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Log Cabin Living: Woven Basket

Artifacts From 19th Century Life

Written by Gabby Quinett, Museum Volunteer

Edited for publication by Madeline Teddy, Museum Intern, and Holly Stewart, Program Manager

The Log Cabin Living: Artifacts from 19th Century Life exhibit at Job Carr Cabin Museum encourages visitors to take a closer look at more than 20 objects in the museum's collection.


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A Puyallup Valley Indian with her child circa 1906. A large basket is being woven next to the woman. From the image archives of the Tacoma Public Library.

Indigenous people in Western Washington relied on basketry to meet many of their needs. They crafted various types of baskets, ranging in size and material. These artisans constructed baskets using natural materials such as cattail, beargrass, wild cherry, Western red cedar, or sweetgrass. They gathered these materials in the summertime and built the baskets during the winter, employing twining, coiling, or plaiting techniques that demanded skill and creativity.

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Pile of woven baskets circa 1912. From the image archives of the Tacoma Public Library.

After crafting the baskets, individuals would add leather or fiber loops to secure the contents and incorporate straps to make the baskets more portable. Woven baskets served various purposes; tightly coiled ones could even hold water and boil foods over hot stones. Common practice included gathering food, storing clothing and medicine, and use as sacred items. Some woven baskets featured ornate designs, a trend influenced by the arrival of settlers in the early 19th century when baskets became trade items.

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Tacoma Street Scene - Indians Weaving Baskets And Mats And Displaying Them For Sale. From the 1906 Publication Tacoma: New Herald Annual.

As a result of the influx of settlers, baskets started being produced more for artistic and trade purposes rather than explicit functionality, leading to a decline in the quality of some baskets. Creative expression expanded with the weaving of baskets over seashells, bottles, or canes. In addition, weavers incorporated new materials like aniline dyes for brighter colors, departing from traditional color palettes. Furthermore, with the start of the 20th century, most woven baskets were replaced in functionality by Western-made manufactured products, such as metal cooking vessels, marking the shift from utility to artistic expression in basket production.

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The heirloom basket at Job Carr Cabin Museum.

The basket in the cabin, purchased in the early 1900s, is likely part of the basketwork produced for the tourist trade on the Washington coast. The basket may have originated from the Quinault tribe, located on the southwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula. The design, featuring geometric triangles between the bands, however, resembles patterns from Plateau tribes. The color and coiled design are typical Indigenous patterns, so it is difficult to determine exactly where the basket came from and who created it. It appears to be made from commercial fibers and dyes.

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Woven design on the base of the heirloom basket at Job Carr Cabin Museum.

Take a closer look at the museum's woven basket in this short video:


Erickson, Arthur W. “Baskets of Western Washington.” Edited by Julie Daly, Arthur W. Erickson, Arthur W. Erickson, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Official Site of Quinault Indian Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Ojibwa. “Indians 101: Nisqually and Puyallup Baskets (Museum Tour).” Daily Kos, Kos Media, 5 Dec. 2019, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

About the Author

Gabby Quinnett graduated from the University of Washington in 2022 with a degree in history. She currently works at Iron Mountain on the IMES team as a historical imaging technician. She began volunteering with Job Carr Cabin Museum in 2023. She is grateful to the museum for allowing her continue to explore, learn, and educate within the historical community.

About the Editor

Madeline Teddy completed an internship with Job Carr Cabin Museum in Fall 2023. She was a graduate of University of British Columbia majoring in history and classical Near Eastern religious studies. She hoped to take her studies further and become a museum curator.