Tuesday, September 29, 2020

93 inch Maine Paddle

An Ebay seller recently found a huge paddle at an Maine Estate barn. The paddle is a whopping 93 1/2" with a 3 foot blade. 

93" Maine Paddle

The blade is stamped on both sides with a faded incised mark that could either read as "O. B. CO" but the B could be a P or other rounded letter.

The paddle is consistent with long paddles used for ocean going canoes used by various groups of Wabanaki peoples, most notably the Penobscot or Passamaquoddy peoples. Other examples previously featured on the site are the 77" decorative Penobscot, an 84" mustard yellow painted paddle,  a 90" painted paddle and a similar 96" ochre painted design

Such long paddles were useful for stand up paddling in ocean canoes and were relatively common place by these coastal peoples. 

Margarette Francis
Kingsclear, University of New Brunswick Archives.

Later these huge paddles were adopted by lumbermen using wooden batteaux on spring log drives. Perhaps the O.B. CO. marking refer to an obscure logging company.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Historic Paddle Photo: Big Chief Thunder Loring

A photo from RubyLane.com illustrating Penobscot Chief, Peter Nicola (left) showcasing craftwork over an overturned bark canoe. Two paddles are prominently displayed.

The description from the source link cites Peter Nicola as Chief of  the Oldtown Indian Tribe as identified by period handwriting on the back of the mat. No date is listed but some preliminary research revealed that the same photo identifies the other man on the right as "Big Chief Thunder" Frank Loring, this according to noted Wabanaki scholar Harald Prins in an article "Chief Big Thunder (1827-1906)" published in  Maine History Vol. 37 (3): 140-158.

Peter Nicola and Frank Loring according to Harald Prins

Given that Loring died in 1906, this photo must predate that time. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Maine Estate Paddles - New Haven Auctions

New Haven Auctions is hosting the Autumn Americana Sale on October 3, 2020 featuring items from the private collection of Jim and Nancy Glazer, of  Bailey’s Island, Maine. The collection includes a set of canoe paddles...

No other information provided other than length: 62-3/4"for the paddle on the left and 52-1/2" for the shorter one on the right.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Historic Paddle Photo: Joe's Wigwam

Another Historic stereograph image courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum. This one features a camp in Maine with a canvas lean-to shelter (erroneously called a 'wigwam') in the background. In the foreground, a birchbark canoe with two accompanying paddles  rests on the foliage of the forest floor.

William P. Dean (American, born Canada, 1835 - 1911)
Joe's Wigwam. [Maine], 1865–1875, Albumen silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Weston J. and Mary M. Naef

Though the blade shapes are obscured by vegetation, the flattened grips of the paddles are clearly visible in the following closeup shot. Curious as well that the bark canoe looks to have some sort of bracing nailed to the ribs just below the inwales. Some sort of flat floorboard is also seen running along the center point of the hull's interior.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

St. John River Malecite Replica

With the Covid19 issue taking over life here, it's been a challenge to get any work done on paddles between all the necessary isolating in addition to home-schooling my two boys. Many lingering projects from last summer have gone unfinished. One such paddle project is a replica of the circa 1860's Woodland paddle with a unique reverse stepped grip originally featured in this post here.

Circa 1860
5 ft. 3 3/4 in.
This paddle was collected in the St. John's River area of New Brunswick, Canada. Floral designs are incised on the top.
Originally from the Estate of Herbert and Patricia Wellington of Locust Valley, NY

I didn't have any birds-eye to work with, but just used plain soft maple. Here is a photo from the end of last summer. A little work needed to be done on symmetry and the grip area, but the paddle was progressing well.

1860 St. John River paddle in soft maple

The grip area of the original is actually asymmetrical. One side has a defined lip at the top while the other simply smoothed over. This second side also has a some basic chip-carved elements in the form of vines and dots.

In addition there are a series of incised lines with the number varying from one to three depending on the side of the grip face. Using a chip-carving knife and some abrasive cordage, I formed these interesting carving features on the grip and then burned a reproduction of the carved elements. In keeping with the original, the top station of the grip was not carved to perfect symmetry either, with the left a little more indented than the right. I like how these truly hand made paddles were carved with such imperfections that really are a reflection of mechanised construction.

Like many of the reproductions I've been doing lately, I burned many of the details onto one side of the blade. 

The original plan was to stain the very bright and plain maple wood to a more honey tone, but that will have to wait until time allows some experimentation. 

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