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Distinctive Northwest Twined Baskets
First Used To Gather Roots

This elegant example of a Plateau bag-basket was included in a display at the High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon.

Twined bags are a distinctive type of basketry made by the Indians of the plateau region of the Pacific Northwest. This particular basket, sometimes called a “Nez Perce cornhusk bag,” is a soft and flexible bag. It was unique to this part of the United States.

The Plateau region covers a huge area. Its east and west boundaries are formed by the Rockies and the Cascade Mountains, respectively. A narrow portion of it extends into southern Oregon around Klamath Falls, and actually dips into California a little ways. To the north, it extends into the Fraser and Thompson River system in Canada. Dominating the whole, however, is the Columbia River and all its tributaries, providing a water world for this otherwise desert-like region.

The twined baskets, or bags, were used as everyday containers for the people of the Plateau. Roots were a basic food source, and the bags were used both for the gathering and the storing of roots for winter use.

These early bags, used for root storage, were two to three feet in depth and closed with a drawstring. Archaeologists believe they have been in use for thousands of years.

The older bags were made of heavy materials, with large stitches. Indian hemp was used originally. After corn was introduced as a crop in this area, in the 1820s, cornhusks began to replace hemp as a weaving material. Still later, commercially produced cotton twine was also utilized for the internal hidden-by-the-design structure of the bag.

The use of root food declined in the late 1800s, and the twined bags began to acquire new uses. Since the bags had traditionally been used by the women, who were the root gatherers and bag weavers, it was natural for women to continue to use them to store and carry other things and they began to serve much the same purpose as a handbag does today.

As the bags began to be used primarily as handbags, appearance became more important. They became smaller, the shape became more square and the weaving was finer. Loop handles and ties replaced the drawstring closures. Fabric linings were sometime added. So was beaded or leather fringe.

Initially, designs were simple geometric motifs. Later bags had complex combinations of flowers, animals and people, as well as more complicated geometric shapes.

Bags of the early to mid-1800s frequently used cornhusks as the design material, against a background of hemp. By 1870, commercially dyed wool yarns became available, in a variety of bright colors, and these were used as the design material against a background of cornhusks. The materials used can be helpful in dating one of these bag-baskets.

For additional information and examples of the baskets made by the Plateau Indians, see Indian Baskets, by Sarah P. Turnbaugh and William A. Turnbaugh (Schiffer Publishing.)

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Transparent Glass Shaded Dark Ruby To Amber
Originally Called Amberina In Early 1880s

Amberina is the trade name used to characterize a transparent art glass which shades from deep ruby to amber color. It was developed in 1883 for the New England Glass Works.

Later in the 1880s, the Mt. Washington Glass Company copied the glass. They, too, sold it originally as Amberina, but later changed their trade name to Rose Amber.
The pieces of these two companies were very similar and are difficult to distinguish today. They were made by adding powdered gold to the other ingredients of an amber glass batch. Then just a portion of the glass, usually the top, was reheated; this produced the shading effect.

In the 1890s, several other companies, among them Hobbs and Brockunier, made a type of Amberina glass under trade names such as Ruby Amber Ware and Watermelon. The products of these factories shaded from cranberry, rather than ruby, to amber and were made by flashing the cranberry on to the reheated amber. The resultant product had a very distinct line between the two colors. However, it was much less expensive and sold better than the more expensive products of the Mt. Washington and New England Glass companies.

The New England Glass Company assigned the trade name “Amberina” to Edward D. Libbey in 1884. He used it in some production in 1900; there was then a 20-year break before he renewed production in Ohio for a short period. This later Amberina is marked “Libbey” in script on the pontil. (There may also be a round paper label with the company’s logo.)

Early Amberina was mold-blown, cut or pressed. There is also a rare type which was plated. These last pieces have an opalescent lining.

There have been many reproductions of amberina through the years. In many cases, the modern pieces lack the deep coloration and fine shadings of the early work.

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Barbed Wire Patents Provided Many
Ways To Fence The Fields

In 1874, Joseph Glidden invented a practical machine for mass-producing barbed wire. Originally, it was a cheap replacement for wood or stone fences, and also was easier to install.

Once the idea had caught on, there was a rush on the U.S. Patent Office. Over 700 patents were issued for barbed wire in the last 30 years of the 19th century.

There are only a few standard types, since barbed wire is nothing more than two strands of wire twisted to form a cable. Wire barbs with points cut diagonally for sharpness are wound around either or both cable wires at regular intervals. However, the combinations of possible wire type and gauge, and spacing differences and varieties of barbs, make hundreds of combinations possible.

Barbed wire is usually collected in 18-inch length. Strands with little rust, unbroken wires and original barbs correctly spaced are preferred.

Part of the fun for many collectors is the hunt, and they walk the fields trying to find barbed wire samples. it should be remembered, however, that it is unethical, and usually illegal, to arbitrarily cut a length of wire from a fence, regardless of whether the fence is standing or has fallen over. The property owner should always be asked. An offer to replace a cut area of wire with new strands is usually accepted.

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