William P. Healey’s Native American Gauntlet Collection

 

 Opening Oct. 1, 2020

 

 William P. Healey’s Native American Gauntlet Collection

 

   

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is proud to present in these exhibition cases a selection of beaded gauntlets from the collection of William P. Healey. A renowned and accomplished collector, Healey has assembled important collections of paintings, furniture, and historical objects of the American West. This subset of his collection, unique in its focus, assembles a selection of intricately beaded and embroidered gauntlets from throughout the Western United States and features examples representing almost one hundred years of craftsmanship and artistry.  

 

A gauntlet is defined as a protective glove, often made of leather or hide, with a wide flared cuff. The gauntlets seen here can trace their overall shape almost directly back to military wear. As part of the uniform of Union troops and cavalry scouts, these leather gloves were brought into the American West and were adopted as a symbol of the frontier, passing from military wear into common usage.

 

As with many things brought westward by trappers, emigrants, military, and settlers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the practical leather gauntlets began to be reproduced and adapted for use and sale by Native American artisans. The gauntlets exhibited here have been highly decorated with beaded designs similar to those found on other pieces of decorative work, especially clothing. In part due to their association with the Wild West Shows of the late 1800s, fringed and beaded leather gloves became a convenient fashion shorthand to declare one’s affiliation with the frontier. Whether worn in rodeo performances, used as a prop in photography studios, donned by newcomers to lend an air of western authenticity, or purchased and treasured as souvenirs of an adventurous vacation, fringed or beaded gauntlets were a showy addition that brought a touch of the West to any outfit. 

 

The William P. Healey Collection of beaded gauntlets is composed primarily of examples from tribes of the Plateau, Great Basin, and parts of the Plains regions, including areas of what are now the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Likely made for sale, very little information about the original makers and owners has transferred with these gauntlets over the years. However, stylistic features and material types have helped to identify the most likely cultural group of origin and approximate dates of creation. The selection of gauntlets shown in these cases have been arranged thematically: floral motifs, geometric designs, human portraiture, representations of animals, and patriotic themes. In each section, you will be able to see a range of both dates and styles. 

 

We are grateful to Mr. Healey both for his foresight to assemble such a dazzling collection and for his generosity in sharing it here at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. 

Beaded Gauntlets from the William P. Healey Collection are on exhibit  in Visible Storage adjacent to the north stairs by the Christine Mollring Sculpture Garden and the Museum Store.