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.
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.
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
CREE-STYLE MODEL CANOE
MONTAGNAIS-STYLE MODEL CANOE
MODEL OLD FORM OJIBWE-STYLE CANOE
MODEL WABINAKI-STYLE CANOE
MODEL ST. FRANCIS ABENAKI-STYLE CANOE
MODEL OLD FORM LAC DU FLAMBEAU OJIBWE-STYLE CANOE
BEAVER’S FLEET OF CANOES
<A BEAVER BARK CANOES PRODUCTION>….Copyright….2012