The Seminoles were part of the economic and cultural development of the Florida frontier. The decline of the hide trade followed by the Great Depression forced Seminoles to seek alternative sources of income.

The Seminoles living in the tourist villages made money by selling handicrafts, including patchwork clothing and dolls. They had been making dolls as toys for their children for years. Once the tourists began passing through, doll making became a thriving business.

Seminole girls making costume dolls (ca. 1930s)

Seminole girls making costume dolls (ca. 1930s)

Image number: PE0586

Beginning in the 1910s, some Seminole families worked at tourist villages along the Tamiami Trail and other highways. Visitors could walk through the villages to learn what daily life was like for the Seminoles. When tourist season ended each year, the families would return to their real homes.

Mikasuki sisters with their crafts outside the mission

Miccosukee women with their crafts outside the mission

Image number: BD011

Clothing and Hair

The Seminoles mixed Euro-American materials with traditional styles in designing their clothing. The Seminole dolls portray clothing and hairstyles worn by Seminole men and women.

Miccosukee men and women with their crafts outside the mission

Miccosukee men and women with their crafts outside the mission

Image number: BD124

Some of the individuals appearing in these photos are described as "Miccosukee" rather than "Seminole." The Miccosukee Tribe was recognized by the U.S. Government in 1962 as a sovereign political entity distinct from the Seminole Tribe of Florida recognized in 1957. The two federally recognized tribes share cultural and historical connections but have built separate and independent political relationships with the United States government over the past several decades. The term "Mikasuki" (note the different spelling) refers to one of several languages spoken by indigenous peoples in the southeast. The Mikasuki language is preserved today by members of both the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.

Woman sewing clothing for Seminole dolls

Woman sewing clothing for Seminole dolls (1954)

Image number: DGM0409

Seminole dolls

Seminole dolls

Image number: DGM0984

Annie Tiger Bowers showing Lawanna Osceola Niles how to sew a costume doll (1958)

Annie Tiger Bowers showing Lawanna Osceola Niles how to sew a costume doll (1958)

Image number: C027969

Deaconess Bedell at Glade Cross Mission in Everglades City with Seminole dolls (1960)

Deaconess Bedell at Glade Cross Mission in Everglades City with Seminole dolls (1960)

Image number: DGM0489

Annie Jimmie sewing, with examples of Seminole dolls (1982)

Annie Jimmie sewing, with examples of Seminole dolls (1982)

Image number: FS82849

Seminole dolls made by Lottie Shore (1984)

Seminole dolls made by Lottie Shore (1984)

Image number: FA0646

Lottie Shore weaving beads to use on Seminole dolls (1984)

Lottie Shore weaving beads to use on Seminole dolls (1984)

Image number: FA0650