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vmescher
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« on: January 13, 2010, 02:24:18 PM »

After thoroughly looking in a number of secondary and primary sources on dolls the first primary source that I found corn husk dolls mentioned, with directions, was in the September 1881, issue of St. Nicholas Magazine  The second mention was in a fictional story titled, "The Bay-Berry Candles" by Margaret Vandergrift that appeared in the January 3, 1884 issue of the Christian Union magazine.  After that, the instructions from the American Girl's Handy Book (1887) seemed to dominate the citations.  I stopped looking after the turn of the 20th century but there were other primary citations in the 20th century.  So far nothing points to the fact that cornhusk dolls would be correct for a mid-century impression. 

The early instructions mention that Indian children had cornhusk dolls but I have not studied 19th century Native American culture enough to determine if they did have cornhusk dolls and if the construction methods were similar or the same.   
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Virginia Mescher
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2010, 05:42:09 PM »

I just came across this very interesting cornhusk doll in the Royal Ontario Museum collection:

http://images.rom.on.ca/public/index.php?function=image&action=detail&sid=3dd24l3ettk8556q90pk&ccid=4567

Dated to 1840, which certainly seems upheld by the Western aspects of the clothing, it is a First Peoples doll. When the gap closed between First Peoples making these dolls and their spread into Western culture I don't know, but it is a lovely example and possibly interesting for people doing reenactment that crosses over with native peoples.
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Marta Vincent
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2010, 05:52:06 PM »

Jessamyn, all that came up were 2 folders.  1 with a quilted underskirt (very nice BTW) and an empty folder.  No cornhusk dolls.
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2010, 03:22:42 PM »

Sorry, their system is pretty weird. Try punching this item number into the search box:

ROM2005_5871_2
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vmescher
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2010, 08:03:48 AM »

All I got when I clicked on the link was an error message and when I went directly to the site and searched for the item number, I received 0 hits.

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Virginia Mescher
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2010, 12:55:26 PM »

Here is a really nice First Nations website on corn husk dolls and their Native stories.
http://www.snowwowl.com/naartcornhuskdolls.html

Susan
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2010, 01:15:23 PM »

http://books.google.com/books?id=yN3CNqX1eVEC&pg=PA137&dq=corn+husk+dolls+1860&lr=&ei=mfCbS-y4MIi0zQTKhOX1Cg&client=firefox-a&cd=29#v=onepage&q=&f=false

This book is a google limited time preview-

Start on page 136.
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mmescher
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2010, 07:31:11 PM »

The two websites are interesting but some primary documentation would be nice. 

For the passage from the book on the Appalachians, unfortunately the preview didn't include the bibliography.  But the statement a couple of lines below the reference to corncob dolls claims that they fed corncobs to animals as fodder.  Now I've seen animals eat all the grain off a corncob but never eat the cob itself.  Has anyone ever seen corncobs used as fodder?  And if that statement isn't true, could his other claims about dolls be trusted either?  A period diary that mentions making cornhusk dolls would be great.

The reference to Indian legends also seems a little suspect unless some primary documentation can be found.  The website claims that the early settlers "admired the beautiful, simplistic dolls that Native American children made from corn and fashioned to resemble members of their tribe."  Being able to see some of those accounts from the early settlers would certainly lend credence to the claim that not only did they exist but were so wonderful they were admired by the settlers.  An artifact of a cornhusk doll would also be a strong argument for their existence.

If it were me, I wouldn't justify using cornhusk dolls as part of an impression unless I could find something a little stronger.

Michael Mescher
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2010, 12:19:33 PM »

For starters, I have read many secondary sources at work that tell us that our local Native American groups made corn husk dolls.  (Keith Wilbur books is one source).  I have also just written to the St. Francis/Sokoki Tribal Council for information on their traditions.  I also have connections in Six Nations and will ask for their information.  This does not prove that people in the South during the Civil War were using corn husk doll, but there are probably some better primary documents available for people who have access to Southern archives. 

In terms of using corn cobs for fodder, the corn may well have been still on the cob.  We used to have several corn cribs on our property where we stored the dry corn on the cob in the days before we chopped the whole plant for silage.  But I too had not heard of cobs used as fodder. 

I will let you know what I come up with for better sources.

My mother also told of making corn husk dolls because they were very poor and she had no other doll in the 1920s.

Susan
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2010, 01:00:46 PM »

Dear Corn Husk Doll inquisitors,

Here is more current research on the question of who made and used corn husk dolls.  When I receive email from the Six Nations and Abenaki, I will post it.

Onieda Nation website photos:




This woman is also wearing a pretty cool cap!

Here are some photos and descriptions of Appalachian corn husk dolls being made in the 20th century.

http://wcudigitalcollection.cdmhost.com/cdm4/results.php?CISOOP1=any&CISOFIELD1=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOROOT=/p4008coll2&CISOBOX1=may

In 1930 Margaret Revis received a patent for this doll-


Here from AAA website-First Nations from Canada an US.


