Page 1 of 1

Scottish Luckenbooth Brooches and the Iroquois

Posted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:59 pm
by dognose
Fascinating article written in 1910 that links the Scottish Luckenbooth brooch to the work of the Iroquois.

(For Scottish, please read Scotch!)



During the middle of the eighteenth century there was a distinct change in the character of Iroquois personal ornaments. Then for the first time records mention silver articles such as buckles, crosses, crowns or bands, bracelets, and earrings, but no detailed description of the exact character and patterns of these objects has been left us. Previous to 1700 the metallic ornaments of European origin of the Iroquois had been principally of pewter, iron, brass, and sometimes copper. At the beginning of the eighteenth century silver ornaments were introduced and by the time of the French and Indian war they had become fairly common. At this time Indian favors could not be purchased with trinkets of brass, and the French and English, each eager for trade and prestige, began to shower silver ornaments upon the eastern aborigines until their shirts are sometimes described as being so thickly covered with them that they looked like armor. Some families are said to have had a bushel of brooches.

Specimens of Iroquois silverwork have for twenty years or more attracted the attention of collectors of Indian relics. Few articles, unless we except the historic wampum belts, have been more eagerly sought for. Up to about 1865 these silver articles were fairly abundant, native silversmiths supplying the demand where the old trade ornaments could no longer be had.

Perhaps the first specimens of native made Iroquois silver ornaments obtained for any museum were those collected by Lewis H. Morgan for the New York State Cabinet (Museum). Unfortunately, however, the Morgan specimens are not now accessible and have not been seen in the State Museum collections for many years. Mrs Harriet Maxwell Converse in 1897 collected and donated to the Museum a series of Iroquois silver brooches, beads, head-bands, bracelets, and earrings, and described them in the 54th Annual Report of the State Museum. The Converse collection of silver articles was the first exhibited in the State Museum ethnological collections since the Morgan collection, and Mrs Converse's description is one of the first detailed accounts known to the writer. Earlier notices, which are numerous, mention the articles by name only. Later Dr W. M. Beauchamp prepared a monograph on the " Metallic Ornaments of the New York Indians," published as Bulletin 73 of the State Museum, this being the most extended and detailed account of the objects themselves so far published. The next account of the subject came from the pen of Mr M. Raymond Harrington under the title " Iroquois Silverwork," published in vol. I of the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History. Mr Harrington's paper is by far the most satisfactory so far in print since it describes, not only the various classes of ornaments, but gives an account of the tools used by the Iroquois in the manufacture of silverwork and also describes the method. In this respect his article was the pioneer of its kind.

The first set of Iroquois silverworkers' tools collected for a museum was seemingly that obtained by Mrs Converse for the Richmond collection in the museum of the Montgomery County (N. Y.) Historical Society. Mr Harrington secured two outfits in Canada.

During the autumn of 1907 the writer was informed by a number of Indians from the Allegany Reservation that there was a silversmith's outfit of tools in the possession of Silversmith George, an old Seneca Indian living near Tunesassa on the Allegany river. Knowing the extreme rarity of such tool kits, an immediate effort was made to secure it. Smith George was visited and the outfit purchased for a few dollars. It was incomplete, but at the time the State Museum had not a single Indian silverworker's tool. As much information was obtained as could be imparted by Mr George, whose deceased brother had been the real skilled worker. During the summer of 1908 another outfit was located on the Cattaraugus Reservation. It was in the possession of Mrs Nancy Mohawk and was purchased through the good offices of Chief Delos Big Kittle, known to his fellow tribesmen as Chief Soinowa. This outfit was complete except for the brass patterns which had been loaned to a son-in-law. It was promised that they would be restored for a few dollars more and added to the outfit already in hand, but they could not be found when sent for.


