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Crow Man's Shirt, about 1845

American, Crow nation
Crow Man's Shirt, about 1845
leather, porcupine quills, glass
beads, feathers, and paint
46 x 60 inches (118 x 154 cm)
Gift of an anonymous benefactor

The layout and execution of the plaited quillwork bands, thread-wrapped fringe, beadwork, and paint make this Crow “ceremonial” or “war” shirt a classic example of Upper Missouri River Plains art. During the 1800s, the Crow were renowned for their men’s shirts, which they traded to warriors and chiefs from tribes throughout the northern plains and plateau. The detail and fine workmanship of this example illustrate why the shirts were desired by many warriors and chiefs. This shirt’s cut and the combination of pony and seed beads suggest it was manufactured before the 1850s, as does the dark bead border, which was typical of Crow men’s clothing during the 1840s and 1850s.

The quill strips down the sleeves and over the shoulders are exquisitely sewn in a pattern characteristic of Crow artists, a multiple-quill plaited design joined down the center by a narrow line of quillwork. Two other features common to Crow shirts are the isosceles triangle elements at the shoulders and the design arrangement on the quill strips, which positions the design unit at the elbow, the shoulder, and midway on the front and back strips. The dark blue paint on the shirt indicates its owner successfully counted coup during a battle.