Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) raised beadwork pincushion or pillow in trilobe heart shape; beaded panel on front has tan-colored velveteen ground edged by narrow twill tape; front depicts American eagle with an American flag behind each wing and three branches held by its feet; seven “stars” above its head; long sides of panel has border with scallop motif; top of panel has leaves in red, white, green, blue, and orange; edge of entire cushion has bead embroidered band and five beaded tassels in pink, green, and yellow; light blue twisted beaded hanger at top; cushion likely stuffed with sawdust; backing is purple glazed cotton.
From the early nineteenth century and into the twentieth, Niagara Falls became a destination for tourists who sought to encounter not only the spectacle of the majestic falls, but the Native Americans they associated with the region. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) merged traditional styles of beadwork with Victorian tastes to create a souvenir market for “Indian curiosities,” enabling their beadworkers to earn income through a cottage industry.
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Tuscarora and Mohawk developed a style of raised beadwork sewn in parallel lines, visible in this example. Women worked their motifs over paper patterns that remained intact when finished, embellishing purses, hanging pincushions, daguerreotype frames, and “whimsey” forms such as boots, hearts, horseshoes, and strawberries. Birds are a commonly found motif in Haudenosaunee beadwork.