The St. Joseph Museum has recently been gifted a rare Buell Indian trade blanket. The museum staff had been researching the history of these sought-after treasures from St. Joseph’s past for several years. Records indicated that in 1848, Norman Buell and his son George moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, and started a small sawmill, which they located at Blacksnake Creek. The Buell Manufacturing Company was soon converted to a woolen mill and operated in St. Joseph until 1911. The Buell Manufacturing Company made exquisite Indian trade blankets, considered to be the most faithful copies of true Indian designs by modern scholars. Today, the blankets are difficult to locate, though recently a selection of them have been on display at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The Buell blankets on display at Crystal Bridges were from artist Dale Chihuly’s collection of Indian Trade Blankets. Chilhuly has sixteen Buell blankets in his collection, which is the largest known collection of the St. Joseph made Buells. St. Joseph Museum staff worked with artist Megan Wyeth and historians Marshall White, Susanne Lehr, Dr. Kim Schutte, and Gary Wescott to research the history of the blankets. This research eventually led to correspondence with Barry Friedman, author of Chasing Rainbows: Collecting American Indian Trade & Camp Blankets, who is an expert in Indian Trade Blankets. Mr. Friedman identified an authentic Buell available for purchase, and generous donors provided funds for the St. Joseph Museum to acquire a Winnebago-style blanket.
The Buell blanket is a real treasure that has returned home to St. Joseph, and will be on display at the St. Joseph Museum’s Frederick Avenue Site in the American Indian Galleries in the near future. The donation will join exhibits of archaeological items, pottery, baskets, pipes, fans, elaborate beadwork, colorful kachina dolls, pipes, bags, and fetishes from ten cultural regions.
The St. Joseph Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for students, and free for children under six and museum members. Admission also includes the Black Archives Museum, Doll Museum, and Glore Psychiatric Museum, which are also located at 3406 Frederick Avenue. For more information on exhibits and events, please call 816-232-8471 or visit stjosephmuseum.org.
Content for this post provided by the St. Joseph Museum [Website]