Thursday, November 5, 2015

Historic Paddle Illustration: Canoeing at Bar Harbor - 1886

Here is excellent historic illustration dated to 1886. It appeared in an article series entitled, "Their Pilgrimage" by Charles D. Warner in  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, August 1886.  The artist, Charles Reinhart captured an image of summer tourists (aka rusticators) out for a paddle in birchbark canoes. The canoe in the foreground has the lady paddling in the stern with her male companion lounging in the hull

Rusticators canoeing in Frenchman Bay
Charles S. Reinhart
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 73, No. 435, August 1886, pg. 419.

Apart from the quite accurate sketching of the bark canoes, complete with etched star patterns on the ends, the artist showcases a full image of the paddle being used by the lady in the stern. Here's a closeup...

Paddle closeup

The paddle features a distinctly flattened palm grip with a clearly carved drip ring at its base.  There are similar grip designs and drip rings on some other historic Maliseet paddles, most notably the c1878 York Sunbury Paddle...see posts here, here, and here.

 Fredericton Region Museum (formerly York Sunbury Museum) 
Size: 75" x 6" 

Grip Closeup
Photo Credit:  Lloyd of Canoe Canada East.
Original full post here

I've carved a similar drip ring on two of my own paddles. Below is a photo of carving a replica from a few summers back. The flattened grip and ring are reminiscent of the sketch. In the end, I was disappointed with my carving efforts on this one and never completed the etchwork. It now serves as my raccoon deterrent device for when these nasty trash pandas make a mess of our balcony deck.

I had also attempted a 2nd replica (also in yellow birch) that failed when the difficult grain tore out at the blade edge out when hewing out with an axe. In the end it was salvaged into a different design. At the time I posted about it as my Yellow Birch mistake paddle

Grip Side View; Drip ring closeup

These carved drip rings add a nice decorative design to ceremonially ornate paddles, but Reinhart's illustration indicates that such paddles were still considered functional as well.


Jonas Sjöblom said...

I'm wondering if it's really a drip ring since it still allows water to run by on 2 sides if angled wrong when you lift it. And it's so rare to lift the blade enough to get wet hands. I'm thinking maybe it's there to prevent tarp/tent lines from sliding down?
I remember reading somewhere, I think in one of Graham Warren's books that some paddles were designed so you could drink from the grip by lifting the paddle. That might also be possible, the form kind of makes sense for that.

Murat said...

Very good observations Jonas. You might be correct. Could be just a non functional decorative design too.

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