Scalp Bounty

The Wilderness War
by Allan W. Eckert

Because of the bounties placed on scalps, the taking of people of all ages and sexes soon became something of a business on the frontier. In some cases the colonists - or, later on, the Americans - offered bounties on Indian scalps, but the greatest trafficking in scalps came as a result of the wide range of bounties placed on them by the British. Because different age and sex scalps brought different prices, the scalps had to be marked for proper payment to be given. Such bundles of scalps ordinarily were shipped in large lots of eight to twenty bundles, comprised of eighty-eight to one hundred scalps per bundle, or no less that seven hundred scalps per shipment. Scalps taken for British bounties were ordinarily shipped in these bundles to the governor of Canada in Quebec. Each scalp was stretched on a painted willow hoop and further painted on the inside of the skin. The colors and markings were used in a wide combination so that all of the necessary information about any particular scalp could be had at a glance. The basic hoop and scalp markings denoted the following:

Four-inch hoop painted black Soldier
Four-inch hoop painted red Man other than soldier
Four-inch hoop painted green Old person
Four-inch hoop painted blue Woman
Two-inch hoop painted green Boy
Two-inch hoop painted yellow Girl
Two-inch hoop painted white Infant
Skin painted red Officer
Skin painted brown Farmer killed in house
Skin painted green Farmer killed in field
Skin painted white Infant
Skin painted yellow Girl
Skin painted white with red tears Small boy
Skin painted half white, half red Older boy
Skin painted yellow with red tears Mothers
Hair braided Wives
Black spot in center of skin Killed by bullet
Red hoe in center of skin Farmer
Black ax in center of skin Settler
Black tomahawk in center of skin Killed by tomahawk
Black scalping knife in center of skin Killed by knife
Black war club in center of skin Beaten to death
Yellow flames in center of skin Tortured to death
Black circle all around Killed at night
White circle all around with yellow spot Killed by day
Small red foot Died fighting


The Wilderness War by Allan W. Eckert, page 450
Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1978