by Gene Mouw
First of all, I would like to say that other than the Chief's Bead, I know of no one who has any firm information about what color blue beads might have been included in the ten bunches of blue beads that Lewis and Clark had with them on their journey.
The Chinese reed wound bead that the Chief's bead and the White bead 'of the same manufacture' are, is one thing we can rely on for identification. We are assuming that some of the other colored beads are probably this same type.
The Sacagawea Blue is the first old bead that we have found in the original packaging. Each strand has exactly 100 beads and is strung on a paper string. Each bead is reed wound and has the white clay impregnating the center.
Sacagawea Blues shown with Chief's Bead and Lewis & Clark White.
We were quite excited to find these beads in their original brown paper wrapping. We had stopped at the Four Winds Indian Trading Post, St. Ignatious, Montana where owner Preston Miller showed us this bundle of beads stamped: Made in West Germany. We discussed them and Preston said he thought they were probably made in the early 1900's. I agreed that they were made then or even earlier, in the late 1800's. He said he had purchased them along with other beads from Trader John in the early 1970's.
Trader John had bought out Kilo's Warehouse which was connected to the Plume Trading Co. out of New York. Knowing that West Germany didn't exist until after 1945, it became clear that these beads had been laying in a warehouse in Germany for many years and in order to sell them they had to be marked with a country of origin. Thus the stamp - 'Made in West Germany'. They had to be stamped something to get them accepted into the United States. At one point in time, I'm sure that almost every bead warehouse in the world had reed wound beads in stock. Especially the color we know as the Chief's Bead.
When speaking to Lester Ross, the archeologist who did the excavation at Fort Union Trading Post at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota, about reed wound beads. I was surprised to hear that they seldom find many white reed wound beads in the digs. They do find other types of whites. My guess would be that early on, the world found a cheaper white bead, but the reed wound blue bead was hard to beat.
In no way are we inferring that we have any way of proving that this particular color of bead was carried by Lewis and Clark. We are sure that they carried this type of bead and would assume they even carried them in other colors. It is just very exciting to find the type of bead they carried in such a mint condition.
We think the beads, in the belt, that Lewis and Clark got from Sacagawea would probably have been the Chief's Beads. I guess no one will ever know. We did feel that it would be only fitting to honor one of the most important members of the Corp of Discovery.
Thus we chose to name this particular color bead the "Sacagawea Blue".
Bead Grades & Suggested Retail Pricing
Grades 1 - 8
Grade 9 - $22.00 per carat
Old bead in mint or new-bead condition with some black specks
Grade 10 - $34.00 per carat
Old bead in mint or new-bead condition
Beads available from 2.0 to 4.5 carats in Grades 9, 10
Sacagawea Blues available from
P. O. Box 501, St. Ansgar, IA 50472
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