Authentic Trade Spike Tomahawk or Ice Hatchet ?

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908
Hi all,

Some of you might recall this (now edited) old post for about five years ago regarding what I believe might be an authentic "Trade ? Indian Spike Tomahawk".....this Spike Tomahawk head was no doubt unearthed some time ago. The Tomahawk's Eye hole was filled with Earth that was really packed as hard as cement. I removed all the dirt. This Tomahawk has some little spots of rust and is very evenly pitted. I am at a loss trying to figure out if this Tomahawk is an authentic Spike Tomahawk or a vintage (circa 1880's) Ice Hatchet/Axe. According to information at "Fur and Trade" this Spike Tomahawk appears to have features of both an authentic Spike Tomahawk as well as a Spike Ice Hatchet/Axe. This old Spike Tomahawk Head measures just a tad over 9.75" in OAL. The RECTANGULAR Spike is about four inches long (from the Eye) and the Blade length measures 4.25" (from Eye). The blade width is approx. 1 3/4" wide. However, unlike a Spike Ice Axe, this Tomahawk Head weights only 0.8 ounces. I purchased this Spike Tomahawk Head from a Junk Shop owner along the Maine Coast (Sagadahoc Country). I "suspect" this Head might of been un-Earthed from this general area.

173939851_1128563714222056_3578241051798837914_n.png




HARDBALL
 
Last edited:
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Thanks jake for posting to my thread.

Ooh, I forgot to mention, the (non vintage) Spiked Hatchet shown is a copy (based on the old Spike Hatchet Head) as made by "Jarrod" at H&B Forge. Jarrod did an AWESOME Job!

HARDBALL
 
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Hi all,

I swear, if the above is indeed an "Ice Hatchet", it was (imho) surely produced to look EXACTLY like a "Trade Tomahawk". Check out this most excellent link which has LOTS of photographs of (what are suppose to be authentic) Historical Spike Tomahawks (and a section of NOT real and/or FAKE) "Spike Tomahawks".

My Spike Tomahawk Head measures just a bit over 9.75" in OAL. The RECTANGULAR Spike is about four inches long (from the Eye) and the Blade length measures 4.25" (from Eye). The blade width is approx. 1 3/4" wide (which if I understand correctly is pretty wide for a Spike Tomahawk). However, unlike a Spike Ice Axe, this Tomahawk Head weights only 0.8 ounces.

https://www.furtradetomahawks.com/spike-tomahawks--continued--4.html


HARDBALL
 
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Notice that the trade era tomahawks tend to have either a round slip fit eye or something more rectangular.

The ice hatchets of this size range have the more modern teardrop eye that we know today.

I would say this is probably an ice hatchet.

Hi HnS,

You are more than likely correct however, I just can't help but think how much my Spike Hatchet looks like this (supposedly) authentic "Spike Trade Tomahawk" I found a photo of (somewhere on the Net years ago) :
172987270_768974957094546_3456681151850243641_n.png


HARDBALL
 

Hickory n steel

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Hi HnS,

You are more than likely correct however, I just can't help but think how much my Spike Hatchet looks like this (supposedly) authentic "Spike Trade Tomahawk" I found a photo of (somewhere on the Net years ago) :
172987270_768974957094546_3456681151850243641_n.png


HARDBALL

Well put a handle on it and pretend it's a tomahawk, that's definitely what I would do.
Theres likely very little practical difference.
 
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Well put a handle on it and pretend it's a tomahawk, that's definitely what I would do.
Theres likely very little practical difference.

Funny you should mention that HnS. I wish I could find the article I read several years ago which basically said (even in the 1800's) a sort of "Political Correctness" played a role (perhaps it was even a Law ?) that prevented Axe Companies from Marketing/supplying (War) "Tomahawks" for the Native People. The Axe producers instead began marketing the more "PC" Spiked Ice Hatchet to the Native Peoples. Damn, I wish I could find that article. HnS, might this sound at all familiar to you ?

SixCats!
 
