Historical Canoe Trip Journal


1864 canoe trip journal
This small (3” x 5”) leather-bound journal documents a canoe trip taken by five men in two birch bark canoes in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine during the Civil War. The diary, titled “Moosehead Lake, ME. Trip in Canoes,” was kept by L. G. Barrett of Newton, Massachusetts from August 22 – September 13, 1864.

1864 canoe trip journal Moosehead Lake Maine

All entries are in pencil so luckily have not faded and are readable—albeit with the help of a magnifying glass to interpret the small, cursive handwriting. There are 77 pages of writing, plus the author’s name, hometown, and date on the flyleaf, and trip expense tallies on the endpapers.

1864 canoe trip journal

There are also 9 charming small sketches.

1864 canoe trip journal Moosehead Lake Maine

Barrett’s sketch showing two canoes traveling up Moosehead Lake toward Kineo House, with Spencer and Katahdin Mountains to the east.


Barrett’s chronicles provide descriptions of traveling to and within Maine during the time period, as well as insights into the personalities and adventures of the canoe trippers. Rich historical details are packed into the journal’s pages.

The Region and Canoe Trip Itinerary

Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine (40 miles long x 10 miles wide), with 400 miles of shoreline, a maximum depth of 230’, 40 islands, and a famous geological feature called Mount Kineo whose cliffs rise 700’ straight up from the lake shore.

Mt. Kineo cliffs


By 1864, Moosehead Lake and Greenville, Maine, the town on its southern shore, were already bustling with lumbermen passing through on their way to northern forests, and well-to-do rusticators and sportsmen visiting the elegant Kineo House hotel.

Kineo House

Kineo House on Kineo Point, Moosehead Lake, c. 1880 (image:


The first steamboats had begun providing ferry service along the length of the lake in 1835, providing access to hunting camps, farms, and villages before railroads were built. By 1900, 25 steamboats were actively transporting people, livestock, mail and supplies up the lake on regular schedules.

steamboats on Moosehead Lake

Two steamboats docked on Moosehead Lake, c. 1890 (image:

Barrett and his canoe tripping party planned to paddle up Moosehead Lake from Greenville, portage across the Northeast Carry to the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and then go downriver to Chesuncook Lake, and thus into the true wilderness of Maine.

1864 canoe trip journal Moosehead Lake Maine

It is plausible that their trip itinerary was influenced by the writings of fellow Massachusetts adventurer Henry David Thoreau who had lived in Concord, just 15 miles northwest of Barrett’s hometown of Newton. Thoreau’s book, The Maine Woods, published posthumously in 1864, documented a canoe trip up Moosehead Lake, over to Chesuncook Lake and beyond. One can imagine the men from Newton being inspired to visit this area that Thoreau so eloquently described.

Chronology of the Trip with Journal Excerpts

The following provides some daily highlights of the trip, along with photographs gleaned from the internet that provide images of what the men were experiencing (although most of the photos are from a slightly later time period, taken after the 1888 introduction of the first roll film camera which made it easier for travelers to take photos).

L.G. Barrett was the journal keeper, and his companions were John, George, Bunker and Warren. L.G. refers periodically to all but John as Brother (“Bro.”). Although those three men could have been his literal brothers, it is more likely that they all belonged to the same religious group (an inference based on worshipful journal entries), perhaps Quaker, Nazarene, or Mennonite.

Unlike many canoe trippers of that time period (including Thoreau) who hired guides who were usually Native Americans, these men did not have a paid guide. However, Bunker seems to be an experienced outdoorsman, as they rely on his navigation, paddling, fishing and hunting expertise. Although John, too, seems to have been a good hunter, and George was a “most excellent cooke.”

Northern Maine lake campsite in 1896 (image:

Bunker had probably lived in Maine for some time, as they camp one night on a site where Bunker had once built a cabin. He was perhaps in Maine temporarily to work as a lumberman; at the end of the trip they depart from him in Guilford, Maine until “we see him at home again in Newton.”

L.G. abbreviates many words throughout the journal (not unlike modern-day texting), which was perhaps the typical journal writing style of the time, or perhaps he was just making judicious use of his small notebook. Words in parentheses within the excerpts below are ones that we could not quite discern.

In 1864, traveling from Boston to Greenville, Maine to begin the canoe trip took several days by steamship (along the coast and up one of Maine’s major river systems, the Kennebec or Penobscot), horse-drawn cart, and foot. So the journal begins and ends with descriptions of that journey, with the pages between describing the canoe trip itself, during which L.G. names each of their campsites to commemorate a significant event, feature, or discovery that occurred there.

