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Materials Of Performance

Folk objects often serve as props for traditional performances in which they communicate not only the maker's skill, motivations, and interests, but also something about the maker's or user's identity.


Piņata and Buster, c. 1985

Created by Patricia Llamas.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1996.118.130.1-.2


The six-pointed star is a traditional Mexican form that the maker of this piñata knew from her childhood. It likely represents the Star of Bethlehem and was commonly seen during the Christmas celebration of Joseph and Mary searching for a place to stay (posadas).

Growing up in Mexico , Llamas observed her mother and aunt making piñatas but did not take up the craft until she had children of her own.

She made many traditional piñatas for Mexican celebrations of birthdays and Christmas. While living in America, Llamas created piñatas for wider audiences and depicted figures from American popular culture.


Norwegian Headdress and Vest, c. 1913

Gift of Grace Lucille Nelson.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1971.195.18-.19


Woman Suffrage Tunic, 1916

Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.1450

Norwegian Headdress

Thea Johanna (Stondahl) Nelson made this Norwegian headdress and vest costume in Wisconsin and wore it at a suffrage parade held in 1913 in Washington, D.C., to show that Norwegian women already had the right to vote. The traditional, 19th century Norwegian appearance (designed in the rural, folk costume style of a Norwegian bunad) contrasted sharply with the distinctive yellow worn by American suffragists.

Bunad folk costume designs are clothes designed in the early 20th century that are loosely based on traditional costumes in Norway. They are typically elaborate, with embroidery, scarves, shawls and hand-made silver or gold jewelry. They are worn at various celebrations such as folk dances, weddings, national days of celebration.

American Suffragists Jersey

American suffragists branded their movement with a distinctive yellow color as seen in this tunic used by members of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association at parades in Milwaukee and Chicago in the summer of 1916. On the day of the event, most of the Wisconsin contingent met in Milwaukee to march in a parade down Grand Avenue (now Wisconsin Avenue) to the railroad depot where they boarded trains for Chicago. Special "suffrage cars" from Madison, Waukesha, and Kenosha also joined the procession. Upon their arrival in Chicago, the Wisconsin group took part in a larger parade of suffragists that marched two miles down Michigan Avenue despite a driving rain and gale-force winds. Later, Theodora Youmans, President of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association (WWSA), wrote about the event:

We sent an imposing contingent to the suffrage parade in Chicago in June, 1916, when the suffrage hosts testified to their heartfelt desire for the ballot, in presence of the delegates to the national Republican convention ... Outside of Illinois, Wisconsin had the largest delegation, each member wearing a yellow Wisconsin tunic and the contingent being escorted by a G.A.R. drum corps.



Beaded Menominee Dance Shirt, 1887-1895

Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1950.656

A Menominee man wore the flowered calico dance shirt featured here, with its heavy shoulder beading, along with leggings, sashes, jewelry, and other accoutrements. The entire ensemble was worn at drum, ghost, and rain dances. The fragile nature of this object indicates extensive wear. Charles E. Kelsey acquired the shirt when he served as the agency clerk at the Menominee Reservation at Keshena, Wisconsin from 1887 to 1895.

In making the dance staff featured here, Linda Cohen maintained Ojibwe tradition by using the same materials as her ancestors used — a tree branch stripped of bark, a deer antler and leg, and rabbit fur. This staff was acquired from the maker at the 1997 Bear River Pow-Wow on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation.


Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Dance Staff, ca. 1997

Created by Linda Cohen.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1999.61.8