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Hardball,

I don't know much about political correctness(or much else for that matter:),
but over the years,in learning about axes,this is kind of a picture i put together for myself:
"Tomahawk" was never really a specific tool,or even a type or a pattern of an axe.
To the Native people initially it was a curio,not anything they had any use for really,but a cool,obviously valuable in some way thing,full of potential.

The use of "t" as a weapon is very impractical and awkward,however in part a job of a weapon is to intimidate,so they were probably used to sow fear in the enemy,and (confidence in the wielder:)

To the white colonials it definitely represented Value,and the Native population kinda went with the idea...Later in the 18th and early 19th c.c. tomahawks,sometimes elaborately engraved and decorated(at times ordered to be custom-made,from as far away as Sheffield),were given as kinda very special gifts to important people on important occasions,sometimes those of State.
So it was a status-object,that is to say Bling.It's enough to take a look at some of Curtis photographs to see what the people in the photos think of these thing,the way they display them.

Later,of course many of those came into their own as wood-working and agricultural tools.Native craftsmen i'm sure quickly found many useful things to do with these,because that's after all what many(some?)of "tomahawks" were.

The first traders carried random goods,they often weren't too sure who they'll be trading with and what these people may want.But some trade-goods were kinda basic,needles,knives,fabric(there're many actual historic lists in existence),and of course most often axes.
Axes were a no-brainer,they're always present on shipboard(an all trade was waterborne).That's the reason i think so many "tomahawks" look exactly like "boarding axes".These sound romantic,but in reality what they were for is to cut away the rigging to clear a failed spar,when a part of your rig went over the side
(a most grave issue-my friend has lost a partner and their boat at sea after the mast went overboard-he couldn't chop it free,the rigging was steel wire....).
Of course during actual "boarding" these were just the tool,similarly to clear wreckage,the spike used to grapple and to drag things out of the way.
So there were many cases of them aboard any vessel.

Just as today if you wanted to deal in cheap-a$$ hatchets you'd order them in bulk from China,back then things were exactly the same.China was too far away,but you went to the nearest region were ironmongery was cheap.
Such regions had good ore,poor economy,and were preferably close to the coast,to save on transporting them from afar.
Bay of Biscay,further east along the Mediterranean Sea,any poor area in Europe,really,where the good ore was found and people forged for centuries and did it efficiently and sol it in bulk and cheap.
These trade axes originated in Spain and Portugal,southern France and eastern Germany,and on to Slovakia and Albania an so on.
They were all forged as Working tools,in whatever local tool-making tradition:Ship-building or orchard maintenance,carpentry of agricultural,whatever,it was about the same to the merchants because the Native people weren't exactly connoisseurs,it was more of a marvel to them.
And again,later they eventually found use for them,of course-most of "tomahaeks" were forged as working tools of Some sort(although some were not,and weren't even edged with hardenable steel;also many/most of those super-elaborate Sheffield ones weren't for actual use).

And so it went,supply creating the demand,and the demand eventually influencing the supply-like those goofy "spontoon" jobs,it must've come out of the idea of the "tomahawk as weapon of terror":),most of those being super impractical as anything really at all,the original wall-hangers.
However,that was very well within traditions of many a violent culture.Those South Pacific islanders' war-clubs come to mind.They were extremely richly carved and shaped and decorated,and inlaid with pretty things and scary-looking protrusions like shark teeth.
All they were for is to smash somebody's arm or leg or best bash in their head,but that scary aspect helps too-may make your opponent hesitate for just that critical milisecond:)

It's possible that the traders,who got around the world (and were very familiar with South Seas in particular)were also competing among themselves,ordering tomahawks in outlandish shapes to gain an edge on competition.

