Saturday, December 28, 2019

Frank B/ Mayer Sketches - Eastern Dakota Canoe Paddles, 1851

The historic sketchbooks of Frank Blackwell Mayer (1827-1899) utilised on his 1851 trip to  Minnesota Territory have been posted on (link here). Mayer was a  Baltimore artist who  journeyed to Traverse de Sioux and Mendota on the Minnesota frontier to record meetings between United States officials and Indian tribes who were ceding title to much of Southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Dakota.

His first booklet (#40) contain sketches of the Missouri frontier, the Mississippi, St. Paul, and Kaposia. The next four books (#41-44) contain sketches made at Fort Snelling, Traverse des Sioux, and Mendota. They provide a visual record of Native American life of the era, particularly among the Eastern Dakota (Sioux). There are also sketches of voyageurs and the usage of both dugout and bark canoes.

Page 17 of sketchbook #41 features an image simply labelled "Canoe Paddle"which features slightly recurved shoulders, thick shaft, distinct spine running the full length of the blade and ending in a slightly pointed tip....

Page 30 of the same sketchbook features another example of a Dakota warrior holding onto a paddle with recurved shoulders and pointed tip. The caption states, "Drawn near Fort Snelling".

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Mid-19th century Penobscot paddle (Poplar)

Archived on is an interesting paddle originally from Cowan's  American Indian and Western Art: Live Salesroom Auction (4/8/2017). What makes this one different from other 19th century Penobscot designs is the claim it is made of Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). While utilised today to make inexpensive paddles and oars, it was not a common wood in the Northeastern paddle making tradition as evident by lack of documentation and surviving paddles made from this wood. Poplar is also a relatively weak wood compared to more commonly used ash and maple, yet this huge 75" paddle has a hefty 7.5" wide blade. To survive the stain of use, the shaft would benefit from being much thicker.

Penobscot Wood Paddle (mid-19th century)
poplar; length 75 in.
The beveled, triangular grip gracefully transitions to a round shaft and teardrop-shaped blade; surface with warm patina 

Grip Closeup

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Odanak Abenaki Postcard Paddle

Found two postcards online featuring a Abenaki style paddle. Both feature the same unknown person listed as being taken at Odanak, Qu├ębec, and published by the Peco Ottawa Photogelatine Engraving, Co between 1930-1940.

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