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Paper Beads

A small gallery of beads made of paper

As far as I have been able to trace it, beadmaking from paper was popular in the 1910s in the US. Whether it has deeper roots or whether this was ever employed in Europe, I do not know. I and everyone in Beadtown would be happy if you knew something more and added to our knowledge. If so, email me at theOffice.

To learn how these beads were made, go to the Paper Bead Page.

One of the earliest documented examples of these beads was pictured and discussed in the "Pricilla Junior Club," a regular feature for younger girls in the woman's magazine The Modern Pricilla. The column began:

"Dear Juniors

Beads are very popular this year and no doubt many of you have heard of the new kind made of paper. They are easy to make and are very attractive when carefully rolled. These beads are prettiest when made of figured wall-paper of several colors, but you can also use magazine covers and colored advertisement and fashion pictures if you cannot procure wall-paper.

Many paper-hangers will give away remnants or old sample books or sell them for a small amount and remnants may be bought of a paper-dealer."

The Modern Pricilla

 September 1917, p. 24

Pricilla's paper beads, 1917


How times have changed. Wallpaper and paperhanger are now one word and paper dealer is two words. But, back to the beads. For this to have been a widespread popular craft among girls it would have been necessary for them to have access to scrap paper. Paper so surrounds us now that we forget how scarce it was until the end of the last century or so. One source of paper for these beads was Department store catalogues.

The bead on the left was donated by Vivien Gonzales. She unrolled some beads (see right) and found pictures and text she identified as being from the catalogue of the large Canadian department store, Eaton's, Fall/Winter of 1917-18, pp. 449/50


A few years ago Ellen Sizemore wrote me about her search for the origins of paper beads. She had asked a lot of people and institutions and had gotten answers ranging from 1910-1916 to a "depression craft." Surely it survived into and beyond the depression, but when and where did it start?

This large bead (8 cm, over 3 inches long) was used for curtains


Both Gonzales and Sizemore noted the use of these beads for curtains. They were strung along with hollow silvered inside clear and green beads in one case and green two-cuts and imitation pearls in the other.

Paper beadmaking continues, even as a commercial venture. These were made by Urban Art in New York City.

Thanks to Alice Scherer for The Modern Pricilla


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