From a blogger in Kentucky-
http://thefruitofherhandstudio.blogspot.com/2008/03/early-american-corncob-doll-tutorial.html

Popular Mechanics article from 1963
http://books.google.com/books?id=SeMDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA164&ots=DbmVvBnLtq&dq=Kentucky%20Indians%20corn%20husk%20dolls&pg=PA164#v=onepage&q=&f=false


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mmescher
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2010, 06:40:43 PM »

If I could sum up the documentation so far, with the exception of the references from the 1880's in a very early post, all that has been displayed are from twentieth century secondary sources.  This has included books, websites, and museum exhibits.  Without some information about the sources' documentation, while the respective sources might make interesting starting points, using them as justification for an impression is a weak basis.  We have found enough errors in secondary sources (like the statement in "Where There are Mountains" to using corn cobs as fodder) so we don't take their statements on faith.  I would be interested in knowing the outcome into the inquiry to the tribes.  Unfortunately, the bibliography was not part of the preview of "Where There are Mountains" and websites and museums traditionally don't have a bibliography.

And, if we find that corn husk dolls can be documented, the next question is what form they were in the nineteenth century.  Just as modern dolls like Barbie bear no resemblance to period dolls, I would guess that a period corn husk doll was a simple creation and bore no resemblance to the modern creations like there were in the museum exhibit.

Several of the references that have been cited mention that the early settlers admired the corn husk dolls being made by the Indians.  If the Indians were indeed making cornhusk dolls, considering the earlier mindsets (and this is supposition), anything related to the Indians might have been considered savage or highly undesirable because of its source.   So a girl playing with such a doll might have been subject to ridicule for adopting an element of Indian culture. 

So my conclusion thus far is that corn husk dolls are something we want to be period but we can't find any primary documentation to them being made in the mid-nineteenth century.  If documentation demonstrates they were being made by Indians, then further documentation would be needed to show they had been adopted by white settlers before modern times. 

And if you want a demonstration of how secondary sources can repeat the same information that is flat out wrong, check out Euell Gibbons book "Stalking the Healthful Herb" and read about his research into skunk cabbage.  Numerous sources had identical cooking instructions and promised the same results.  As things turned out, they had all been copying from each other or the same source. 

I'm sorry if I keep asking questions about the sources of information enough for some responders to attach the label "Inquisitor" with all its connotations.  But I would love to know that corn husk dolls are period for the white population and designs for 19th century dolls.  They would be a great craft to let spectators make at events.  Until the time that documentation for corn husk dolls is found, there is enough documentation for simple fabric dolls that I can create all the authentic dolls I might need.

So the search continues.

Michael Mescher
« Last Edit: March 14, 2010, 06:50:11 PM by mmescher » Logged
Susan Peden
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2010, 06:59:11 PM »

Since First Nation people had no written language of their own I doubt we will find true period primary documentation from them.  And you are quite correct that these references are secondary. I will send on my responses from the tribes.  My First Nation friend is waiting response from Nate George of the Onieda Nation.  I do believe that the Onieda website is proof enough for me that this tradition was passed on to the generations of Native people.  I am Abenaki, French, Irish, and Scotts.  Many of the customs taught to me were not presented as Native heritage but just as the way we lived.  Like so many of the secondary sources which I posted, oral tradition credits much to cultures who did not necessarily write down how they lived.  I respect your questioning my research and will continue to post my findings.

Susan
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2010, 08:42:39 AM »

"Past and Present of Syracuse and Onandaga County New York by the Reverend William M. Beauchamp, published in 1908, author of the Archaeological of the New York State Museum, etc."  page 59.

Reverend Beauchamp states that the Jesuits and Moravians kept journals but it would take several volumes to transcribe their notes on every day life so he summarized the information in his book.  This book is available on Ancestry.com for those who have a subscription. 

The following quote is from a section describing the materials used by the Onandaga Indians on the reservation-
Quote:  "Cornhusk dolls are ingenious relics of primitive conditions."

 Susan

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Jessamyn
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2010, 10:34:46 AM »

I'm sorry about my inability to link to the Royal Ontario Museum item. I created an account with them in order to save images, and now it's not possible to get their site to forget who I am - so it's difficult to get an "outside" link.

You have to search inside the collections, which is a different search than the main site search.

If you go the main site, http://www.rom.on.ca/index.php, and click on Collections (or possibly you can take this direct link to the Collections page http://www.rom.on.ca/collections/index.php), then click ROM images, then paste the item number into the search box (ROM2005_5871_2) or search on "corn husk doll", I believe you will bring up this item (there are actually three items, the Iroquois doll, her cradleboard, and both together).

