I became interested in old trade beads many years ago. What is an old trade bead you ask? Beads of various materials have been found associated with our ancient ancestors. Mostly these consisted of pieces of bone, shell, stone, teeth, plant seeds, etc. strung on a thong of some kind and worn around the neck for protection or to show status. Stone beads, like the ones below made in 10,000 B.C.
and these shell beads that were dated to be 80,000 years old are examples of the early needs for such adornments. Some of these beads were probably traded for various items.
The history of glass trade beads dates back to the 1400’s when they were created primarily in Venice, Bohemia and Holland. Venice was the bead capital creating many 100’s of thousands of different glass beads. These were handmade beads, a single bead made at a time by many different bead makers.
These beads eventually found trade routes and no continent was flooded with more beads than Africa. When the Europeans arrived in Africa, they carried glass beads to trade for gold, ivory and slaves.
Eventually some of the more popular and abundant beads made it to North America and became part of our fur trade and the Native American culture.
Here is just a tiny example of some of the glass beads that were part of Africa trade:
Please visit the Trade Bead section of my website to see many more old trade beads; there is a link to my store at the top of this page.
Aside from the fact that beads are a fascinating part of history, I also have some canine connections to these relics which is why I have named my business TurtleBear’s Canines & Collectibles as represented below with the help of Joy.
As for my connections between beads and dogs, first there is an old Venetian glass trade bead that is often called the “dog tooth” bead. It is a black bead with a white ruffle and is more appropriately referred to as a “ruffle bead” but I think the fur traders preferred the name “dog tooth”.
As you can see, no two beads are exactly alike which is typical of the old trade beads that were handmade, one bead at a time, by many different bead makers. I sometimes get customers who want “matching” beads and I have to tell them how impossible that is and why. Imagine you and I sitting in a huge room, with a newly formed hot length of glass cane, cutting off small sections and then working them into a particular bead. I know our beads would all be slightly different.
My second connection between dogs and beads is through the Lewis and Clark Expedition and their guide Sacajawea who wore an awesome belt made of blue padre trade beads.
Lewis and Clark managed to talk her out of the belt to use in trade with an Indian tribe. According to the Journals they later got the belt back for her. My connection: Now I have a pup, Sacajawea, named after a great woman and a special bead sometimes called “Sacajawea blues”.
My second connection might be a bit of a stretch but it gives me a chance to share another old trade bead, called the Lewis and Clark bead. This is a fancy glass Venetian trade bead that was made in the 1800’s – early 1900’s. Many people erroneously believe that the bead accompanied Lewis and Clark on their Expedition but it did not. In fact the first ones were not produced until after the Expedition. Some wise bead maker decided to stick a famous name on the bead to make it very popular and thus, the Lewis and Clark trade bead.
Here is a group of six Looies that are in fine condition. The original bead had the red, white and blue stripe encircling the bead. On older or more heavily used beads this stripe tends to be gradually worn away.
And now my favorite connection between old trade beads and my dogs: About 1994 I accepted the fact that I had become a puppy addict. As soon as one grew up I was ready to get another which of course, was not practical. We have five acres of land that is perfect dog habitat but we have a small house and just three dogs can make it seem even smaller, especially in the winter when the weather keeps us indoors more.
So, what to do about my addiction? One night I happened to see a news program on service dogs. The program described how volunteers raised the puppies until they were ready for Advanced Training. I called Canine Companions for Independence in CA the next day. I had to fill out an application form and an experienced puppy raiser did a home visit to make sure our place and I were suitable to take on the responsibility of being a puppy raiser.
I passed the tests and then waited until they had a puppy for me. One day they called me and said they had a golden retriever who was already 4 months old and had been returned to CCI by his original puppy raiser for some reason. Since I was a beginner they felt this partially trained pup would be a good one for me to start with. I said yes! Within a few days Gareth was flown in to Helena and I picked him up at the airport.
I got him home and took him out into the front yard. After the long crate time in the plane he was ready to run and raced back and forth mostly ignoring me. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?!”
But he turned out to be a great pup to work with and was the first golden retriever I had ever had any experience with; he was a beautiful boy.
And what I like about this bead/canine connection is that I purchase old trade beads from several African traders. These beads were once used to trade for African slaves. Now I sell them to cover my costs as a volunteer puppy raiser which are trained as service dogs for disabled children. I love this connection between the pups I raise and the beads I sell to help me be a raiser.
Puppies and old trade beads; a girl can’t have too many!