Friday, January 22, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustration: Gabe Acquin - 1883

Karen Perly has prepared a well written biography (*.pdf format) of Gabe Acquin, a Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) guide who was the first to permanently settle on land that would eventually become St. Mary's First Nation. It's a great read and is loaded with wonderful photos and details.

I've posted a famous photo of Gabe with a canoe paddle on the site before beginning with a 2008 listing on which had an original albumen photograph with the hand written caption "Indian Guide, c1870".

Lot 2478: Albumen Photo
American "Indian Guide", 1870
Original Listing

At the time, I was unaware who the guide was until blog reader Luc Poitras informed me of the guide's identity. Another black and white image of the same pose is found in the University of New Brunswick archives.

Gabe Acquin (St. Mary's), c. 1866
University of New Brunswick Archives

In 1860, the then 18-year-old Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) visited Fredericton. After paddling by Government House in his birchbark canoe, Gabe was hailed by the prince who is intrigued by the canoe's construction. Gabe casually invited him for a ride and paddled the future king to the mouth of the Nashwaak River before returning. Many years later, Gabe was invited to England in 1883 as one of Canada’s entries in the International Fisheries Exhibition in London.

Subsequently a book was published, Fisheries of the World : an Illustrated and Descriptive Record of the International Fisheries Exhibition, 1883. A sketch was included with the caption "Indian in Birch Canoe, Fisheries Exhibition" and is quite likely an image of Gabe.

"Indian in Birch Canoe, Fisheries Exhibition "
 Whymper, F. Fisheries of the World : an Illustrated and Descriptive Record of the International Fisheries Exhibition.  London : Cassell : Co.: Limited, 1883.
 Page 96

The grainy closeup of the image shows quite a distinct Maliseet style paddle with elongated grip and carved ornamental drip ring...

Paddle Closeup

As a comparison, check out this post featuring  some Maliseet paddles dated to circa 1880 at the New Brunswick Museum.

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