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Oak-Rod Baskets in Brown County, Indiana: Historic Photographs of a Craft Tradition

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Jon Kay

Published May 2014 in International Oaks No. 25: 85–92

Abstract

The Hovis and Bohall families of Brown County, Indiana, made distinctive white-oak (Quercus alba L.) baskets for their neighbors to gather corn and carry everyday items. However, by the 1930s, the interest of urban tourists transformed these sturdy containers into desirable souvenirs. Using historic photographs, this brief essay explores the shifts in the uses and meanings of these handmade objects: when this type of basket became obsolete as agricultural implement, it became a symbol for the County and its residents who many outsiders viewed as simple and quaint. While tourism encouraged the tradition to continue for a time, by the 1980s the making of oak-rod baskets had disappeared in Brown County.

Keywords

Quercus alba L.

References

Bustin, Dillon. 1982. If You Don’t Outdie Me: The Legacy of Brown County. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Byrd, Cecil K. 1993. Frank M. Hohenberger’s Indiana Photographs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hartley, W. Douglas. 1994.  Otto Ping: Photographer of Brown County, Indiana 1900-1940. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society.

Hohenberger, Frank Michael. undated. Frank Hohenberger Diary, Frank Hohenberger Collection. Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Hohenberger, Frank Michael. 1952. Down in the Hills O’ Brown County. Nashville, Indiana: Self-published.

Joyce, Rosemary O. 1989. A Bearer of Tradition: Dwight Stump, basketmaker. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Kay, Jon. 2010. A Picture of an Old Country Store: The Construction of Folklore in Everyday Life. Museum Anthropology Review 4 (2). https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/article/view/914/1032

Kay, Jon. 2013. Episode 34: Cannon County Baskets a Tennessee Tradition. The Artisan Ancestors Podcast. http://www. artisanancestors.com/2013/02/18/episode-34-cannon-county-baskets-a-tennessee-tradition/

Kelly, Fred C. 1952. The Life and Times of Kin Hubbard: Creator of Abe Martin. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young.

Law, Rachel Nash, and Cynthia W. Taylor. 1991. Appalachian White Oak Basketmaking : Handing Down the Basket. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Letsinger-Miller, Lyn. 1994. The Artists of Brown County. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.