Twentieth-Century Dress: Patchwork
The economic stability of the Florida Indians was endangered once more when their hunting activities were abruptly interrupted during the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1900 the Lacey Law was passed, protecting exotic birds and forbidding the sale of their plumes. This was followed by the drainage of the Everglades, which began in 1906 and took a considerable toll on the economy and way of life of the Miccosukeespeaking people south of Lake Okeechobee. By 1913 the resulting disruption of the water flow, coupled with a serious drought, had led to difficulties in water transportation, changes in animal migration patterns, and shortages of game. The people consequently had to seek other reliable financial pursuits.
The land boom of the 1920s brought with it new white settlers as well as winter tourists, who were curious about Florida's exotic Indians. Like other dispossessed Indian groups, Seminole families were quick to recognize an economic opportunity in the tourist market and so began to live, work, dress up, and make objects to sell to visitors in exhibition villages. Sometime before 1920, after a long period of decline in artistic traditions, the technique of creating patchwork designs was invented in south Florida. It was the spark that set off a creative explosion. Destined to become the best-known art of the Seminole people, patchwork still defines the "Seminole look" among non-Indians.
Alanson Skinner visited several Seminole villages in the Everglades and Big Cypress in 1910. He was sent by the American Museum of Natural History in New York to obtain specimens illustrating Seminole ethnology. His guide was a trusted friend of the Seminoles, Frank Brown, whose father, Bill, had been an Indian trader for more than thirty years. All but