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Vessel in the Form of a Head

Artist Culture
Ceramic with pigment
Associated with
near Blytheville, Arkansas, United States, North and Central America
Ceramics, containers
Current Location
On View, Gallery 113
7 1/4 x 7 x 7 3/4 in. (18.4 x 17.8 x 19.7 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Shop Fund
Contact Us
Object Number
The expressionless face, clenched teeth, and slightly swollen eyes suggest that this vessel represents a deceased individual. Headpots may be ceramic illustrations of revered ancestors or the severed heads of enemies. Incised lines surrounding the eyes and mouth depict tattoos or scarification. The design around the eyes has been recorded on a number of examples and likely represents a bird with laterally extended wings. The hair pattern (alternating colors of red and cream) is visible on the back of the vessel.
John Crowfoot, excavated in Mississippi County, AR [1]

1909 - 1910
Lemuel W. Gosnell, Blytheville, AR, purchased from John Crowfoot [2]

July 1910 - 1914
E. E. Baird, Poplar Bluff, MO, acquired from Lemuel W. Gosnell [3]

1914 - still in 1934
Edward W. Payne (1857-1932), Springfield, IL, purchased from E. E. Baird through agent John G. Braecklein; Estate of Edward W. Payne [4]

- 1935
First National Bank, Springfield, IL, acquired from Estate of Edward W. Payne [5]

1935 - 1994
Richard K. Meyer Sr. (1909-1995), Peoria, IL, purchased from First National Bank; Meyer family [6]

1994 - 2005
Anthony Asher Stein, Kansas City, MO, purchased from the Meyer family, through an unidentified agent [7]

2005 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Anthony Asher Stein [8]

The primary source for this provenance is James F. Cherry's 2004 article [Cherry, James F. "The E. E. Baird Headpot Finally Found." Central States Archaeological Journal, vol. 51, no. 4 (2004): 32-33].

A secondary source is Gordon Hart's annotated reprint of the 1937 catalogue of the Edward W. Payne collection [Hart, Gordon, ed. "Photographs of Interesting and Outstanding Specimens of Indian Relics From the Edward W. Payne Stone Age Collection." Bluffton, IN: Hart Publishers, 2002; originally published in Springfield, IL: Williamson Printing and Publishing Company, 1937].

In some cases Cherry and Hart appear to have consulted the same primary materials. Exceptions and other supporting documents are noted.

[1] A partially legible inscription on the bottom of the vessel contains "1909", Crowfoot's name, and the excavation location. Cherry cites "a handwritten note signed by E. E. Baird ... The note said in part, 'Taken out of mound in Mississippi Co. Ark. in 1909 by John Crowfoot. Sold to Mr. Gosnell (banker) of Blytheville, Ark. Bought by E. E. Baird in 1911.'" [Cherry, p.32] Additional information comes from Hart's 2002 publication: "In 1909 John Crowfoot excavated this trophy Head Vessel from the Gosnell Mound (later renamed Chickasawba Mound) in Mississippi Co., Arkansas" [ed. Hart, p.135].

[2] See note [1]. Hart's 2002 publication included: "He [John Crowfoot] sold it to the mound owner, Mr. Gosnell." [ed. Hart, p.135]. Census records from 1900 and 1920 list Lemuel W. Gosnell as a resident of "Chickasawba, Mississippi [County], Arkansas" and "Blytheville, Mississippi [County], Arkansas."

[3] See note [1]. A 1951 publication [Phillips, Philip, James A. Ford, James B. Griffin. "Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947." Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Vol. 25. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum, 1951] illustrates an object from the "L. W. Gosnell Place near Blytheville, Mississippi County, Arkansas." A photograph given to the Museum in 2005 includes the object from the 1951 publication, 67:2005, and an additional object. The photograph contains a handwritten inscription of "The latest additions to my family / EEB" on the verso. An envelope dated July 28, 1910 and postmarked Poplar Bluff, MO is associated with this photograph. The envelope is marked with a return address of "Bon Ton Bakery, E. E. Baird, prop." [photograph and envelope in SLAM document files]. Although the handwritten note signed by Baird stated the object was purchased in 1911, the postmark on the envelope confirms the 1910 purchase [Cherry, p.32].

[4] According to Hart's 2002 publication, collector Edward W. Payne commissioned photographs of some of his favorite objects in 1929 with the intent of having them published [ed. Hart, p.iii]. These images were included in the publication, two of which included 67:2005. Notes to one of the photographs showing 67:2005 state "cost $500.00 Baird Coll. Poplar Bluff JGB." Hart also writes: "In 1914 J. G. Braecklin purchased this outstanding artwork for Edward W. Payne of Springfield, Illinois." [ed. Hart, p.120 and 135]. An article dated July 12, 1934 in the Illinois State Journal identified "the Springfield Marine bank, [as the] receiver for the Payne estate" [ed. Hart, p.5].

[5] An article in Time magazine dated April 1, 1935, describes how "[t]he Marine Bank [of Springfield, IL] and another Springfield bank obtained liens against his [Edward Payne's] estate. Chief asset was...the Payne Stone Age Collection..." An article in the Illinois State Register dated August 15, 1935 states "[o]fficials of the First National Bank, which acquired the collection from the Payne estate..." [ed. Hart, p.8].

[6] The two day sale started on August 15, 1935. According to a note in Hart's 2002 publication, "[67:2005] was purchased at the Payne Sale in 1935 by Richard K. Meyer, Sr. of Peoria Illinois" [ed. Hart, p.8 and 135].

[7] According to a letter from Anthony Asher Stein to the Museum dated July 6, 2005, Stein "purchased it [67:2005] from the Meyer family in 1994 through an intermediary" [SLAM document files]. Hart's 2002 publication corroborates this, stating: "In 1994 it entered the…properties of Anthony Stein…of Kansas City, Missouri" [ed. Hart, p.135].

[8] A letter dated July 6, 2005 from Anthony Asher Stein to the Saint Louis Art Museum acts as an invoice for this object, identified as "Mississippian trophy head vessel" [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, September 20, 2005.
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