August 22, 1864 (Monday) – Boston to Portland, Maine

Three men (“John, Bro. Grg., and myself”) depart from Boston on a Monday night aboard the steamship “Forest City” for Portland, Maine.

“We had a pleasant ride to Portland, a rough one from P. to the mouth of the Kennebec. From there we had a beautiful ride up the river to Augusta.”

Forest City Steamship ad

Forest City steamship

Photo of the Forest City steamship that the men took to Portland. The smaller steamship in the foreground is the size of the boat they would have taken from Augusta to Skowhegan. (image:

August 23 (Tuesday) – Portland to Augusta, Maine

They take another steamship up the coast from Portland to the mouth of the Kennebec River in Bath then north upriver to Augusta where they change boats.

View of Bath, Maine from the ferry landing, c. 1845 (image:


Merrymeeting Bay

Arial view of Merrymeeting Bay, Maine

He mentions some of the sites, such as the shipbuilding city of Bath, Merrymeeting Bay, and the U.S. Arsenal in Augusta “a fine granite building on the left bank of the river.”

U.S. Arsenal Augusta Maine

Arsenal on the bank of the Kennebec River, Augusta, Maine. (image:

“We changed boats at Hallowell taking a smaller craft bringing us close down to the water and making it very pleasant.”

August 24 (Wednesday) – Augusta to Skowhegan, Maine

They continue up the Kennebec River on the small steamboat until arriving in Skowhegan where they meet another member of their party, Warren. Warren, who may have been living in Maine, seems to have been responsible for coordinating some of the trip logistics, such as gathering provisions. They spend the night in Skowhegan with someone named Wheeler.

“Arrived in Skowhegan 36 mls. fr. Augusta at 6 P.M. Wes. Eve. Found Warren waiting for us several days. The hard tack was also ready.”


Hardtack (image:

August 25 (Thursday) – Skowhegan to Greenville, Maine

The three Massachusetts men leave Warren (who will rejoin them on Moosehead) in Skowhegan and continue on foot, walking the remaining 50 miles to Greenville, although L.G. writes:

“I was obliged to ride the last 6 mls being foot sore.”

August 26 (Friday) – (Moosehead Lake) Boarding House

The three men obtain a birch bark canoe in Greenville for their trip, and paddle a ways up Moosehead Lake, spending the night on the floor of a lumberman’s boarding house, where they chat with other men about their trip plans and await the arrival of the remaining two members of their party.

“We three (Jn., Grg. & Myself) bot. a good canoe (which J. got for $21 with paddles).”

“This A.M. went out in the high birch bark canoe. Found it delightfully easy & swift.”

birch bark canoe

Birch bark canoe and hunter with a string of ruffed grouse on Moosehead Lake in 1883. A similar scene is described in Barrett’s journal (image:

“Found fr. conversation with men who have been to Chesuncook that the ‘rapids’ are not so very bad.”

L.G. also mused about the local political climate:

“The people up here are mostly (I suppose) Union, but still Copperheads* abound. This place is no (retreat) for the secess. supporters. An officer was prevented last week fr. taking away a deserter.”

(*Copperheads was the name for a faction of northern Democrats, also called Peace Democrats, who opposed the Civil War and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates.)

August 27 (Saturday) – (Moosehead Lake) Boarding House

They are windbound on the lake, so spend the day hunting and exploring, and stay another night at the boarding house.

“Well here we are sitting on the shore 2 1/2 mls fr. Greenville. We have just backed out from an attempt to (set) out for the “Outlet.” The waves were high altho’ we had got part loaded.”

“Our first proceeds of hunting, two squirrels, red ferrets, wh. J. has just brot. in after a tromp in the woods.”

August 28 (Sunday) – (Moosehead Lake, Moose Island) “Prayer Meeting Camp”

After receiving word that another member of their party (“Bro. Bunker”) had finally arrived in Greenville, they set out to meet him and his canoeing partner Warren, the same man who had met them with provisions in Skowhegan.

“This A.M. after breakfast of johnnycake & squirrel (which was quite sweet) we went down (towards) town.”

Together the five men in two canoes paddled back up the lake to Moose Island where they had a prayer meeting and set up camp. This is the first indication that they were quite religious.

“Bro. Bunker read after we had sung “Rock of Ages” and offered prayer. We then sang and prayed & had a most heavenly time, here in the woods, with nothing but the canopy of heaven above us, and the western Zephyrs shook the foliage of the forest about us and at the rocks at our feet the waves roared, our hearts seemed in harmony with Nature, to praise & worship the God of the Universe & our Heavenly Father. Bro. Bunker then spoke of the importance of keeping a phil. frame of mind while on the trip & especially we must exercise a kind & forgiving spirit toward each other.”