Now, I am not for a minute implying that because there seems to be an extant Iroquois doll from about 1840, white people would have been making them also. Nor do I have any opinion about how long it took for white people to start making them. I just thought it was a very interesting doll, quite convincing as an extant item of that period, and also interesting that although the doll's face is clearly cornhusk, there is apparently wood and paint involved somewhere, and the clothing is fabric just as an ordinary doll's would be.

Finally, I am fascinated by the combination of native and western fashion that the doll is wearing.
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2010, 01:11:27 PM »

Virginia,

My tenacity gets the better of me, or as my husband calls it, I am like a dog with a bone.  I have an email in to a researcher at the  Kentucky Historical Society.  I received a reply from a collections manager there and a referral to one of their library staff.  I am curious because at work we teach that the New England Colonial settlers made corn husk dolls and that the Indians made corn husk dolls.  Since the Europeans had never seen corn before coming to the New World, and the Native peoples taught then how to grow corn, we could extrapolate that they may have learned how to make corn husk dolls also.  All that surmised, it still really proves nothing.  So, I will keep posting as I find information.  Oral traditions can inform us to a great degree but don't place definite dates on the timeline.  Thanks for plucking this subject out of the many! 

Still hanging on to this bone,

Susan
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2010, 02:43:07 PM »

Here is the latest on Native American corn husk dolls from Professor Emeritus,  Fred Wiseman, at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  I have attended two of his presentations on the French Explorers and  Native Cultures of Samuel de Champlain's time (1609 on Iroquoisia).  He is a recognized scholar and authority on native cultures.

"Fred Wiseman wrote:
>
> Hello Ms. Peden
>
> Frank Speck in his 1940 book Penobscot Man (repr. University of Maine Press) has photographs of corn husk dolls used by Maine Indians at the turn of the century.  I don't have the book at my side, but it is easy to find in libraries or interlibrary loan; I believe there is a photograph of them as well.  Speck is considered by scholars as definitive.
>
> Fred Wiseman"

Here are his credentials:
Trained as an archaeologist/ecologist, FREDERICK MATTHEW WISEMAN was principal Research Scientist at MIT's Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology and author of scholarly publications on Maya and Paleo-Indian paleoethnobiology. Now devoted to Abenaki culture and history, he teaches at Johnson State College and is an Abenaki Tribal Council member and director of the Abenaki Tribal Museum and Cultural Center in Vermont.

Here is his latest Book-
http://www.upne.com/images/1584650591.jpg

Frank Speck's work is referenced is one of the Native websites that explains how to make corn husk dolls.

S.
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2010, 05:03:22 PM »

From an Oneida Living Historian in NY State:

"Absolutely, the corn husk doll was made from time in memorial through today. Otherwise, why does the Confederacy (not just the Oneida Nation) use it in all facets of life (then and now)?"

(He is speaking of the First Nations Confederacy.  My friend who posed the question did not include the name of the person who responded because he did not know if it was okay with him to do so.)

Now I will concentrate on continuing to make the link between the Native Americans who made and used the dolls and the white and black settlers who also have taken up the custom of making and using them.

Susan
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mmescher
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« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2010, 05:24:24 PM »

Thanks, Susan, for all your research into cornhusk dolls.  You seem to be getting closer to answering some of the questions we have been discussing.  What you have found also illustrates the difficulty of documenting some elements where the most common records are oral traditions passed down through generations.  In such cases, the written records of early Europeans are the only references we can possibly attach a date to and see the verbal snapshot that observed the situation at the time.  I can vouch from my own family how memories will change when I compare my recollections with the memories of my Mom for the same event.  The notes of the early missionaries sounds like a really fertile source of information. 

And I think you have mentioned a very important element as well.  After determining the use of cornhusk dolls by the Indians, then the next search is for the form of their dolls in the nineteenth century and earlier and whether the practice had spread to the white culture by that time.

Thanks again for all you're contributing both up to the mid-nineteenth century and beyond that milestone.

Michael Mescher
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Susan Peden
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« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2010, 05:48:08 PM »

Michael,

Your are quite welcome.  I too have the experience that other family members remember a story or an event differently than I.  I also know how much incorrect information we received when we first started reenacting about 10 years ago, and how much I have learned from the research of others on this forum.  More to come.

Susan
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2010, 08:32:56 AM »

Have any of you been able to get to the Iroquois doll using my latest (all too long) instructions? I think it's worth noting that this early doll is very different from the "ye olde" all-husk dolls pictured in the exhibits above, and Susan, I'd be interested if your research turns up anything further on these differences. Everybody's talking about "corn husk dolls" as if they were one thing, but the all-husk doll may be a later thing, or may have existed side-by-side with the type in the Ontario museum, or the Ontario museum one may be a westernization of a typical doll, not just in clothing, but in method of making.

Inquiring minds want to know!  Wink
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