Digital Heritage: Corn Husk Crafts

Digital Heritage: Corn Husk Crafts

Hayes corn husk doll. Photo courtesy of Mountain Heritage Center, Western Carolina University

Appalachian people of Cherokee, European and African origins all share a long history of making useful and decorative items from the outer leaves of ears of corn, known as corn husks or corn shucks. The husks are soaked, shaped and then dried into the desired form.

Corn husks are also braided, twined or woven into cordage, baskets, wall hangings, chair bottoms, trays, brooms, hats, shoes and horse collars. Corn husk dolls are an especially popular and enduring item. During the Great Depression, many rural Appalachian families tried to increase their incomes by making dolls, brooms and mats to sell to tourists and to stores. Anti-poverty programs even taught the craft to students. Interest in corn husk crafts peaked during the Craft Revival of the early 20th century.

Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit DigitalHeritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.

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