Model Canoes

Posted on January 22, 2012

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SCALE MODEL BIRCH BARK CANOES

THE ART AND OBSESSION OF TAPPAN ADNEY

The canoe models of Edwin Tappan Adney, universally recognized as the foremost scholar on the North American bark canoe, represent the distillation of a lifetime of research into Native canoeing cultures of North America. He originally intended his collection of models to illustrate a major book on the subject. Sadly, he never completed his book. It is estimated that Adney constructed 130 models of Native canoes during his lifetime. For Adney, building models was not a hobby. He believed that Native bark canoes, and knowledge about their construction was fast disappearing. Therefore, a collection of exact replicas at a consistent 1 to 5 scale would be crucial for the preservation of this aspect of Native heritage.

Tappan Adney

1 to 5 scale Naskapi Crooked Canoe built by Tappan Adney, Based on a Geological Survey of Canada photograph by A. P. Low in 1912 taken at the Hudson’s Bay Post at Ft. George, Quebec.

  When Adney began building, he was the only one doing so, and even he was almost too late. During his 63 years of intermittent research, from 1887 to his death in 1950, much first hand knowledge of bark canoes had disappeared. Without Adney’s vast collection of papers and the models he left as his legacy, a vital part of North American Native heritage might well have been irretrievably lost.  

In June 1887, at the age of 19, Adney decided to visit Woodstock, New Brunswick. There he met Peter Jo, one of the last of the Maliseet canoe builders on the St. John River. It was a meeting that would change Adney’s life, for Peter Jo introduced him not only to Native canoe building, but also to Maliseet culture, which, of and on, Adney would study and document for the rest of hid life.

During his two-year stay in New Brunswick, he Lived for an extended period with Peter Jo and his family in order to learn the Maliseet language and to record and sketch the detailed building of a birch bark canoe; something that had never been done before. Under Peter Jo’s tutelage, he also built his first birch bark canoe and his first bark models.Peter Jo can be thanked for starting Adney on a path of preserving North America’s bark canoe heritage.

“Peter Jo At Work,”  Drawing by Tappan Adney for his article, “How an Indian Birch-bark Canoe is Made,”  (Harpers Young Supplement, July 29, 1890.) 

  Tappen Adney died in 1950 at the age of 82 in his Woodstock bungalow surrounded by his beloved birds, squirrels, his life time of research notes and drawings, and a few of his canoe models. To the end of his life he was “rugged as an old pine knot,” he had single-handedly assured that the great heritage of the bark canoe would not die. After his death, Adney’s unfinished  manuscripts, note and drawings were transformed by Howard Chapelle of the Smithsonian Museum into “The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America” published in 1964.*

*Text and photo adaptations from BARK CANOES, The Art and Obsession of Tappen Adney, John Jennings, 2004

My Inspiration

CREE-STYLE MODEL CANOE

1 – 4 scale Cree-style Crooked Canoe

Detail of Crooked Canoe

  MONTAGNAIS-STYLE MODEL CANOE

Montagnais-Style

Interior Detail

Beaver Portaging Canoe

MODEL OLD FORM OJIBWE-STYLE CANOE

1 – 4 scale Old Form Ojibwe-Style Canoe

Details showing paddles, tumpline, cedar ricing sticks and a push poll for harvesting wild rice.

Interior Detail

    Canoe at Rest

MODEL WABINAKI-STYLE CANOE

1 – 4 scale Wabinaki-Style Canoe

Bow Etching Detail

Stern Etching Detail

“From the Land of Sky Blue Waters”

MODEL ST. FRANCIS ABENAKI-STYLE CANOE

1 – 4 scale St. Francis Abenaki-Style Canoe

Bow Detail Beaver Etching

MODEL OLD FORM LAC DU FLAMBEAU OJIBWE-STYLE CANOE

1 – 2 scale Old Form Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe-Style Canoe

                      Reflections of LDF

  BEAVER’S FLEET OF CANOES

Beaver’s Canoe Train

Heading Towards the Grand Portage

Beaver Contemplating the Grand Portage

Le’ Grand Portage

<A BEAVER BARK CANOES PRODUCTION>….Copyright….2012