Wicker Baskets through the ages.
16 August, 2017 by
Cummins Gordon

They’ve been found in pyramids. A famed biblical character was put up for adoption, as it were, in one. Used to carry goods to and from market on the heads of women, used to take clothing to the river to wash and used to keep the bread and wine amphora organized at home, wicker baskets enjoy a history thousands of years old. To many people they look just like any other basket. They hold dried flower arrangements, apples/shop/category/plastic-wicker-baskets-193 on the kitchen counter, pens and letter openers on the desk, as well as homemade or store-bought goodies for gifts. That’s a good thing, but there is a lot more to be said   for the wicker basket.

Spooky Wicker Baskets

There’s a dark secret in northern New York. No one knows its origins, but we hear the Native Americans in the area shunned it as an evil place. The newcomers to America’s shores didn’t believe it, because they wanted land on which to live and farm. They bought the land from the Native Americans and proceeded to build a hospital on it. The hospital burned down. Years later a mental hospital was built on the site. It, too, burned one dark night, amid screams and piteous moans. The legend goes that a spectral inmate carries around a wicker basket of heads amputated from their bodies. Mt. Misery is good for some great ghost stories, but that one made us check that our heads were on straight. Or just on.

Sporting Baskets

Hole-in-one anyone? At Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA, golfers enjoy the novelty of having the cups marked by wicker baskets instead of flags. It’s been that way since the club’s inception in the early 1900s, with a couple exceptions. The marking baskets are made by hand by a lady in North Carolina. The markers are painted red on the first nine holes and orange on the second nine. Apparently, the baskets don’t mess with golfer’s measurements. The markers sit a full 18 inches higher than an ordinary flag, which can only help the participants in the game. The next time players hit the links, they should insist on a basket marker!

Sailing Baskets

When sailing on a 19th century ship, whether it’s a whaler or a fleet of fishing boats, sailors need something for storage. For some it’s the various parts of a whale retailed to various industries. For others, storage is necessary for supplies pertinent to fishing. Downtime is spent in different ways; we were charmed to learn how Nantucket Lightship baskets are produced during this downtime. Lighthouses having become passé, lightships were used to keep incoming ships off the rocks. During the day when their services were not needed, sailors wove baskets. To this day, they are still woven like they were in the 1800s. The weavers teach classes, as did their fathers before them. The same cane used for Nantucket Lightship baskets is used in wicker basketry, too.

Sustainable Baskets

It is a sad fact of life that the planet is almost out of clean drinkable water. Ethiopia, for example, exists atop a rocky terrain. It would be expensive to sink a well through all that rock. Nor does the country have the money for wells to spare. People get unclean water from polluted lakes and rivers. An interested onlooker came up with a solution: wicker baskets. Tall baskets made from native trees are wrapped in a mesh, much like the netting Westerners use for produce and bath sponges. The netting makes the basket sweat. The clean water produced is then drinkable. Our hats are off to Arturo Vittori for the solution.

Sad Baskets

The name Dillinger inspires thoughts of shoot-outs, Rat Packers of the 1800s and the final showdown. What people don’t expect is to find his remains were shipped home in a wicker basket. Now, there isn’t enough history to discover if baskets were used to transport bodies for burial, so we were a little surprised to read this. However, it’s an example of the fascinating life and times of wicker baskets.

The food and gift industry only knows they receive their baskets for catering, gifts and other uses from their delivery truck. They don’t often hear the fascinating and off-the-wall uses for those same baskets. We know many interesting uses for baskets, and we’ll be glad to tell you about it when you contact us for more information.  

Cummins Gordon 16 August, 2017
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