Article Title

Beads from the Great White Arabia - A Mid-19th-Century American Steamboat




Loaded with 200 tons of goods heading for Omaha, Nebraska, and Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa, the steamboat Great White Arabia hit a snag and sank near Kansas City in 1856. In 1989, a group of salvors excavated the wreck and recovered almost the entire cargo which was in a remarkable state of preservation. Among the finds were several million glass embroidery beads, as well as several hundred blown specimens in various shapes, sizes, and colors, some of which formed the heads of fancy stickpins. Due to their fragility, blown beads are seldom found in archaeological contexts so the Arabiaspecimens are especially significant and comprise the largest collection of such beads found at a North American site. Coming from a tightly dated context, the beads reveal exactly what was being brought to a specific area of the American frontier in the mid-1850s. They also provide information concerning the different techniques used to produce them.

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The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.

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