The outfit as it stood (see fig. 34) consisted of an old stained pine table with a drawer which had been partitioned off to contain the various tools which consisted of more than a hundred chisels, several homemade saws fashioned from case knives, a blowpipe, a candlestick, hammers, pincers, a small table vise, punches, dies, awls, gravers, files, etc., and several boxes of silver cuttings, chips, brooches in process, earrings in process, glass in various stages of the shaping process for mounts, etc. A small partition contained several flint drills and a flint graver, also eight pieces of flat deer bone in process of manufacture into gaming buttons.

As in the case of the outfit procured the previous year, as many data as the Indian owners could furnish, prompted by vigorous questioning, were secured. Questions which might suggest answers were not asked in any instance, this being a better method to employ when interrogating Indians unaccustomed to analytical studies, and who many times will acquiesce in a suggested reply.

Several photographs were taken showing the uses of the various tools. Experiments were conducted in die stamping, graving, and melting silver by blowpiping a candle flame upon the metal held in the hollow in a piece of hard wood. The silver melted, fused, and with the withdrawal of the flame hardened into a small button.

Most writers on the subject have had little to say regarding the origin of the art of silversmithing among the Iroquois and other tribes that used similar ornaments. This is especially true of the class of articles known as brooches. Mrs Converse says that she failed to find in illustrations of jewelry ornamentation of the French, English, or Dutch designs that have been actually followed in the hammered coin brooch of the Iroquois. " I credit him with entire originality," she adds. This is true perhaps as far as concerns the chasing of the brooch. Dr Beauchamp thought the brooch apparently an evolution of the gorget and says that it is difficult to surmise how the buckle-tongue fastening originated, or, if borrowed, whence it came. Mr Harrington notes that the heart and crown brooch looks suspicously European.

That an art of this character should spring suddenly into existence seems improbable, and especially since the Iroquois had nothing resembling the brooch prior to the colonial period. The writer therefore sought to find what the early trade ornaments of silver had been and to trace if possible any connection between the designs of such and the ornaments made by the Iroquois. A little research led the writer to take the stand that the idea of making silver ornaments such as brooches and earrings of the class under discussion had its origin in Europe and not in America. An examination of the archeological investigations in England, and especially in Yorkshire, revealed the fact that the builders of the burial cairns in Britain used the circular brooch with a tongue fastener, in all essential respects similar to the earliest type of brooches used by the Iroquois and other eastern Indians. This led to further investigations which resuited in the discovery that the " Iroquois brooch " was in reality of Scotch or at least of British origin, and that brooches of silver, many types of which are similar to Indian-made varieties, were known in Scotland as " Luckenbooth brooches."

Dr Joseph Anderson, Curator of the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, in reply to the writer's inquiries, said, " I think that nearly all of these [brooches] figured in the plates of the pamphlet you kindly sent me are imitations and adaptations of Scotch Luckenbooth brooches, so called because they were chiefly


sold in the Luckenbooths around about St Giles Church, Edinburgh. This applies to all those modeled on the design of a single or double heart, crowned, and also to the simpler forms of the heart alone. The Masonic badges seem also to have been imitated, but they need not necessarily have been Scottish." Dr Anderson enclosed with this letter a few leaves torn from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Feb. 12, 1900, pp. 220-222, which have illustrations of Scotch Luckenbooth brooches. For comparison these illustrations are reproduced in figs. 35 and 36. To a second letter of inquiry Dr Anderson replied: "The earliest period for the manufacture of the heart-shaped and other shapes of the Luckenbooth brooches is a matter of inference and may be 17th rather than 18th century. . . . They were worn by women and children in the fastening of a bodice or collar. . . . There are no distinctive names given to


the various types of these brooches. They were mostly used as luck tokens, or betrothal gifts, and the choice of the heart shape or the crowned heart or the double heart for these purposes is sufficiently obvious. Moreover they frequently bear inscriptions, initials, or posies ; for instance on one in the museum is the inscription ' Wrong not the whose joy thou art,' the blank for the word heart being supplied by the form of the brooch itself. There are no sets of tools, dies, or punches for making brooches in the museum. I never heard or saw any such."

