The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, March 16, 1805
Lewis, March 16, 1805
Mr. Gurrow a Frenchman who has lived many years with the Ricares & Mandans shewed us the process used by those Indians to make beads. the discovery of this art these nations are said to have derived from the Snake Indians who have been taken prisoners by the Ricaras. the art is kept a secret by the Indians among themselves and is yet known to but few of them.
the Prosess is as follows,- Take glass of as many different colours as you think proper, then pound it as fine as possible puting each colour in a seperate vessel. wash the pounded glass in several waters throwing off the water at each washing. continue this opperation as long as the pounded glass stains or colours the water which is poured off and the residium is then prepared for uce. You then provide an earthen pot of convenient size say of three gallons which will stand the fire; a platter also of the same materials sufficiently small to be admitted in the mouth of the pot or jar. the pot has a nitch in it's edge through which to watch the beads when in blast. You then provide some well seasoned clay with a propertion of sand sufficient to prevent it's becoming very hard when exposed to the heat. this clay must be tempered with water untill it is about the consistency of common doe. of this clay you then prepare, a sufficient number of little sticks of the size you wish the hole through the bead, which you do by roling the clay on the palm of the hand with your finger. this done put those sticks of clay on the platter and espose them to a red heat for a few minutes when you take them off and suffer them to cool. the pot is also heated to cles it perfectly of any filth it may contain. small balls of clay are also mad of about an ounce weight which serve each as a pedestal for a bead. these while soft ar distributed over the face of the platter at such distance from each other as to prevent the beads from touching. some little wooden paddles are now provided from three to four inches in length sharpened or brought to a point at the extremity of the handle. with this paddle you place in the palm of the hand as much of the wet pounded glass as is necessary to make the bead of the size you wish it. it is then arranged with the paddle in an oblong form, laying one of those little stick of clay crosswise over it; the pounded glass by means of the paddle is then roped in cilindrical form arround the stick of clay and gently roled by motion of the hand backwards an forwards until you get it as regular and smooth as you conveniently can. if you wish to introduce any other colour you now purforate the surface of the bead with the pointed end of your little paddle and fill up the cavity with other pounded glass of the colour you wish forming the whole as regular as you can. a hole is now made in the center of the little pedestals of clay with the handle of your shovel sufficiently large to admit the end of the stick of clay arround which the bead is formed. the beads are then arranged perpindicularly on their pedestals and little distance above them supported by the little sticks of clay to which they are attatched in the manner before mentioned. Thus arranged the platter is deposited on burning coals or hot embers and the pot reversed with the apparture in it's edge turned towards coverd the whole. dry wood pretty much doated _; is then plased arron the pot in sush manner as compleatly to cover it is then set on fire and the opperator must shortly after begin to watch his beads through the apparture of the pot lest they should be distroyed by being over heated. he suffers the beads to acquire a deep red heat from which when it passes in a small degree to a pailer or whitish red, or he discovers that the beads begin to become pointed at their upper extremities he removes the fire from about the pot and suffers the whole to cool gradually. the pot is then removed and the beads taken out. the clay which fills the hollow of the beads is picked out with an awl or nedle, the bead is then fit for uce. The Indians are extreemly fond of the large beads formed by this process. they use them as pendants to their years, or hair and sometimes wear them about their necks.