Sunday, September 20, 2015

1855 Penobscot Wedding Paddle

A great find currently up for bidding at Cowan Auctions. Lot 371 of their 9/25/2015 American Indian Auction features a mid-19th century Penobscot padde carved in cherry with decorations on both sides of the grip.


 ca. 1855 Penobscot Paddle
overall length 66.5 in. 
Provenance: Collected from a Taylors Falls, Minnesota Estate

A closeup of the grip showcases many inscribed etchings including diamonds, double curves, and a very obvious heart image at the top. Below the heart, the initials F.M.D are carved in rectangular frame.

"Romantic" Heart etching with the initials "F.M.D'

This paddle even has some decorative etching around the throat of the paddle where the distinct blade spine merges with a subtly carved drip ring. It is simple but quite pretty ...

Decoration around throat and drip-ring

If the paddle shape looks familiar it is because its nearly identical mate  is curated at the Minnesota Historical Society - MHS (collection no. 7364). More posts about that paddle here and here

MHS Society Paddle
77 inches length
6 1/2 inches width
collection no. 7364

The collection history of the MHS paddle states that it was found on the battle site of "Battle Hollow", where a fight broke out between the Ojibwe and Dakota, thus dating it to no later than 1839. The initials W.D. were later carved on this  paddle by a William Daubney (1831-1871).

Cowan Auction's description of the other paddle mention that initials "F.M.D." reference his wife, Fannie Marie Daubney and that the second paddle was carved as a wedding present around 1855.  This explains the romantic heart etching.

A noted difference between the two paddles can be found in their overall lengths  - "W.D"'s paddle is 77 inches while F.M.D's is significantly shorter at 66.5 inches. These are both quite long compared to my preferred length of 58" for practical paddling. Fannie Marie's wedding paddle also features a longer grip area with a cascading base.

ca.1839 "W.D" vs ca.1855 "F.M.D" paddle

The auction is set for September 25, 2015 and the estimated price is between $800-$1000. I'll try to report back on the final sale price once the bidding is over. 

September 26, 2015 Update: Fanny Marie's wedding paddle went for $5400 USD - over 5x the upper estimate. No word on the purchaser but hopefully it'll be well appreciated and perhaps put on public display somewhere. 

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