Photographs (left to right): Desert Lizard, Dead Horse State Park, Utah; Crystal Geyser, Green River, Utah; Dead Horse State Park, Utah

Artificial Wampum

Erminnie A. Smith

During a discussion upon ·wampum, at the Montreal Meeting of the British association, I alluded to the fact that there is a wampum manufactory at Packsack [Peacock), New Jersey. In the same discussion Major Powell remarked, that, according to his belief, none of the cylindrical beads of "which the belts then on exhibition were composed had been made by Indians.

Since my return I have visited the manufactory mentioned above, and I will give a hasty sketch of the same. It is situated at Packsack, on the Hackies River, and is conducted by four Campbell brothers,' the youngest of whom is about seventy years of age.

According to their account, the business has been in their family about four generations. During the life of their grandfather it was situated at Teak, now Edge water; and my informant remembers when his grandfather used to go in a boat to Rock away, and  return with his boat loaded with clams, the meat of which was given to the country-people in return for opening the shells, as they 'were ruined by boiling. The blue' heart' of the clam, as it was called, was cut out, and made up into the beads used for the ground-work of belts. My informant said, further, that be had often paid out thousands of dollars per week, buying the beads of the white country-people, who manufactured them in their several homes. The hole of the bead was made with all ‘arm drill,' and the beads were polished or rounded on grindstones. He says the white beads cannot be made from clam, but from conch shells, which they have al ways imported from the West Indies. The young clams cannot be used, and the old have so decreased in number that this branch of the industry has been greatly reduced.

I had with me all Iroquois wampum belt, bearing the marks of age, which they immediately pronounced to have been made after their manner. Although they had been familiar with Indians, they had never known of their making the beads. They had always depended upon the trappers for their market, and related incidents connected with their dealings with ‘fur companies,' etc. The conch-shell is used also in the manufacture of the pipe beads, rosettes, etc. The holes in the pieces composing the rosettes are drilled, some of them, by the country-women in the vicinity. Specimens of the latter I shall take to New Orleans to represent a minute branch of the industry.

If desired, I will resume this subject at a future time, and will present other proofs which I go far to­wards supporting the statement made by the director of the Bureau of ethnology.


Smith, Erminnie A. 1885. Artificial Wampum. Science, Vol. 5, No. 100 (Jan.), pp. 3-4.