Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cowan's Auction Items

Metis Quilled Hide Knife Sheath with Dag Knife in sinew-sewn on softly tanned buckskin hide and expertly quilled using porcupine quills dyed in red, blue, pink, yellow, and purple; the loom-woven quillwork creates a complicated geometric pattern filling the face of sheath; the edge of the sheath is detailed with purple and white quills, length 14.5 in.  "Beavertail" dag knife has a hand-carved horn handle detailed with five brass and steel rivets, tip of handle further embellished with incised bone and horn, total length 14 in., length of blade 8.25 in. x width of blade 2.5 in. ca 1830.

A similar example of both sheath and knife is located in the Thaw Collection and is illustrated in their catalogue Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection(2010: 78, T0088A-B).

Although the blade of this beavertail knife is not marked, a similar fashioned knife and sheath is illustrated in Colin Taylor's book Native American Weapons (2001: 53) and is noted to have been manufactured in Sheffield, England.  Taylor states that they were sold through the Hudson Bay Company, introduced in the mid-1700 and quickly adopted by the people in the Great Lakes area (2001: 48, 53).  Jonathan Carver, an early explorer who traveled throughout the Great Lakes area, described in his journal the dress and manners of the Eastern Sioux he encountered.  Among his descriptions is one small discussion of a beavertail knife and quilled sheath:

The dagger is peculiar to the Naudowessie nation, and of ancient construction, but they can give no account how long it has been in use among them.  It was originally made of flint or bone, but since they had communication with the European traders, they have formed it of steel.  The length of it is about ten inches, and that part close to the handle neatly three inches broad.  Its edges are keen, and it gradually tapers towards a point.  They wear it in a sheath made of deer's leather, neatly ornamented with porcupine quills; and it is usually hung by a string, decorated in the same manner, which reaches as low only as the breast.  The curious weapon is worn by a few of the principal chiefs alone, and considered both as an useful instrument, and an ornamental badge of superiority.

Southern plains style pipe tomahawk with inlay and double-cut out, file-branded haft studded with 140 brass tacks; forged blade with oval eye and finely hatched detailing on ridge of bowl; blade fully outlined with stamped dots and further decorated with seven copper inlaid circles; blade is pierced with double-batwing, length 21.25 in. x length of blade 5.5 in. x width of blade 4 in. ca 1870.

A similar tomahawk blade is photographed in Hartzler and Knowles Indian Tomahawks and Frontiersmen Belt Axes (1995: fig. 60). 

Copy and images from Cowan Auctions.

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