American Native Arts and Antiques

Exceptional Current and Vintage Native American Arts

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Small Trunk/Casket: Moose hair Embroidered Birch Bark


This small birch bark trunk/casket meant to hold jewelry or other small important items was made about 1840-70. A floral motif of moose hair embroidery decorates this attractive small box. Moose hair embroidery is very rare... increasingly difficult to find. A recent web search turned up only 1 other moose hair embroidered item for sale via the internet. Moose hair embroidery, usually done on birch bark but occasionally on woolen cloth, began about 1700. Native American girls learned embroidery work in Quebec convent schools run by French Ursuline nuns. French embroidery using silk thread, woven cloth, European needles and scissors was taught in these convent schools. When cloth and silk thread became scarce the nuns and their Indian pupils turned to materials available - birch bark and moose hair.

This is about 3" long x 2" deep x 2" high. The sides are longer at the centers, with rounded edges so this is only 2,5" long and 1.5" deep on the top of the lid and on the bottom. The lid is overhanging the front with a longer front piece that can be inserted to a small rectangular loop of birchbark added to the top front center to form a closure. The shape, the overhanging lid and the closure are all unusual - making this a replica of a much larger clothes trunk used at the time this was made. There are 2 strawberries on the lid, 3 oval flowers on the center of the overhang, a blue flower on the right front and some flower bases on the overhang and left front that are made by moose the only traditional Native American embroidering/decorative technique used on this trunk. The rest of the design is done in European style embroidery stitches. See more about moose hair embroidery and tufting in the "news" section of this website. The floral designs on the back and 2 sides are all different and many styles of flowers and vines are used. This piece is in near perfect condition with only one small area, less then 1/4", of the white moose hair outline missing.

Moose hair embroidery is delicate, easily damaged as is birch bark. Not many pieces survive today and the ones that do generally have heavy damage. Even pieces I have viewed in several museum collections are not in excellent condition. This piece with a wonderful unusual shape, intricate and varied embroidered designs as well as its near perfect condition is a rare find!

Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -front
Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -top
Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -back
Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -left side
Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -right side
Moose Hair Embroidered Trunk/Casket -open
Weight: 12 oz