It seems conclusive, therefore, that the Iroquois brooch and other silver ornaments that became popular during the early colonial period are of European origin, specifically perhaps Scotch. We say perhaps for lack of definite information as to the possible use of brooches elsewhere except in Great Britain. Archeology forbids the presumption that Europeans copied brooches from the Indians and sent them back as trade articles.

White jewelers in the United States and Canada for more than a hundred years have made brooches, hat-bands, earrings, and armbands to sell to the Indians. These jewelers also made brass patterns which were sold or traded. Some of these were made in Montreal and others in Albany. The Frederick Mix firm of Albany only recently sold their old dies and patterns to a junk dealer by whom they were destroyed before the writer could procure them.

Some of the die-cut brass patterns are still to be found, but no complete set has ever been collected. In using them the pattern was laid on a sheet of beaten silver, the design traced on with an awl, and the pattern cut out with suitable chisels and gouges of steel. The art is now almost obselete, few silver articles having been made during the last twenty years.

The writer first called attention to some of these facts in the 5th Report of the Director of the N. Y. State Museum, 1909, and also in an address before the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, in describing a fine example of Scotch brooch in the collections of that society.

The chief reason why the European origin of Iroquois brooches was not suspected by collectors is that no detailed description or picture of the trade brooch was ever made. When it was thought worth while to collect them the Iroquois had forgotten their European origin and steadfastly asserted that they had always made them, even though they might for the sake of convenience get white jewellers to cut their patterns or even stamp out blank brooches which they afterward chased in their own fashion. The Seneca even have several legends about brooches, one of which tells of a great silver mine in the Alleghanies and another that the shining ornaments are the scales of an under-water fish-man who loved a maiden and lured her to his lake each day by a gift of a scale until they became a charm that drew her into the water and to her lover.

When inquiries were made by ethnologists none thought to seek out the white jewellers who had had a hand in the manufacture of brooches and other Indian silver trinkets because he could not find the jeweller or thought little about the matter. The British


traders had ceased to trade their silver ornaments and their true origin was not suspected. The Indians wore them, made them, and had tools (see fig. 37) and smiths for their manufacture. The natural conclusion was that Iroquois silverwork was of native origin.

The principal difference between the Iroquois brooch and its Scottish prototype is that the Iroquois decorated theirs on one flat surface with dots and dashes, wavy lines, sun, moon, and star symbols, life and " seed " signs, and cut animal-head profiles in projecting points or tips of some of the heart and crown forms. They even sought to interpret the symbolism of the European designs. The heart and crown brooch, " Queen Mary's heart," was called " the owl " and was worn as a charm at night. The masonic emblem was conventionalized again and again until the original motif is hardly to be distinguished. In its various stages of conventionalization it was given various names, such as " sky and pillars " and "council fire." Some collectors, however, have been unable to discover any symbolism, and attribute any interpretation to the imagination of the collector. As a matter of fact the Iroquois do have certain symbols on their brooches, and some of these have been interpreted by one or two old Indians for the writer who has every reason to believe his information authentic.

In brooches of Scottish origin the decoration of the form is by embossing, deep ridging, and beveling. Scotch brooches seem thicker and consequently more solid, when contrasted with the rather thin and flat brooches of the Iroquois. Scotch brooches are sometimes decorated on both sides and have inscriptions in Roman text on them. There may be other differences in Scotch brooches, but the writer has not seen enough of them to justify further conclusions.

Dr Anderson thinks the Scottish brooch originated in the 17th century, but a cursory examination of Forty Years' Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, by J. R. Mortimer (London, 1905), will show that the circular brooch of bronze and silver dates back to the time of savagery, and they were probably never obsolete at any period in the history of Great Britain. Their use and manufacture by the Indians of America furnishes a splendid illustration of the postulate that similar artifacts were made by or were capable of delighting any people of a similar cultural stage.

New York State Museum,
Albany, N. Y.

Source: American Anthropologist, Volume 12 (July - September 1910) By American Anthropological Association, Anthropological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.), American Ethnological Society.