So when i see a word "tomahawk" in print it kinda puzzles me-what exactly can the person mean by that?
Today as well the "tomahawk" is wholly a creature of imagination,it appeals to people emotionally,and they seem to be forever trying to justify that attraction...Many trades for which some types of these smaller axes have disappeared entirely(wooden spars and hemp rigging),and we no longer even recognize the others,what they may've been for.
So these guys wonder through the woods with their CS "hawks" trying them kinda feebly and clumsily on this stump or that twig...Some more,others less sheepish in admitting that the Cool Factor is the Real(and only) reason that they got themselves one:)
 
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Hi JP,

Thank you for you thoughts on this subject. I have since contacted a Friend of mine, Mr. Ken Hamilton, who is a Historian/Blacksmith and Native Indian Interpreter (especially) with regards to the “The French Connection" and Wabanaki Tribes (Late 17th. Century, Historical Culture and Eastern Woodlands Indian History circa 1690). I thought you might find Ken's response interesting.

t1200-Kenneth%20Hamilton.jpg


In part/edited, Ken talks about a persons speculation (and logic) when discussing "which types" of Tomahawks one might be discussing.

(In part/edited) Ken says :

The French called them "casse tete" (i.e. head breaker) which is a direct borrowing from the 17th cent. Indian Ball Clubs and translates into several Indian dialects. The Biscayne Axe (used here since the 1540's!) came in at least three different sizes and were indeed originally used as Ship's Axe for dismembering Whales carcasses in the 16th. cent by Basque Whalers coming to Labrador and Newfoundland etc. These Axes quickly became a "trade" item along with certain Beads, Copper Whale oil kettles, and Knives. By ca. 1600, they had already become a smaller, distinctive specific regular trade item by "Norman traders". "Large Biscayne's" were originally BIG and even the "small" was as big as the "large" of the 17th cent. That is how much they changed.

So one defining character of an "axe" is that it uses two Hands, whereas a Hatchet is one that can be wielded by ONE HAND and if traveling in the wilderness can be stuck in a sash. The term "Hachet" itself is borrowed by the English in the early 17th cent. from the French word "ache" (axe) and it's diminutive ending "...ette" (i.e. "little axe"). Funny (according to French records) the French themselves rarely (if ever) used this term. Funny eh ? Not for felling Trees obviously but, good for war and small camp chores such as limbing and light chopping (perhaps even butchering large game like Moose. They are certainly useful.
Then, add a spike. I agree it is inspired from Medieval War Axes and perhaps more directly from Boarding axes.....but smaller than both for Indians.

The spike clearly has limited uses....but is certainly intimidating however, it can be used for Winter traveling in the wilderness....although admittedly awkward to carry, however, they carried them anyway! Quickly adopted by Ice Harvesters in the North, Spiked Hatchets has everybody confused today as to what is what. Later, in the early 18th cent., the French invented a dagger Tomahawk ("casse tete de dauge") with a curved down beak.....and the similar (but more symmetrical) "casse tete de fleur de lis". Later, adding a PIPE bowl. All are Head breakers. Some, clearly not for anything but combat and intimidation. Occasionally Pipe bowls are attached to them by the late 18th cent. Later still, a wide, flat triangular shaped "Prairie hatchet" was introduced.....which also had a Pipe bowl attached on occasion.

Generic opinions/response are too often sloppy and pointless really. These things are situational. European Forges made both common and fancy, high grade presentation versions. Local Blacksmiths in early Colonial trade centers also made them....notably Quebec, Albany, and later PA (whose post Rev War out of work Gunsmiths) added high grade Pipe Tomahawks to not only Natives but perhaps (especially) to Anglo CLIENTS when ordering a fine PA/KY Rifle (adding the matching Tomahawk and even Knife with the Rifle in order to COMPETE with other Rifle producing Gunsmiths. The "Long Hunters" and Frontiersmen carried these just as Natives did.....they were quite useful as choppers, weapons, pipes and, they just looked dang cool!


This is not a mystery. One defining feature is the Eye size. In general, massive Teardrop shaped Eyes are strong, utilitarian and drop in from the top....which is a nice frontier "low tech" solution instead of bottom fitting handle with a sawed slot and wedge. As time went on (post 1812) many Indian Tomahawks ended up having much smaller Eyes and were flimsy "decorated" blades with a Pipe. One US Indian Dept. complaint about this class of Tomahawk was that it was useless to Warriors and camp etc....but was good only for the old Men to smoke out of.
So perhaps one should argue about the specifics of what, where and when if discussing these things. The info (provided here) is backed up by dated collected examples, tight Archaeological contexts, and trade record descriptions.
 
