Industrializing Shell Bead Production in Northern New Jersey: Reuniting Collections from Stoltz Farm (1770–1830) and the Campbell Wampum Factory (1850–1900)


By at least 1770, white settlers in northern New Jersey appropriated the production of Indigenous shell beads, including iconic styles of wampum and hair pipes. American officials used Jersey-made beads in tactics of dispossession (or “wampum diplomacy”) across the Midwest and Plains. Indigenous consumers, through exchanges with fur trade merchants, wove beads into projects of sovereignty, whether as wampum-belt land claims or the dress of delegations and counterinsurgents to American empire. Beadmaking was a regional cottage industry before 1850, after which the Campbell Wampum Factory monopolized production through water-powered grinding wheels, drilling machines, and the waged labor of people of color. Two sites—Stoltz Farm and the Campbell Factory—were excavated in the early 20th century but have not been systematically analyzed. Analysis of reunited collections reveals the erasures, appropriations, and harms of industrial shell bead production while complicating notions of white-settler industrial progress heralded by owners of the factory.