(I'll post a follow up article soon).

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:17 am
by dognose


In the American Anthropologist for July-Sept., 1910, I endeavored to show that most of the silver brooch patterns used by the eastern Indians, particularly the Iroquois, had come from trans-atlantic sources, most probably directly from Scotland. I pointed out also that the Iroquois as late as 1865 commonly made silver brooches similar in most ways to Scotch Luckenbooth brooches, that they considered their product the result of a purely native art, and that this belief had been held by nearly all, if not all, collectors of Iroquois silver ornaments.

It may be well to state, in passing, that the Iroquois silver enius'ka' as well as the Scotch Luckenbooth brooch was fretted out of a thin plate of silver and generally had a single tongue or pin loosely attached to one side of a central opening. The cloth was pulled through this opening sufficiently to allow the tongue to pierce it when it was drawn back and the brooch thus held securely. This form of brooch is distinctive and differs from the heavy forms with a clasp pin on the back, from the fibula, and from other forms of pin jewelry. The Luckenbooth brooch resembles a buckle more than it does a pin or fibula.

Since the publication of my former article I have come across other interesting references to silver brooches and am much indebted to Mr Alfred Ela of Boston for many citations, with particular reference to the origin of heart-shaped brooches in Europe. My article traced the European brooch from the burial mounds of East Yorkshire to Scotland. In the Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, vol. 6, part 1, 1910, I find, however, an article on heart brooches by Mr C. E. Whitelaw, F. S. A. Scot., in which the following statement is made: "The heart shaped brooch in various forms was in use in many countries in Western Europe, e. g. Scandanavia, Germany and England. In England it was one of the commonest forms in mediaeval times and was probably introduced about the thirteenth century. I am unable to suggest when it came into use in Scotland." Thus, as had been anticipated, the brooch referred to has been traced to the continent.


The Scotch Luckenbooth brooches mentioned by Mr Whitelaw are described as usually of silver, often of inferior quality, and sometimes set with natural crystals or glass and occasionally with brass or copper. Such brooches are described as having been cast in moulds and finished by hand. On these specimens the maker's initials or the place of manufacture are often found. The face is usually engraved and many times the reverse bears an inscription, a posy, the names of its owners, or the name of a donor and recipient. This last named form is generally found to be a marriage or a love token (see fig. 45). Any brooch pinned to the garment of a child was regarded by the Scotch as an efficient charm against witches, hence the name "witch brooches" was often applied.

When the Iroquois silversmiths copied the Scotch patterns they left off many things that were common in the original pattern and interpreted the design as their own education, environment, or customs dictated. The Iroquois many times fastened bits of glass to the brooches but never cast them. Their method was uniformly to fret them out of sheet silver or beaten coins, as previously described.

The most common forms of loose-tongued fret-work brooches in use in Great Britain as far as I have discovered from reviewing descriptions and illustrations, are the circle, the simple heart, the heart with the apex curved to one side, the simple heart crowned either by a coronet or thistle, the elaborated heart and highly conventional crown, and two hearts intertwined and crowned. Very probably the simple square was also used. All these forms and many others are found in Iroquois-made brooches of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Iroquois brooches in their workmanship are distinctive. With them the thistle top was a bird's tail and in their brooches they lengthened the thistle and drew parallel lines to represent feathers. The Iroquois recognized the intertwined hearts to be such but called them "two jaws interlocked." Unlike the Scotch brooch of this type they did not place a tongue on each heart but fastened one across the central opening. Mr Harrington in his paper on silversmithing (Anthropological Papers of the Am. Mus of Nat. Hist., vol. I, part vi.) remarks that the Iroquois use this brooch (see fig. 45, e) as a national badge and this is quite true. The Iroquois traveler, faithful to the precedents of his sires of the older days, generally fastens a double heart brooch to his coat or vest as an emblem of his nationality and as a hailing sign to the wanderers of his tribe. Never does he suspect that the motif of his emblem is anything but a genuine product of his own ancestors and thus a worthy token of his aboriginality. In it he never dreams of the canny Scot of earlier times.


