Creation Date
1931 – 1955


6.756 cm. L Item (Overall)

"Carved Ivory Billiken. This is a two and three-eights inch figure of and imp-like creature. The mouth is etched in black and smiling in a broad, upturned line. Vertical black lines are etched for eyes. The navel is black and right below this is a deeply carved ridge. The whole figure is carved from light tan, partially fossilized ivory. The stomach of this figure is round and protruding, probably because the Billiken was considered good luck, they rub the stomach of the Billiken and make their wish which is supposed to come true. This was not a tradition of the original Eskimos, but it has now been in use long enough so that it is can be considered an authentic and well-established custom. This was given to me [Cleora C. Helbing] by Mrs. Moskowitz." In 1909, the Billiken began its appearance in souvenir shops of Alaska. In Nome, Alaska, an Eskimo carver by the name Angokwazhuk copied a billiken figurine in ivory brought to him by a merchant. Since that first appearance in Alaska, some Eskimo carvers began to include the billiken in the collection of figurines they create. 1966.1.19 is the one on the right with the upturned face and the nostrils below the nose and large rounded ears with dots in them. According to Ronald Senungetuk this is done in Seward Peninsula style. Ivory Carving has a long history in the Artic and Subarctic. All the utensils, tools, and weapons were made by hand from ivory and other natural materials such as horn, bone, and animal hides. These same materials were used to make decorative objects. Traditionally, these decorative objects were also miniatures so that they could be transported easily by these nomadic people. The color of the ivory changes with age. Fossilized ivory may be several thousands of years old. Its color can range from golden to brown or even black. These rare color ivories are more precious to Eskimo carvers than new white ivory.

Related People and Organizations
Helbing, Cleora

Contact the Pope County Historical Society for more information