Canastromania was a word coined by Smithsonian curator Otis Tufton Mason to capture the early twentieth-century fascination with American Indian basketry. Presented as the American Society for Ethnohistory presidential address at the epicenter of this collecting craze—Pasadena, California—this essay high-lights the basket business of a Pasadena dealer named Grace Nicholson. The study of material things has long been a vital part of ethnohistory, especially for understanding the influence of colonial commerce on indigenous societies. When applied to the movement of baskets and other objects from Indian communities a century ago—into private and public collections, for aesthetic and scientific purposes—an ethnohistorical approach finds intersections of exchange within Nicholson's extensive correspondence that reveal a complex web of relationships among buyers and sellers.
Daniel Usner; ASE Address 2011: An Ethnohistory of Things: Or, How to Treat California's Canastromania. Ethnohistory 1 July 2012; 59 (3): 441–463. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-1587424
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