Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Circa 1860 Penobscot HBC Paddle

From Jeff Bridgeman American Antiques comes another antique paddle. The description cites that the wood is Tiger maple and that the paddle was made by the Penobscot Indians in Maine for the Hudson Bay Company for their for 50-foot-long "barge canoes" that were used to transport furs. It is dated to circa 1860.

Native American Barge Canoe Paddle
Circa 1860
Width: 7.5"
Height: 83"
Depth: 1.5"

The whole backstory seems very strange to me. Never heard of 50 foot barge canoes before. My understanding is that the largest birchbark canoes (Canot du Maitre) used in the Fur trade of this era were limited to about 36 feet since this is the approximate maximum length before the weight of the hull would cause the bark to collapse onto itself. This is described by Canadian Canoe Museum Curator Jeremy Ward who built a 36 ft replica that was featured in a Ray Mears episode here.

The wide paddle blade at 7.5" is very inconsistent with narrow fur trade paddle that voyageurs tended to favour for their arduous stroke pace. This is also the first I've ever heard of the Hudson Bay company commissioning Penobscot Indians from Maine in United States (never part of HBC fur territory) to make canoe paddles for their fleet. Although, I have read about the tradition of Cree, Montagnais, Algonkian tribes in Canada assisting with the construction of paddles and canoes (particularly in Quebec). Maybe I'm missing something here but it is an interesting piece nevertheless.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page