Surprising Ojibwa Toy Cradleboard

Early Ojibwa-Chippewa cradleboards were often highly decorative, from the beaded bentwood arches above an infant’s head to the embroider blankets in which they were bundled. This unusually toy example has its own unique charms.

It’s made from a rectangular wood plank that’s varnished on both sides and decorated front and back with carved, painted circles and a playing cards motif. The piece also features the traditional U-shaped footrest and bent wood face shield. While the cradleboard has no doll, the bed area is filled with tissue paper wrapped in a piece of wool flannel.

My paternal grandmother, who was part Cherokee, was an excellent seamstress who made me any number of “Squaw skirts” trimmed with ric-rac when I was a kid. So the coverlet on the cradleboard is probably my favorite feature– machine-stitched plaid fabric trimmed with gold and silver ric-rac and held together at the center with raw hide ties. For me, the unexpected use of ric-rac and the playing cards make this a “must-have” piece.

12” L x 5’1/4” W x 6-1/2” H. Excellent condition. C. 1940s-1950s


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