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1890s Tuscarora Iroquois Two Sided Beaded & Silk Souvenir Purse

$ 168.00

After the War of 1812, the Iroquois began searching for an alternative source of income. With their land diminishing and the number of fur-bearing animals dwindling, opportunities for Native Americans to earn a living also started to decrease. 

In order to generate income, Tuscarora (or Iroquois) women began re-creating their traditional arts such as basket making, embroidery and beautiful beadwork and began selling their wares to American tourists who frequented resorts and nearby attractions, such as Niagara Falls. 

For more than a century, tourists purchased souvenirs from Iroquois women to take home as gifts and souvenirs. They bought intricately beaded items such as pincushions in the shape of a boot, wall pockets, purses, mats, picture frames, moccasins, vests and more. Customers could even request the addition of a name or location be added to give the piece a more personalized touch. 

These wonderfully beaded mementos were all the rage in Victorian times and today are considered a highly collectible source of Native American pride. 

This striking bag is a fantastic example of the excellent craftsmanship and handiwork of the Iroquois people. Fashioned in a sturdy black velvet trimmed in silk ribbon, this double-sided purse features a colorful hand-beaded raised floral design on both sides. 

Each side has a top flap that opens to reveal a small side pocket. Bag also has a large center pocket, which is lined in polished cotton. 

Purse has a grosgrain ribbon strap. 

This piece would be a wonderful addition to any collection. A very similar bag can be found in the National Museum of the American Indian Collection at the Smithsonian Institute. 


Width: 6.25"

Height (Not including handle): 7"

Opening Width: 3.5"

Label: None

Condition: Good

All original beads are present and secure. The silk ribbon trim around the bag has faded significantly and is shredding. There is a repair to the silk flap lining on one side. Grosgrain handle looks like it may have had a gathering stitch in the center. This is no longer there. Despite these flaws, this piece is in amazing shape considering its age. This bag is structurally sound and could be used with care. 


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