Another type of brooch in common use by the Iroquois is the "council square," a quadrilateral pattern with concaved sides and notched corners, one square within another (fig. 45, d). This form I have not yet seen in works illustrating the silver ornaments of Great Britain but it appears in a painting of Pocahontas and her son Thomas Rolfe hung in Heacham Hall, England, which must have been painted not later than 1611. Figure 46 is a reproduction of the painting. Crowned single hearts appear also, the two forms being attached to the low cut neck of the dress and fastening the front all the way down just as Iroquois women later commonly wore them.

In the center of the neck border is a particularly interesting brooch (see fig. 47). It is one clearly of Masonic import and shows the compasses, the arc of the circle, and the square supported by pillars. Near the top, bottom as worn, is another smaller decoration which seems a small right angle or square. As worn the brooch is inverted and it is interesting to note that the Iroquois almost always wore conventionalized Masonic emblems upside down. The small right angle may be a square but apparently it is only a device commonly found at the bottom of Scotch heart and crown brooches (see fig. 45b).

It has never been clearly understood by students of Iroquois ethnology just when the Masonic pattern came into vogue with the Iroquois. Brant was a Mason and other leaders have been claimed as such, but the Iroquois had plenty of opportunities before that time of seeing the Masonic emblem as displayed by the Scotch and English traders and explorers that came among them. The Masonic emblem worn by Pocahontas as an ornament, shown in the painting referred to, would seem to point out that the Atlantic coast Indians influenced by British colonists had seen the emblem as early as the settlement of Jamestown. Later this emblem was used by the Iroquois as a decorative motif in'their silver ornaments and was conventionalized in many ways. In almost all cases, however, they regarded the bottom of the design as the top and thus placed the arc of the circle at the top and the joint of the compasses at the bottom. In this position the arc and the square resembled somewhat the crown on a heart brooch, while the round hinge of the compasses resembled the knob at the lower point of the heart on Scotch brooches (see fig. 45, b). Because of this fancied similarity the "Queen Mary's heart" design and the Masonic emblem became blended in the conventionalized patterns that grew out of both motifs. How the idea of similarity might develop may be understood by inverting figure 48, a and b, and comparing them with the heart brooch in figure 45, b. Here the openings in the crown–with the Iroquois, the eyes of the owl–are suns and moons in the Masonic design and the arc of the circle is construed as a plain top of the crown–with the Iroquois, the owl's head. Then are there Only three small differences: in the heart (owl) pattern the sides are curved while the sides of the compasses are straight; the apex of the heart is pointed in Iroquois brooches or rarely there is a small bird's head, while the top of the compasses terminates in a circular hinge; and in the heart the triangular opening at the middle of the base of the crown points downward to give a symmetrical border to the heart, while in the Masonic type the angle of the square points upward (viewed in the reversed position). In the Scotch crowned hearts, as previously mentioned, the heart sometimes has at its apex a knob or trifoliated projection which might easily be interpreted as similar in import to the head of the compasses. These differences only accentuate the similarity of the two forms as viewed by the Indians.


The simpler form of the Masonic emblem as employed by the Iroquois is shown in the Iroquois-made brooch illustrated in figure 48,0. Apparently it is a copy of some past master's jewel. Figure 48, b, is nearly the same except that for the sake of balance the sun and the moon have been turned into suns without rays.


