Sunday, November 5, 2023

Circa 1860 "Pleasing the Spirits" paddle up for auction (again)

Bonham's  Auctions is featuring a circa 1860 paddle in their upcoming NATIVE AMERICAN & TRIBAL ART auction, set for 8 November 2023. LOT 84 features "A Northeastern Woodlands canoe paddle" which might be familiar to readers of this blog.

A Northeastern Woodlands canoe paddle
Malecite(?), c. 1860s
63 3/4 in.
Provenance: Private collection, New York. 
Collected in the St. John's River area of New Brunswick, Canada.

The uniquely carved stepped grip of this paddle features some floral incised decorative elements.

This paddle was originally illustrated in an exhibition catalog from 1982, Pleasing the Spirits. A Catalogue of a collection of American Indian Art by Douglas C. Ewing, Page 385, plate 474. It was up for auction back in 2009 where it fetched a realized price $2500 after being valued at $700. It seems to have been up for auction again in 2017. I made a replica from maple back in 2020 and it has become one of my favourites for relaxed solo paddling. Hopefully this treasure will go to a good home where it will be valued for the historic piece that it is.

Nov 10 2023 Update: Paddle sold for $3200 US (including buyer's premium)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Mariner's Catalog (1973) - Henri Vaillancourt Paddles

Came across a 50 year old photo published in the 1973 publication,  The Mariner's catalog, available for 1 hour borrowing on It accompanies a brief write-up of the Malecite style paddles carved by Henri Vaillancourt. The photo is B&W is quite dark and grainy but the beautifully sculpted blades with sharp spines are visible. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Historic Paddle Photo: Anishinaabe Pole Style Grip

From the Flickr photostream of the Superior National Forest is an image dated to 1915 showcasing a family paddling in their bark canoe. The man in the stern demonstrates the indigenous paddling method using a pole-style grip paddle...

Basswood River near Wheel Barrow Portage, 1915

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Peabody Harvard Canoe

A glass plate photo of a birchbark canoe in the collection of the Peabody Museum (Harvard) showcases the hull displayed with two full-sized paddles featuring elongated grips:

Peabody Number: 2004.24.5433
Display Title: Birchbark Canoe
Geography/Provenience: North America/Canada/New Brunswick
Materials: Negative, glass plate

Further research revealed additional colour photos of these paddles which have been loosely dated to between 1800 and 1870 and donated by G.A. Peabody to the collection ca. 1870-1872.

Peabody Number: 72-29-10/7128.2
Display Title: Paddle (1 of 2) belonging to canoe 72-29-10/7128
Inventory Description: Paddle, flat blade, flattened handle, cracked tip
Date: 1800-1872
Geography/Provenience:North America/United States/Maine/Washington County/Eastport
Dimensions: Overall: 169 x 13.9 x 2.8 cm (66 9/16 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/8 in.)
Provenance:Collector: G. A. Peabody (ca. 1870 - 1872)

Peabody Number: 72-29-10/7128.1
Display Title: Paddle (1 of 2) belonging to canoe 72-29-10/7128
Inventory Description: Paddle, flat blade, handle flattened and flared at tip, at base of handle when it meets the paddle there are three lines carved into both sides of the handle.
Date: 1800-1872
Geography/Provenience:North America/United States/Maine/Washington County/Eastport
Dimensions: Overall: 169 x 13.9 x 2.8 cm (66 9/16 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/8 in.)
Provenance:Collector: G. A. Peabody (ca. 1870 - 1872)

A model version of this second paddle (Acc No. 2000.0038.000029F) was carved by Tappan Adney and now resides in the collection of the Mariner's Museum, though Adney dates the object to 1874. See link and images HERE

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Alexandra Conover Bennet Demonstrates the North Woods Paddle Stroke

 A recent video clip of Alexandra Conover-Bennet showcasing a Penobscot-style paddle, Wabanaki birchbark canoe and the "Northwoods Style Stroke" is now on YouTube. It originally appeared on the WoodenBoat channel, Season 3, Episode 3 of their "Mastering Skills" Series.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Historic Paddle Illustration - Chestnut Canoe Paddles

Before the company was incorporated in 1907 as the Chestnut Canoe Co. Ltd., canvas canoes were being manufactured by R. Chestnut & Sons, an established hardware business in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The company also manufactured two styles of paddles which were effectively copies of what was being offered by the B.N. Morris Canoe company of Veazie, Maine at the time.

The earliest known advertisement for these "Chestnut" paddles appeared on page 12 of the April 11, 1906 issue of the The Daily Gleaner. The same ad ran for several issues during the spring of 1906 

Years ago, a relatively rare R.Chestnut & Sons paddle came up for sale by Blanchard's Auctions (see original post HERE). Not sure who purchased by the paddle appears to be the wider tipped blade featured on the left on the ad.

R. Chestnut & Sons paddle on Right

The paddle included a red oval decal oddly positioned on the grip area. Here is a closeup...

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Historic Paddle Photos: Maliseet poling and and paddle pics

Nicholas Lolar Poling a Canoe on the Restigouche River, New Brunswick
NBM Collection (1987.17.674)

Running the Dawsonville Rapids, the Worst on the Restigouche River, New Brunswick
NBM Collection (1987.17.669)

Paddle Closeup

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Upcoming Event: Leacock Museum "Boating Old Brewery Bay" Exhibit Launch

Wanted to share info about an upcoming event that will be of interest to canoe buffs and historians alike. The Northern Lakes Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will be participating in an event at the Leacock Museum National Historic Site in Orillia, Ontario on Saturday May 20th.

