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A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

The Last Basketmaker: Indiana’s Forgotten History of Oak-Rod Baskets

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Jon Kay

Published May 2016 International Oaks No. 27: 233–244

Abstract

White oak (Quercus alba) is one of the most common basketmaking materials in the upland southern region of the United States. Where most basketweavers use flat splits to construct their wares, during the 19th and 20th centuries, makers in Southern Indiana produced baskets out of thin oak splits that makers pulled through iron dies to render them round. Though similar in construction to many willow baskets, these distinctive oak-rod baskets were stronger and more durable, which made them ideally suited for heavy agricultural use. As these handmade containers became obsolete for farm work, makers looked to urban tourists to support their craft. This paper traces this history of Indiana’s oak-rod basket tradition, surveys some of the makers, and focuses on the work of Bruce Hovis (1904-1991) – one of Indiana’s last oak-rod basketmakers.

Keywords

Southern Indiana traditions, Hovis family, Bohall family

References

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Morgan, M. 1973. Transcript of interview with Reuben Morgan, October 31. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Archive (unpublished)

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