In 48, c, the sun and moon are lacking and we have what appears to be a trysquare. In figure 48, d, the space between the square and the arc has been left filled but the decorations which are fretted out still leave the arc and the square untouched. The suns here appear only engraved. Figure 48, e, represents another type and one similar to the Pocahontas brooch. The small pillars here appear and though they are conventionalized they may be recognized. In this brooch the arc of the circle does not appear free though its upper side is distinguished by decorations that outline it. Above the arc in the next figure (48, f), are odd designs punched out. They are similar, varying little in shape, in all brooches of this type. In fig. 48, f, as in fig. 48, e, the first fretwork design inside the base of the pillar might appear to be a trowel but this is probably not the case. More likely these fanciful outlines are only the result of an attempt to punch five circles at regular intervals and at the same time to leave the square free and not to break into any other part of the design. In figure 48, f, the conventionalized pillars rise above and through the compasses and are attached to them at the top. On the bars of the compasses where the pillars intercept them are the Iroquois seed or "life" symbols.

A second stage of modification of this motif is shown in figure 49, a. Here the bars (legs of the compasses) are doubled and paralleled. This doubling the Iroquois call deio'wa"ge, "two parallel lines." The idea of "doubling" probably originated from the "council square" brooch such as is represented in figure 45, d. In figure 49, b, is the ordinary "wolf-eared council fire" brooch of the Seneca, the interlaced bars representing the fagots of the fire. In figure 49, c, the fagots are shown and the flame bursting from the top (bottom as illustrated). In these patterns the arc as a feature almost disappears. Figure 49, d, shows the brooch with the arc metamorphosed to double and parallel squares. This is wrought by combining the original concept with the square-within-a-square council brooch (see fig. 45, d).

Another departure from the original motif is shown in figure 49, e. The pattern is rather more pleasing in its lines than the former and there are no prominent straight lines in it. In figure 49, f, it is even more difficult to recognize the Masonic motif than it is in figure 49, e. The Iroquois call the brorch represented in figure 49, f, the oskwi'sa or tomahawk.


It appears to have been obtained by perpendicularly halving the Masonic design. Looking at it in this way, one leg of the compasses, the joint, and one arm of the square may be seen, while the blade of the tomahawk may or may not be derived from the arc of the circle.

This series of brooches affords a good illustration of how an original motif may become conventionalized and modified by other similar objects until the original design becomes almost unrecognizable.

Among other styles of Iroquois brooches are various forms of the star and circle. Ornamented stars of five, six, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve points are enclosed in a decorated circular border, generally with scalloped edges. Hardly two brooches of similar pattern appear identical when the details of fretwork and engraving are closely examined. When stars appear without the enclosing band the points terminate in knobs or hemispheres. The circular or disk brooches are most frequently convex on the front surface and the pin hole is usually circular, though heart-shaped, and square openings occur in some instances. The square central opening is most often found in brooches where the "council square" motif is worked inside a circular border.

Iroquois circular and disk brooches are different from the so called " Algonquin " or " Delaware " types. Such are saucer-shaped, sometimes quite deep, or simply convexed on the upper surface. The former are generally small and plain with the central opening at the bottom of the saucer. The disk type is often large, those six inches in diameter being frequent. Brooches of this form, however, are stamped and engraved and seldom fretted. The workmanship of the Iroquois-made brooch is superior to the products of other tribes and may easily be distinguished.

Purely native patterns are extremely rare and the occasional example is found to be zoomorphic. The Iroquois silversmith preferred to cling to a motif as he found it and though he had ample opportunity to create his own designs few examples have been discovered. There seem to be certain reasons for this and the circumstance affords a text for more than a single venture.

If brooches of the loose-tongued buckle type were common in Great Britain at the time of the discovery of America there is a possibility that they might have crept into the trader's store of more precious things and thus have worked their way into the esteem of the Indians at a comparatively early period. If the painting of Pocahontas is contemporaneous, as I am assured it is, the brooches represented on her dress would seem to confirm this and indicate that the Indians might have had brooches from traders and colonists as early as 1607. As a matter of fact, however, they do not appear to have become familiar articles with the Indians until after the beginning of the eighteenth century, and then
not until the end of the first quarter. They are not found in Indian graves before this period as far as I have been able to discover.

New York State Museum, Albany, N. Y.

Source: American Anthropologist, Volume 13 (1911) By American Anthropological Association, Anthropological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.), American Ethnological Society.