A schedule of events has been prepared which will include on-water paddling demonstrations, displays of historic boats and paddles, as well as items available for sale. 

The Leacock Museum in Orillia, Ontario is a National Historic Site of Canada and is housed in the summer estate of Canadian author and humourist Stephen Leacock (1869 - 1944). It is set on 10 acres of land oriented on Lake Couchiching’s south shore. 

Leacock’s boathouse was once a prominent feature along the shoreline. It has been rebuilt to its original footprint and will be the home of a new permanent exhibit on Boating & Fishing in the area. Leacock was an avid canoeist and fisherman and his personal paddles and equipment will make up part of the exhibition.

Historically the area was hub of all-wood canoe building in the early 20th century with makers such as W.T. Bush operating out of nearby Coldwater and the J.H. Ross company in Orillia.

The Orillia Heritage Centre will also be attending and displaying many of the historic watercraft in their collection. Below is a very rare W.T. Bush sailing canoe displayed with some vintage marine engines in the background.


50 Museum Dr

Orillia, ON

L3V 7T9

I'll be there with many of the craft items for sale from this post here (funds going to the Northern Lakes Chapter) so please consider swinging by for a fun canoe day!

Monday, May 1, 2023

Corona Virus craft projects

The Covid19 chaos over the last few years has meant more time working on smaller craft projects. In particular, much time has been spent crafting various items for display and sale at various upcoming events for the Northern Lakes chapter of the WCHA. 

These items include scale model versions of the historic paddles featured on the site. Using up off-cuts to make these miniatures (ranging from 12" to 24" long) was a fun little exercise. Most have been decoratively burned but a few have been painted. Also made some little stands from other thin remnants.

In addition, I've used up scraps of cedar and thin plywood to make some mini wanigans complete with leather tumplines. My son had the idea of making them into coin boxes so some have a slit on the lid to serve as as wanigan bank.

Also used thin remnants to make some other items for fundraising. These include wooden bookmarks decorated with burned images of other paddles featured over the years.

Along with some discounted books, framed artwork and a few other hand-made items we hope to have an eye-catching display at future events. Here's some stuff set up on the basement ping pong table...

Another post about the group's next upcoming event will be posted in a few days. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Historic Paddle Image - Wabanaki Bark Canoe - Hudson Museum

The University of Maine Hudson Museum photograph collection features a great shot of an overturned Wabanaki canoe and two paddles. An exact date is unavailable; the image is loosely dated to the early 20th Century but the individuals in the pose have been identified.

Sepia tone photographic print of (left to right) Sylvia, Stephen, and Francis Stanislaus standing behind a birchbark canoe.
Catalog Number: HM9303.1

Friday, March 24, 2023

ca1849 Passamaquoddy Replica - Chris Pearson

Model maker extraordinaire, Chris Pearson of CanoeManArt, has made a 1/2 scale reproduction of the circa 1849 Passamaquoddy Paddle in the Peabody Harvard Collection. Chris and his work have also been featured in the past, appearing in the The Fall 2015 issue of Canoeroots and Family Camping. This issue showcased six artists whose work focuses on canoe-themed projects. The article is currently available online and there is an archived image of the write up here as well.

Chris's attention to detail on the original and as well as his expert hand have created a beautiful rendition, right down to the worn paint and patina on the original full-sized model. Amazing stuff!


A fantastic thread with great photos of the original more details can be followed at the WCHA forum at this link

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Historic Paddle Photo: Anishinaabe man making a paddle

Anishinaabe man making a paddle
Library and Archives of Canada
Item Number: 5319026
Place:Lac Seul (Ont.)
Photographer: Waugh, F. W. (Frederick Wilkerson), 1872-1924
Other accession no.: 1965-012 NPC

Anishinaabe man making a paddle
Library and Archives of Canada
Item Number: 5319027
Place:Lac Seul (Ont.)
Photographer: Waugh, F. W. (Frederick Wilkerson), 1872-1924
Other accession no.: 1965-012 NPC

Monday, January 30, 2023

Paddle Related Reading: Cabin Collectibles by Ralph R. Kylloe

Cabin collectibles by Ralph R. Kylloe (2000) is available to digitally borrow on The opening chapter discusses the use of paddles and canoes as decorative objects. The section is well illustrated with photos as well as as generic descriptions of grip styles...

Friday, January 20, 2023

Historic Photo: Wisconsin Ojibwa canoe and paddle

A historic canoe photo appeared in the rather eclectic exhibition H.H. Bennett, Lena Henke and Cars which ran at studio 1857, in Oslo, Norway back in 2012. It featured some framed photos taken by Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843 - 1908), famous for his captures of the unique topographical features of the Wisconsin Dells. 

 The original is kept in the Wisconsin Historical Society and includes the following description and details:

"Two men standing on the beach at Sugar Bowl, one carrying a canoe and paddle, the other holding a basket."
Image ID:7564
Bennett, H. H. (Henry Hamilton), 1843-1908
Lower Dells, Town of Delton, Sauk County.

The pose capturing a portage showcases a clear view of the unique stem-piece design typical of the Ojibwa of this region as well as a clear view of the paddle blade. 

The narrow blade ends abruptly at the lower shaft with two notched ends or "hard" shoulders. A similarly styled paddle (circa 1890) was featured earlier on the site. 

Ojibwa Indian Canoe Paddle A finely carved maple paddle with an early light green painted surface. It features a rolled-top handle with faceted details, and a stepped transition from blade to shaft. 
 Circa 1890
 4.5" w, 67" h 
Original Link

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