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Cover for The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

Edwin Tappan Adney, Howard I. Chappelle


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (9/30/2020)
Paperback (4/1/2014)
Paperback (10/17/2007)


The bark canoes of the North American Indians, particularly those of birchbark, were among the most highly developed manually propelled primitive watercraft. They could be used to carry heavy loads in shallow streams but were light enough to be hauled long distances over land. Built with Stone Age tools from available materials, their design, size, and appearance were varied to suit the many requirements of their users. Upon arrival in North America, European settlers began using the native-made craft for traveling through the wilderness. Even today, canoes are based on these ancient designs. This fascinating guide combines historical background with instructions for constructing one. Author Edwin Tappan Adney, born in 1868, devoted his life to studying canoes and was practically the sole scholar in his field. His papers and research have been assembled by a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, and illustrated with black-and-white line drawings, diagrams, and photos.

Included here are measurements, detailed drawings, construction methods, and models. The book covers canoes from Newfoundland to the Pacific Ocean, as well as umiaks and kayaks from the Arctic.

Praise For The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

“A fascinating and richly detailed look at a nearly lost handicraft.”—Fine Woodworking

Smithsonian Books, 9781560982968, 256pp.

Publication Date: March 17, 1983

About the Author

Edwin Tappan Adney (1868-1950) was an artist, a writer, a photographer and the man credited with saving the art of birch bark canoe construction. He built more than 100 models of different types, which are now housed at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA. He is the author of The Klondike Stampede, a book, illustrated with his own photographs, about his experiences in the Yukon during the Gold Rush.

Howard Irving Chapelle (1901-1975) was a curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. He authored many books and articles on maritime history and marine architecture.