Object: Basket



Armadillo Basket
North America
20th Century
Materials: Armadillo shell

This basket is made from the shell of a nine-banded armadillo. The back of the armadillo forms the body of the basket and the looped tail forms the handle. The nine-banded armadillo is the only North American species of armadillo. Prior to 1850, the nine-banded armadillo was not found north of the Rio Grande river. In the past 150 years, however, armadillo populations have increased greatly in southern portions of the United States, and members of the species have been spotted as far north as Illinois. Armadillos generally live in temperate climates due to the lack of body fat and insulation against the cold. They are the only living mammals with shells and they subsist on insects, plants, and fruit.

The armadillo basket was popularized in the early 20th century by basketmaker Charles Apelt. Baskets, such as this one, were first displayed at the World’s Fair in 1902 and were an instant hit. Charles Apelt started the first armadillo farm in the United States and raised the animals for commercial purposes, producing baskets, lampshades, and smoker stands for tourists and collectors until the 1970s. Armadillo shells have also been used in other countries to make utility objects like musical instruments and food containers.

What do you think about this basket? Share your thoughts and enjoy getting to know the Story Behind the Object!

[Lauren Simons]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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