Friday, October 29, 2010

Celebrity Paddles: Gabriel Acquin's Canoe Paddle

A while back, I came across this intriguing print on with the listing title of "Original Albumen Photograph American Indian Guide".

"INDIAN GUIDE, c. 1870"
Details from the site mentioned a date of circa 1870. An original period photograph, it measures 2.25" x 3.5" and is housed in a beveled 5.25" x 8.25" period mat. The subject, according to the pencil notation below the image, "INDIAN GUIDE, c. 1870", is seen standing leaning on a canoe paddle. Unfortunately, no details regarding the identity of the subject were available.

Later, thanks to an email from blog reader Luc Poitras, I learned the image is of Gabriel Acquin, a Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) guide who was the first to permanently settle on land that would eventually become St. Mary's First Nation.

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

In the photo Acquin is holding a rough looking paddle with an elongated grip typical of this region. Found a detailed bio page that mentioned some pretty neat stuff about the man. Here's an excerpt...
A turning-point in Gabe’s life occurred in 1860 when the 18-year-old Prince of Wales visited Fredericton. Passing by Government House in his canoe, Gabe was hailed by the prince, who asked for a ride. Against the remonstrances of equerries and household, Gabe paddled the future king across the river and into the mouth of the Nashwaak River before returning. Gabe was subsequently invited to England, first in 1883 as one of Canada’s entries in the International Fisheries Exhibition in London. With his canoe and wigwam and wearing an outfit beaded by his wife, an extraordinarily talented craftswoman, he set up camp on the ponds of South Kensington, renewed old friendships with royalty and officers he had known, and became, in the words of William Austin Squires, “the greatest social lion of the day.” Gabe is reputed to have gone to England again in the 1880s though this claim is undocumented. He was 82 when he took his last trip there, in 1893–94 with Paul Boyton’s World’s Water Show.


Mungo said...

Just came across a video - Have a look at the 3:40 mark in the video - some interesting paddles!

Murat said...

Thanks Mungo. Great footage from that Ray Mears series. Looks like the voyageurs in the video were using some of the replica paddles from the Canoe Museum. Wrote a post about some of these decorated paddles here

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