Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cherry Gallery c1890 Batteaux Steering Paddle

Quite late to post this, but the January listing of current selections at features a Penobscot-influenced paddle used to steer logging batteaux in Maine. Below are their photos and a brief description:

Monumental Painted Canoe Paddle
This style of oversized canoe paddle was modeled after Penobscot Indian canoe paddles and made for use by loggers who maneuvered flat-bottomed batteaux during log drives, often by standing in the bow and stern. It retains its old evergreen and cranberry colorblock paint.
7.75" w, 86" h 
Circa 1890

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Circa 1850 Mi'kmaq Paddle Replica

Another historical paddle replica I've been excited to work on is from a circa 1850 painting by an unknown artist. One version of this artwork was acquired by the National Gallery in 1957 and was simply titled "Micmac Indians".

"Micmac Indians"
Unknown Artist, circa 1850
oil on canvas
45.7 x 61 cm

The image has been reproduced in many books over the years and was even replicated for a Canadian Postage stamp in 1973 . As an additional side note, the work has been praised by Mi'kmaw Historian and Ethnographer, Ruth Holmes Whitehead, as being a fairly accurate reflection of material culture for the period.

Back in 2015, another version of this scene went up for auction in London (see post here) as part of the Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana. This oil had a more extensive title but it is believed to painted by the same unknown artist.

Mi’qmak Indian camp on a bay with Mi’qmaks shooting Canada geese
ca. 1850
Artist: Unknown

A closeup of the male hunter on the bottom left shows a paddle resting across the gunnels of the humped canoe. The slender shaft has no discernible grip on the end and the wide paddle blade features a distinct scroll pattern.

The other paddlers also hold slender pole grip paddles with recurved blades and additional curved motifs for decoration. Each of the paddle shafts looks darkened or scorched compared to the relatively light coloured blades which gave me the inspiration to replicate the pattern with pyrography. My paddle was carved out of basswood, not a traditional paddle wood for the region based on surviving samples, but one that would be easy to shape and burn.

Going back to basics, I hacked the blade shape out with an axe to capture the essence of paddle making from this era. The slender shaft was finished with a crooked knife but I had trouble carving out the centre of the wide blade with this tool, so resorted to using a spokeshave for the tricky parts.

I burned the shaft evenly with the garden torch and finished the decorative curves in a darkened burn with a pyrography pen. With some eerie winter light in the backyard, I took a photo of the paddle leaning against the house wall.

Circa 1850 Mi'kmaq paddle replica

There seems to be a bit of mid-season thaw happening in Toronto. Our modest amount of snow has melted, but I'll be waiting until a proper ice-out before giving this unique paddle design a quick dip in some local waters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Historic Paddle Photo: Bark Canoe on the St. John River (1899)

Here's a beautiful image from the 1899 publication, St. John River, The Rhine of America by the New Brunswick Tourist Association.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Historical Paddle Illustration: Peachey - View of Three Rivers

Here's more historic artwork by military artist James Peachey. This broad vista is entitled, "A View of Three Rivers Taken from the Road leading to Pointe du Lac" and dates to 1784.

A View of Three Rivers Taken from the Road leading to Pointe du Lac
James Peachey

Difficult to spot, but in the foreground is an overturned canoe with a group of First Nations people huddled around a cooking fire. Some paddle blades with a tear drop design are just peeking out from the left side.


The paddles are coloured a distinctive earthy red colour, much like another work described here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Historic Paddle Photo: Naskapi (Innu) Paddlers - 1928

As mentioned in this previous post, the Field Museum has some paddles collected during the Rawson-MacMillan Subarctic Expeditions of 1927 and 1928. Acquired by Ethnographer William Duncan Strong, the paddles and other artifacts of material culture are thoroughly discussed in James VanStone's publication, Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi: The William Duncan Strong Collection

Recently, The Field Museum posted all 975 photos from these two expeditions onto a Flickr album. One particular photo taken at Davis Inlet, Labrador, offers a rare glimpse of the traditional Innu paddling method.

Davis Inlet, Labrador
Taken August 23, 1928

The bow paddler is using a typical high aspect ratio (i.e. long and narrow) paddle consistent with those in usage in the area. His grip hand is holding the small bulbous grip laterally in the indigenous paddling technique described in this post here

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Update on circa 1860 "Delaware" paddles

Here's an update on the set of painted maple canoe dated to the 1860's first posted about here.

Turns out these paddle were part of Sotheby's  New York auction Important American Indian Art. Lot 726 of their May 19th, 1998 event listed a black and white photo of  “A Pair of Painted Wood Oars, Probably Lorette-Huron.”

“A Pair of Painted Wood Oars, Probably Lorette-Huron.” 
Important American Indian Art
Sotheby’s New York
May 19,1998, lot 726 

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