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Hmmm, I carry a 'hawk only when it's reasonable to assume, or expect, that I might encounter light to medium chopping and/or hammering duties, things better suited for a dedicated chopping/hammering tool. Camping, fishing, hunting, that sort of thing. Nothing sheepish in my admitting that. It's a practical outdoor tool. You can even use them in the kitchen, many designs make a very passable substitute for an ulu. I'm not concerned with historical accuracy in my outdoors endeavors, I'm after practical efficiency. A 'hawk works for me. YMMV.
 

scdub

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Today as well the "tomahawk" is wholly a creature of imagination,it appeals to people emotionally,and they seem to be forever trying to justify that attraction...Many trades for which some types of these smaller axes have disappeared entirely(wooden spars and hemp rigging),and we no longer even recognize the others,what they may've been for.
So these guys wonder through the woods with their CS "hawks" trying them kinda feebly and clumsily on this stump or that twig...Some more,others less sheepish in admitting that the Cool Factor is the Real(and only) reason that they got themselves one:)

My first hawk (below) is a CS, and I have another made by Jarrod at H&B forge.

They are cool, but not any cooler than other knives and axes. What makes them handy for me is that I get a good deal of chopping power in a fairly lightweight package. The H&B is only 18oz but has a nice long handle. I don’t throw it, but if I manage to break the handle in the field I can also re-hang a new one quite easily.

Maybe your tomahawks are creatures of the imagination. Mine are for chopping wood.

E9E8A2AA-FACB-455E-B121-BB105BDA3769.jpeg
 

scdub

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I suppose the differences between an axe and a tomahawk could be open for debate.
I’m not too caught up in the terminology. After trying and mostly liking my CS hawk, I intended to buy this axe from Baryonyx:
C9AA71FF-4DD0-44F5-8B64-23F77908C900.jpeg
Unfortunately it hasn’t been available for some time. Rinaldi calls it an axe, so I call it an axe. The tool I got from H&N forge is very similar to the Rinaldi, but Jarrod calls it a tomahawk, so I do too.
 
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My first hawk (below) is a CS, and I have another made by Jarrod at H&B forge.

They are cool, but not any cooler than other knives and axes. What makes them handy for me is that I get a good deal of chopping power in a fairly lightweight package. The H&B is only 18oz but has a nice long handle. I don’t throw it, but if I manage to break the handle in the field I can also re-hang a new one quite easily.

Maybe your tomahawks are creatures of the imagination. Mine are for chopping wood.

View attachment 1547973


Nice "Hawks" scdub! Jarrod at "H&B" Forge makes some awesome "Hawks". Jarrod made this Spike Hawk (based on the old Spike Hawk I acquired).
While this design is not (for MY purposes) very practical, I can see (per Ken Hamilton's letter to me) how this design could indeed prove VERY useful to the Native People of the 1600's, ESPECIALLY in the likes of Winter here in Maine/North East Woods. I recall Ken once having told me that early Spike Tomahawks are almost never found outside of the North East (if memory serves).

HARDBALL
174343197_837093156904800_4506475125659536541_n.png
 
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Maybe your tomahawks are creatures of the imagination. Mine are for chopping wood.

But of Course my tomahawks are creatures of he imagination!:)

And in he same time,why couldn't someone use them on wood? Many of these were fully functional working tools.

Jarrod at H&B is an Artist,that spike job that Hardball is kind enough to post is Way nicer than about anything i've seen(including all of the originals!:)).
It's certainly a creature of his (enviable)imagination.

Speaking of creatures,a couple of inept attempts.The first was for a 13-year old kid,a son of a friend.NO idea what he'll do with it(i did blade And h.t.'d the steel edge on it).
Then(if photos come through),is another creature of my twisted imagination:"An attempt to ape the work of an 18th-early 19th c.c. smith aping the fancy Sheffield work in his rural forge".
:)
https://imgur.com/8ucO4AR

(it may be worth noting that both of those projects were for friends who're Native Americans,and the banter on the subject of "injuns and tomahawks" in the process was Very entertaining,and VERY un-P.C.:)).
 
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