How do we know that the ("before 1899") paddle in the Peabody Museum is "the" 1849 paddle on page 81 of Adney & Chapelle, rather than just a similar one?
There is some ambiguity there, but like Benson mentioned the relatively unique carving features and matching dimensional info to Adney's illustration make it likely that it is the same item. I've sent a followup request to the Peabody to see if they can clarify but years ago I was given a rather generic response that all relevant info was provided in the online listing where the 1899 date of the donation was used as the reference point. We'll see if they will respond with more details this time.
Since I sent that original query, I learned that Adney began to create many scale model paddles in the 1930s to illustrate his planned manuscript on bark canoes. These samples and accompanying notes are now in the Mariner's Museum in Virginia. Using his status as a past consultant for McGill University it appears he got in touch with various museums to document paddles. His surviving notes indicate that both the green paddle in Figure 72
and the middle paddle with the diamond-shaped blade were in the Peabody collection. This 2nd paddle apparently also had a signature of the maker with the date of 1849.
"Spatulate bladed model of cedar accompanying a large model in Peabody Museum, Harvard, ... the blade signed in handwriting of the builder; 'Soisan Dene Chulai [July] 18 1849' Scrip, French Indian alphabet invented by the old missionary LeBrousseau. Out of use before 1900, replaced by the greatly inferior English."
Given that both paddles were attributed to the Passamaquoddy tradition, It could be that Adney concluded the green paddle was from the same time period.
What makes the provenance ambiguous to me is the focus on French Canadian traders on the museum ID card—"French Canadian traders popularized the practice of painting . . . paddles." This suggests to me that the natives rarely did
I'm inclined to think that the statement about French Canadian traders popularizing the painting of paddles refers to the voyageur fleets that used decorated canoes and matching blades in the mid-1800s. This is most obvious in the surviving artwork of Frances Anne Hopkins
. However, Timothy Kent, author of Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade
(1997), makes note that these painted paddles were primarily reserved for special "express" canoes carrying privileged guests or staff. This was the case with Hopkins as her husband was secretary to HBC Govenor, Sir George Simpson. Decorated paddles were also used for occasions of pageantry like when the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) was touring Canada in 1860. Kent's research convincingly reveals that for the bulk of the fur trade era, paddles were NOT included in the equipment lists provided to engaged employees of the trading companies. Instead, each man had to supply his own, which resulted in a real mix of home-made designs and not the aesthetically uniform paddles seen in Hopkins' art. For these reason, it is tough to identify a standard "Voyageur" design but the general conclusion was that the majority of these working paddles were considered disposable tools so were not consistently ornamented.
In contrast, Kent noted there was a rich tradition of native decorated paddles as documented by surviving texts, manuscript illustrations and model samples that ended up in European collections. Some of the earliest examples of these are found in the Codex Canadensis written circa 1700 by a Jesuit missionary, Louis Nicholas
. The images and descriptions by Nicholas mentions paddles decorate with earth pigments, incising, and basic geometric elements not unlike tribal tattoos of the era.
Kent elaborates that imported paint and pigments eventually became a highly lucrative commodity in the North American fur trade. Surviving bills of lading reveal trade in Chinese vermilion, copper-based verdigris, lead-based white, etc. Apparently despite the high cost of being sourced from remote parts all over the world, these pigments were greatly sought after by various native groups for their vibrant color and/or permanence. There is definite evidence of these trade-based paints replacing local colorants in native made art & material culture. Guess from that perspective, your could loosely state that French traders popularized painting of paddles with these novelty pigments introduced to North America