FUR TRADE AXES & TOMAHAWKS

PAGE 12 POLLED TOMAHAWKS

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PAGE 2- SOME ORIGINAL OWNERS
PAGE 3 SPIKE TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 4 SPIKE TOMAHAWKS- PART 2
PAGE 5 THE IROQUOIS TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 6 CELT FORM TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 7 HALBERD TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 8- TRADE AXES
PAGE 9 BISCAY BAY TRADE AXES - PART 2
PAGE 10 TRADE AXES - PART 3
PAGE 11 HUDSON'S BAY CO. TRADE AXES - PART 4
PAGE 12 POLLED TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 13 BELT AXES
PAGE 14 PIPE TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 15 PIPE TOMAHAWKS - PART 2
PAGE 16 PERIOD TOY TOMAHAWKS
PAGE 17- FAKES, MISTAKES & REPRODUCTIONS - PART 1
PAGE 18 FAKES, MISTAKES & REPRODUCTIONS- PART 2
PAGE 19 FAKES, MISTAKES & REPRODUCTIONS- PART 3
PAGE 20 FAKES, MISTAKES & REPRODUCTIONS- SUMMARY
PAGE 21 HALF AXES
Page 22 HOW OLD IS IT?
PAGE 23 REFERENCES & BOOK REVIEWS
PAGE 24 LINKS
PAGE 25 MISCELLANEOUS
PAGE 26 TRADE AXES AS WEAPONS
PAGE 27 PRESERVING YOUR COLLECTION
Page 28 AXES OF THE WORLD
PAGE 29 OTHER TRADE ARTIFACTS
PAGE 30 MORE FAKE TOMAHAWKS & LATIN AMERICAN MISIDs
PAGE 31 DOCUMENTING YOUR FINDS
PAGE 32 CONTACT & SUPPORT FOR THIS WEBSITE
PAGE 33 FOR SALE; TOMAHAWKS & TRADE ARTIFACTS




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This type of tomahawk is fairly easy to define but a bit more difficult to differentiate from other hatchets.  It is a hatchet with a typical tomahawk axe blade and a solid poll on the other side which extends further than what is used in  regular hammer poll hatchets used as tools & is usually decorated with simple to elaborate filing work.  Some polls will extend 2.5-3" long.  Also the polled tomahawk has a poll which angles slightly downward from the straight across axis.  In other words, the poll is not exactly 90 degrees from the handle but is angled slightly downward.  Sometimes the blade is angled downward slightly too.  Usually the poll begins ~1/4" or more below  the highest point of the eye.  Now there are also instances where regular everyday handyman hatchets were adapted for use as a tomahawk but these are few and far between. 
 
Lathing hatchets (used on early plaster walls & ceilings with wood lath strips) are often mistaken for polled tomahawks but lathing hatchets will not have the poll extended as far & are usually square in cross section whereas the polled tomahawk has a octangular or round cross section.  Some have argued that only the lathing hatchets will have a notch in the blade for pulling nails & if it doesn't have that notch it is a tomahawk.  But the fact is lathing hatchets were made with AND without the nail pulling notch in the blade so the notch criteria does not eliminate it as being a lathing hatchet.  Lathing hatchets were made flat on top with the blade, eye and poll at the same highest level, so hammering could be done at the corner of the wall & ceiling to provide needed clearance.   (See pg 14 Fakes, Mistakes & Reproductions; Peck Stow & Wilcox catalog 1923;  Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co 1922 catalog). 
 
The other polled axes commonly found during colonial times can easily be confused  & intermixed with polled tomahawks.   Just like polled tomahawks, polled axes were also carried on the belt.   They may have been used as a weapon or not.  Usually the polled axe will have somewhat extended polls also although they average a bit shorter.   Polled 'tomahawks' were either designed or used as weapons. Polled axes are really any tools that have a blade & a hammer poll-- those which may have been used as a hunter's belt axe might also fit in the tomahawk catagory.  Belt axes and small tomahawks are terms used interchangably sometimes.
 
Ordinary polled axes used as tools are not decorated with filings, marks or other purely decorative features and overall patterns.  Remember that just because it is a polled axe that was hand forged more than 150-250 years ago does not make it a tomahawk. Polled axes/hatchets had many more uses than as a weapon.  Collectors can often convince themselves that they all could have been used as a weapon but who are they really fooling?
 
Atributes of polled tomahawks:
 
~ elongated polls 2.5-3" or more; often flaring
 
~ decorative filings, decorations
 
~ blades often shaped like pipe tomahawk blades
 
~ thin eye walls
 
~ poll angled downward slightly & widens toward end is a common pattern
 
~light weight close to 1 lb. range.
 
