north of the Platte as well as south of the Arkansas, played a prominent role in the northward diffusion of this ornament. In 1868 the Teton Dakota (Oglala and Brule) wore similar breastplates of dentalium shells. In the period 1872-77 they replaced the dentalium-shell breastplate with the hair-pipe one, which soon became a common article of Teton Dakota adornment. By the early seventies the breastplate was also worn by Moache and Uintah Ute men. During the Reservation Period, and after cheaper bone hair pipes [p. 80] became available, the Teton tribes made more elaborate breastplates in the construction of which larger numbers of hair pipes were employed. They preferred to use long hair pipes in a 2- or 3-row breastplate, while the Southern Plains tribes more commonly wore breastplates of shorter pipes arranged in four rows. It was the former type that was diffused most widely in the Reservation Period. It was adopted by men of at least 10 Plateau tribes west of the Rockies before about 1900. It was a breastplate of this description that was worn by a Taos dancer in 1948. Like the hair-pipe necklace, the breastplate has survived in use among the Plains Indians. It has been especially popular with young grass dancers.
The bandolier of hair pipes appeared within the Reservation Period. (See map 6.) In construction this ornament did not represent a new type of ornament. Rather it was the adaptation of the traditional [p. 81] hair-pipe necklace to specialized use as a man's ornament after the wearing of the necklace came to be restricted primarily to women. Although the earliest recorded use of the bandolier was among the Oglala (1893), and it was worn by Omaha men, most of the examples of its use have been found among non-Plains Indian tribes of the Columbia River Valley and the Ojibwa of Minnesota.
In preparing this summary of the history of the various uses of hair pipes in Indian adornment I have been aware of the limitations of my data. Some of my readers may have knowledge of archeological finds of hair pipes, of pictorial representations of their use, or of published or manuscript references to trade in or Indian use of hair pipes, [p. 82] unknown to me, which may provide earlier dates for the use of hair pipes by some tribes or wider distribution for specific ornament types than I have listed here. New archeological discoveries may add materially to our knowledge of the early use of shell hair pipes in the Great Plains. Certainly ethnological field workers among many tribes of the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Great Basin, and Plateau can obtain from living informants additional details regarding the diffusion and/or survival of use of breastplates, necklaces, and bandoliers among those tribes. Fieldwork among the Plateau tribes, in particular, should provide significant information on the processes of diffusion of hair-pipe ornaments to the Indians of the Northwest in the Reservation Period.