Friday, May 15, 2020

Five on Friday - Trade Beads

Good Morning, Dear Friends!

It's Friday and here I am again...posting my third 'Five on Friday' in a row! Wow! 😄

My topic this week is trade beads (also known as African trade beads and/or Native American trade beads).

Some Reproductions From My Own Collection
It's a little convoluted, I suppose, but the reason I chose trade beads this week is, because, by all rights, this is the week that I (and more than a hundred other people), should be preparing to go to Spring Interpretive Training through work, but, because of the COVID-19 thing, it isn't happening.

Spring Interpretive Training is a much-anticipated, wonderfully-fun time of sharing and learning for our jobs with Missouri State Parks...and, oddly enough, when I think of Spring Interpretive Training, I think of trade beads. 😏

Let me explain...

1) My Introduction To Trade Beads

I was first introduced to trade beads by this fellow right here...

Interpreter Tim Bischoff

His name is Tim Bischoff and, at Spring Training, he does a fantastic first person interpretive presentation as Jean Batptiste LaMontagne, a friend and relative of French-Canadian fur trader, George Drouillard

Part of Tim Bischoff's Period Outfit,
Which Includes Authentic Trade Beads
As part of the presentation, Tim dresses the part in period clothing. This includes carrying and wearing trade beads, which he explains and talks about as part of his first-person program. Trade beads were a big part of life in the world that Jean Batptiste LaMontagne and George Drouillard lived in. 

2) My Own Collection of Trade Beads

After seeing Tim's presentation at Spring Training for the first time in 2016, I was hooked! As soon as I got home I started researching trade beads for myself and building my own collection. Most of my beads are reproductions (as in the top photo above...those were ordered from Crazy Crow Trading Post...which is a great resource for stuff like this!), but, thanks to Tim, I have a few beads that are of the real-deal, authentic kind. 

The Most Treasured Beads in My Collection
Authentic Trade Beads
A couple of years ago Tim put me touch with a good deal on E-bay and, then, last year, at Spring Training, he blessed me with a variety of authentic beads from his own collection. Those, of course, have become the most treasured beads in my collection.

3) Discovering Trade Beads @ Work

Our family has been visiting Prairie State Park now for over a quarter-of-a-century, and I have worked as a naturalist and interpreter there for six. It wasn't until after my second year of Spring Training, when walking through the exhibits one day, I noticed this...

Trade Beads On Display At Prairie State Park
...a strand of Native American trade beads in one of the display cases on the wall! They had been there all along and I had probably seen them dozens of times. I just hadn't made the connection yet. Now I knew what I was looking at! 😲 

4) Sharing My Love of Trade Beads With Others

After building my own collection of trade beads (authentic and reproductions), and after studying and learning a bit more about them, I put together a program on them to be presented to children.

Some Of My Beads and Table Set-up
The children not only learned about trade beads, but they were encouraged to make a few beads of their own out of paper. 

Some Of My Beads and Table Set-up
Combining the beads that they made with a variety of pony beads, the children strung their creations making beautiful necklaces. Each child was allowed to select and add a few reproductions from my own collection, as well.

One Of The Children Modeling Their Beautiful Necklace
Hopefully, a seed was planted and some of those children will discover a love of trade beads for themselves.

5) Paper Trade Beads

In the course of learning about trade beads, I discovered that you can buy books that feature pretty strips of paper that can be cut and rolled into paper trade beads. I've got the book, but have yet to cut and roll the beads.

A Book of Paper Beads
On the other hand, I have cut up tons of old magazines, and with the help of others, have rolled thousands of paper beads like these...

Paper Beads Made From Old Magazine Pages
The paper beads that we made, along with a variety of pony beads, and twine, were turned into 'trade bead' kits that were given away to children at our 2018 Prairie Jubilee at Prairie State Park.

'Trade Bead' Kits
The children were invited to select the beads that they wanted and, either take the supplies with them to make a necklace at home...

Image may contain: 3 people
Trying To Decide Which Colors To Choose
...or, if they preferred, they were welcome to put their necklace together on-site.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting
Making Her Own Strand of Trade Beads To Enjoy
The activity was received well and appeared to have been a huge success. If things open up and we get to have Jubilee 2020 as planned, our goal is to do it you bead-makers out there that helped last on standby because I'm liable to be calling on you! 😆

Well, now you probably know way more about my love of trade bead than you ever even wanted to, but...oh, well! What can I say? 😏

Does anyone else here enjoy trade beads...even a little bit? 

Until next time...

Recent and related posts that you might enjoy reading...


  1. Never heard of trade beads but I do have a kit for making paper beads, I need to do that come to think of it!! Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 12, open May 1 to 26. All party entries shared if social media buttons installed.

    1. So glad you were able to learn about something you had never heard of before, Dee! That's awesome! And that's what interpretation is all about! The paper bead kit sounds like fun! Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to leave a comment. THAT makes my day! Blessings! <3


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