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Walco Indian Beadcraft Kit

In the early decades of the 20th century, the Walco Bead Co. of New York was perhaps the largest company of its kind in the USA. Located at 37 West 37th Street (where Elliot, Green & Co. is today), it was long a fixture in New York's "bead alley." A 1935 booklet noted that it imported from Paris, Venice, Gablonz (Jablonec) and Kobe.

One of Walco's marketing techniques was to produce bead kits to encourage children and adults to make projects. This phenomenon was discussed in Margaretologist 10:1 and
a gallery of bead kits relating to this issue is here. When in Seattle in mid-2000 I found another Walco kit at the Freemont Street market.

Top of eight-page instruction leaflet, dated 1935. No pretense to political correctness here. The page begins with a short history of beadwork, including porcupine quillwork and wampum. Crafters are reminded (in the midst of the Depression) that beads are cheap and "Bead-Craft is a labor of love that is compensated by worthy results."

The metal and wood loom carries a patent issued in 1936. Also included in the kit were:

"Excellent assortment of Indian Seed Beads" -- 10 corked glass vials (another one was privately added).

"Spool of Bead Thread"

"Beading Needles, Beeswax"

"Ring Kit of Jewel Stones, agates and wires for making Indian rings."

"Design Booklet in Multicolor [one side only] with complete instructions."

This is Kit No. 201. No such kit is listed on a ca. 1940 price list I have, though the "standard loom" (4 x 12 in -- 10 x 30 cm) outfit then sold for $1.00 and the Ring Kit for $0.50.

Great fun for the whole family.

From the cover.

"Indian fob designs" for watches. These are patterns in the instruction booklet.


Eight colored patterns for belts, etc. and six for fobs were included. The monochrome side of the instructions gave directions for stitches and seven other patterns, including two for sautoir chains.

The presumed wearers of the Indian Watch Fobs.

From the cover.

The kit was used to make this belt or band. Two of the bead vials are completely empty, but the project was not finished off. The incomplete nature of the projects, as noted in other kits in our study collection, saved the kits from being emptied and tossed out. Lucky for us someone got tired of the project.

The design is not in the instruction book and was traced out on a piece of paper in pencil.

The ring and fob kit, complete with wires and beeswax, was sold separately in 1940. The wire and beeswax are still with the kit. All "jewels" except some larger seed beads have disappeared.

Do you have information on any other Walco Bead Kits? If so, contact me here.


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