~ forged iron
 
 
 
 

POLLED TOMAHAWK- RECENTLY DUG IN UPSTATE NY
ironhammerpolltomahawk.jpg
Image courtesy of Sergei of metaldetectingworld.com

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This polled tomahawk at the top of the next photo was found in 1924 by amateur archaeologists at Nicholas Deny's trading post (circa 1645) on Lameque Island, in the Acadian Islands region of Canada.  It was discovered with four other French biscaine trade axes.  This example is probably the oldest polled tomahawk found to date.  The size is not available to me but judging by its photo next to the other axes I would guess it to be 8.0-8.5" long with an octagonal shaped poll that expands/flares outward.  Among antique hammers that same kind of flaring outward of the octagonal hammer poll occurs in the mid 1700's & on back to the Roman era.

Top - Polled Tomahawk circa 1645
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Others are Biscaine Axes common from 1580-1650

Closeup- Polled Tomahawk Crica 1645
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note the slightly downward angle of hammer poll

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This polled tomahawk does have a flat profile on top like a lathing hatchet would however only polled tomahawks will have this kind of decorative molding on it.  Also the poll is elongated much further than a tool would be and the overall small size and light weight indicate use as a weapon. 

POLLED TOMAHAWK
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Top polled tomahawk-is a later form
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bottom example considered the classic early form

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The polled tomahawk on the bottom of this picture is nearly flat on top but the blade is at least  twice the length of a lathe hatchet blade.  Notice the light fine lines of it's pattern.
 

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The catagory called "Polled AXES or HATCHETS" from the same fur trade period by collectors that tends to get muddled in with the polled tomahawks.  To date no one has attempted to publish a definition of either that satisfies the confusion.  The term tomahawk is applied by sellers in order to beef up it's selling price, though it rarely is true.  I'm not sure I can clear up all of it which would satisfy all, but one attribute that seems to be more common with what is termed a polled tomahawk is the decorative lines and the similarity to pipe tomahawk blades.  However, even this criteria does not fit when applied to the polled 'tomahawks' above--& all seem to agree they are just that.  Polled 'hatchets' seem to be those of the same period with varying lengths of polls & types of construction which were thought to be carried as a type of tool/weapon.  Polled hatchets are generally defined as small, in the 1 lb range, with short hafts easily carried on a belt, and from the time period.  They may be made as tools or they may be made as weapons or more likely both.  One thing is clear.  Authors make a distinction between the two types of axes, but are always vague in defining it, if at all.  The trouble is separating them from the common forged and factory made tools that had no purpose on the frontier & that seems to be more dependant on a person's knowledge of what is not a polled hatchet or tomahawk rather than what is.  So with that necessarily poor description here are a few examples below.
 
The center one is more of a belt axe/ polled tomahawk whereas the other two would be considered polled hatchets of the 'Spanish' pattern with two halves of iron sandwiched together without a steel bit.  This too is a misnomer since this type of hatchet construction has also been found on British, French & American made hatchets as well. 
The top head weighs 1 lb. 5 oz., measures 7.5" x 3.25" and was found in 1908 near or on the site for Fort Quiatenon, Indiana Circa 1740's-1780's.    French inhabitants from the Voyageurs who traveled there intermarried in this site with natives.
The bottom one weighs 12 oz. total and measures 5.125" x 2.5" wide, circa mid to late 18th C.  Charles Hanson in MFTQ, Vol 15, No. 1 identifies these an  '18th C. iron hunter's tomahawk' which had better balance & workmanship than the 'squaw axe' [common round polled trade axe] which was better adapted for both chopping & throwing. Hartzler and Knowles identify the same exact style as belt axes.  So take your choice, the terminology is loose and fancy free in these categories.

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This is a picture of Sitting Bull's polled tomahawk with a utilitarian style head, atypical short poll and an longer than average haft for better reach from horseback.  More than likely this was not made intentionally as a tomahawk but was a tool adopted as a weapon.  It has a manufacturers name but it is no longer legible along with the words "Steel Warranteed" which is a term more often used on manufactured axes used as tools.   This was what he had surrendered in 1881 at Fort Randall.  This is may be the same one he is shown with in an 1849 painting by Farny now in a Finland Museum.  He also owned a pipe tomahawk with a heart cutout and a beaded drop which is now on display the West Point Museum, (see More Pipe Tomahawks page 14).

sittingbullhammerpollmarked_edited-1.jpg

         "O' GREAT SPIRIT, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence. "
~ Cherokee Prayer
 
(c) Copyright Mark Miller 1/29/09. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED--REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT