Wampum Story

This is the average wampum bead size at Harvard College's Peabody Museum from the Haudenosaunee, Algonquians, Dutch, and English in the 17th century.  There are about 330 beads per fathom, which is 6 feet.  17th Century Wampum.  There were no US dollars in New England and New Netherland in the 1600’s.  The United States did not exist then.  There was the 1754 Albany conference that Benjamin Franklin helped coordinate.  This led to the formation of the United States in 1776.  The Mohawks territory is in Albany, New York.  This is the eastern part of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederation.  The Hiawatha wampum belt is the wampum representation of the 5 nations of the people of the long house, also known as the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois.  There are the wolf, bear, and turtle clans of the Mohawk, also known as the people of the flint.  Flint meaning the pieces of stone used to start a fire.  

On September 23, 1626, the Wapen van Amsterdam sailed from New Amsterdam to Amsterdam carrying 7,246 beaver pelts; 853.5 otter pelts; 48 mink pelts, 36 wildcat pelts and 34 rat pelts (O'Callaghan, vol. 1, p. 37).  

Strings of a quarter, half, and 1 guilder.  The dutch call this Seawan or seawant, zeewan, zewan, zeawant, zeawan.  Sewanhacky is the name for long island.  Wampumpeage and peage is another term.  Wampum meaning white bead.  Peag is a string, age makes it plural.  Harvard Peabody museum has some wampum, purple and white. In keeping with the 17th century, taking a look at exhibit 3, This is Peabody Number 41-72-10/24337.  Pieces of white wampum from fragment of an old belt.  I measured these today, there are 6 white beads.  







This makes 5.85mm x 3.58mm white bead.  Whether this is whelk shell, quahog shell, or some other shell I am not sure.  A chemical test would show this.  As I said earlier, for the current price of this, cannot think in terms of dollars and cents, have to think in terms of dutch stuivers.  

Now, the purple is exhibit 4.  These are





This makes 5.525mm x 3.4mm.  Let’s look at maybe what the dutch measurement system here is.  The dutch word for fathom is vadem.  There are 6 feet in a fathom and 6 voet in a vadem.  28.31 cm is one amsterdam voet.  This makes 169.86 cm in a vadem.  

Combining exhibits 3+4 makes for 5.72mm x 3.51mm wampum belt bead.  In inches, this is 0.225 inches x 0.138 inches.  That makes 4.44 beads per inch.  53 beads in a foot.  66-67 beads in 15 inches.  71 beads in 16 inches and 319 beads in a fathom of 6 feet.  Now, the beads are measured in millimeters or mm.

This is 7 states + seneca + house + mohawk + 6 states.  This is the george washington belt of the canandiuga treaty of 1794.

This could mean that the Mohawk keep the eastern door of New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, where the Seneca keep the western door of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.    In the middle where the house is, is Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida.  This makes for 15 total.  Plus the Tuscarora had been sitting at the western door with the seneca before this in 1722 and are considered the younger brothers of the cayuga.  

The average size of the wampum beads at Harvard I see is 5.4mm long x 3.1mm wide, this makes for 338 beads per 6 foot fathom, which corresponds with the average 330 beads per fathom of 6 feet.

The French also were involved in wampum. The Vatican has a wampum belt from the micmacs from around 1610.

There is the two row treaty of April 1613 between the Mohawks and the Dutch.

74 beads in a strand of 16 inches. This makes 333 beads in a fathom which is standard. 666 beads for a twain which is 2 fathoms. 660 beads if at the 330 beads per fathom.

This is a string of whelk shell wampumpeage of 6 ¾ inches.   This makes 10 ⅔ of these strings equal to a fathom of 72 inches or 6 feet.  

This is a string of quahog shell suckauhock of 16 ⅜ inches.  This makes 4.4 of these strands equal to a fathom of 72 inches.  This dark being worth twice as much as the light.  

As per the Massachusetts general court records of November 15, 1637, 6 wampum beads is a penny.  There are 29 wamp beads.  This makes 4.83 pennies.  

The British Museum has a spreadsheet showing how the grainweight of the english and british silver pennies changed through the years of different monarchs.  

Looking at copper coins, I see the quarter farthing.  It is the lowest denomination british coin, Victoria 1839-53 Copper, 1.2 grams, 13.5mm Diameter.  I’ll compare quarter farthings to pennies.  There are 16 quarter farthings in a penny.  So if a wampum is ⅙ penny, then a half wampum is 1/12 penny.  This would make 19.2 grams copper penny.  Online, I’m reading a victoria copper penny is 18.8-18.9 grams.  This makes ⅔ ounce of copper a penny.  Then ⅔ divided by 16 is 2/48 is 1/24 ounce copper.  This is 1.18 grams so this corresponds.  Then 1/9 ounce copper is a wampum.  This is 3.15 grams copper.  This is the weight of a quadrans during Augustus Caesar of Rome 2020 years ago.  

In my studies of money, i came across the carob, which is a sweet seed of the middle east.  It’s where the word carat and karat come from.  A carat being standardized to ⅕ gram and a point being 1/100 carat.   Looking at the roman pound of 327 grams, and learning that there are 1728 sililqua or carabs in a roman pound, this makes for 500/2640 grams per carob.  So, if a coin is 3.15 grams, then divide by 500 and multiply by 2640.  This makes for 16.632 carob.  Divide this into 1728 and we get 103.89.  It’s possible that the quadrans is 1/100 weight or 17.28 carob.  Or maybe it varied but within this general weight.  Let’s look at the english grain weight system.  There being 5760 grains in a english pound.  This would make for a 48.6 grain wampum, or then 48 grains copper wampum coin.  Then a suckauhock or saki would be 96 grains copper.  

The united states cent is 2.5 grams.  3.56 grams is the british penny.  2.35 grams is the canadian cent.  A copper cent is 3.11 grams or 48 grains in 1864–1942, 1946-1982.  Canada and Great Britain use a steel cent and penny now, where the United States use a 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.