Sunday, January 26, 2014

Peabody Museum - Green Bladed Decorated Paddle

Superb blogger of Indigenous Boats, Bob Holtzman, has posted some personal photos of canoe-related exhibits at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Included in this display are some wonderful closeups of a favourite paddle design I've always wanted to see with my own eyes. It has served as the inspiration for my own cherry interpretations (posts here and here). It looks to the be the paddle illustrated in fig. 72 of  Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America. Adney sketched 1/2 of the blade pattern, included some dimensions and identified the paddle as a 71" long (180cm), maple wood Passamaquoddy dated to 1849.

Fig 72: Adney and Chappelle
Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

Despite the difficulty in photographing dimly lit museum pieces behind glass, Bob was able to get some shots of the paddle on display.

Image Credit: Bob Holtzman

Image Credit: Bob Holtzman

The paddle was captioned with the following info...

 "The blade of this elaborately decorated paddle is painted green. The double-curve design was executed by removing the paint while it was still wet. The stepped motif and crosshatching are suggestive of Penobscot or Passamaquoddy manufacture. The handle exhibits graceful carving and shows much indication of use." 

Until now, the only photo of this paddle I've seen was the official museum pic showcasing the white scroll design on the blade.

Canoe paddle, elaborately decorated. Blade painted green, double curve motif.  
Peabody Number: 99-12-10/53655 
Dimensions: Length: 180.5 cm, Width: 17.6 cm, Dep: 3.3 cm
Provenance: Donor: Heirs of David Kimball (1899)

Closer inspection reveals that that scroll pattern of the official pic and the display model are different. Now I'm wondering if the paddle is painted on both sides with slightly different scrolled patterns or if the museum has 2 distinct paddles in their collection.

Back in 2010, Bob also sent links and photos to some paddles at the University of Maine's Hudson Museum. It included a paddle with an attractive, segmented style grip.

Image Credit: Bob Holtzman

Thinking the next paddle project (if it ever gets going) will be to replicate the Peabody museum paddle blade with the Hudson Museum grip style. A similar attempt in Sassafras was attempted in the summer of 2012 but if you follow through the posts you'll know it ended up in failure with a snapped shaft.


Faith Sutter said...

The paddle may be in an upcoming exhibition at the Peabody Museum, The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes: A View from the River, about the enduring importance of rivers and canoes in Penobscot tribal life and on relationships between the tribe and non-Indians. This new installation will feature a rarely seen full-size bark canoe purchased from Penobscot Indian Francis Sebattis in 1912, as well as stone tools collected by Henry David Thoreau, who described the Penobscot and their canoes in The Maine Woods. It opens Saturday, April 12, 2014.

PG said...

Re: the Peabody Museum green paddle above. Same paddle, different designs on each side.

Murat said...

Thank you Faith and PG for the extra info. The upcoming exhibit sounds wonderful. Hoping to see it the exhibit in person.

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