Moose Island, Moosehead Lake, Maine (image:

August 29 (Monday) – (Moosehead Lake) “Camp Fossil”

They continue traveling up the lake “with a prosperous wind & good paddling” towards The Outlet, which is the headwaters of the Kennebec River flowing out of Moosehead Lake.

They take time to fish, reporting that they

“Managed to get two for breakfast. They were splendid salmon trout – yellow & reddish & sweet as honey. Bunker pulled one of some 3 or 4 lbs. almost to landing but lost him.”


Later, however, they had an ordeal coping with wind:

“It was settled that we stick to the left for some miles. But the result was well nigh disastrous.”

Their two boats got separated in the wind and nearly capsized. Once they reached the campsite they

“Joyfully congratulated each other on the narrow escape we had been allowed. Our Heavenly Father had been good to us.”

“Warren & myself found several fine geological specimens. This was Camp Fossil.”

“Fine dinner of Grg.’s hoe-cakes wh. we think the best yet.”

“All slept well including Warren who was well nigh used up.”

1864 canoe trip journal

Barrett’s drawing of Moosehead Lake from Greenville to the Northeast Carry.

August 30 (Tues) – (Moosehead Lake) “Camp Illumination”

They camp again on Moosehead as they continue heading north to the Carry. They build a huge fire that evening, which led to the naming of the campsite Camp Illumination.

“It looked splendid as the dense forest became illuminated.”

August 31 (Weds) – (Moosehead Lake at the Northeast Carry) “Bunker’s Camp”

They camp on the Moosehead shore at the Northeast Carry into the West Branch of the Penobscot.

“Bunker’s 3 partridges make a fine dinner.”

“We call this Bunker’s camp because there was a log cabin wh. he made some three yrs. before, when he came up and stayed six weeks. It was a very good one, but someone had partly pulled it down.”

Northeast Carry to the West Branch, c. 1920 (image:

Sept. 1 (Thurs) – (West Branch of the Penobscot) “Camp Porcupine”

They camp on the “Three-mile Rips ten mls. from Lake Chesuncook.”

They hunted partridge that day, and got 5. They also unwittingly shot another animal, as recounted in this amusing entry:

“We had not pushed off when we heard heavy thumping on the shore. We listen, it recurs – a bear, certain! Bunker jumps up, looks around a little, then pop goes the gun. Jn. can stand it no longer and we let him ashore. Another pop. I know the bear is dead sure. I jump ashore to help drag the carcass, when lo! it is not a cub, not even a deer, but a porcupine! We succeed in getting its body into our canoe, & are on our way.”

1864 canoe trip journal

Barrett’s drawing of “Camp Porcupine.” Note the porcupine carcass hanging from a pole in upper right corner.

Sept. 2 (Fri) – (Lobster Pond) “Camp Jollity”

They take a short side trip up Lobster Stream into Lobster Pond where they spend the night.

“Made the biggest fire of the occasion. Altogether we had a pleasant time & in consequence we named the camp ‘Jollity’.

Lobster Lake, c. 1890 (image:

Sept. 3 (Sat) – (West Branch of the Penobscot) “Camp Shipwreck”

Saturday was the climax of the trip as they had a canoeing catastrophe in the Half-Mile Rips.

“Our way is (delayed) with accident – the 1st one of the trip.”

L.G. describes in great detail how hey struggle to maintain control of the canoe in the rapids, and finally come up against a large rock in mid-stream:

“I jump out to lift her off as does Jn. at his end. But no use, she fills fr. the down current on her broadside. Grg. is out too, but the boat is nearly full of water & has already cracked clear across her middle … But she can be mended so as to be quite strong.”

Finally Bunker comes downstream behind them, and he and John get the boat off the rock and bail it out.

“During all this Grg. remains standing on the rock, he being unable to get off without getting wet. But like Rob. Crusoe, he took it philosophically & waited till Bunker floated him his pole & he was able to balance himself so as to pull off his boots. He then waded ashore. Altogether, after all, it was a most laughable scene. Jn. & Bunker in the broken canoe, L wading and traveling against the current, & Grg. on the desolate isle in midstream.

Barrett’s drawing of “The Catastrophe.”

“In the melee Jn. & I each lost a boot so that our two pairs are lost. Grg’s haversack also went overboard but was soon found.”

After the disaster, they eventually make camp.

“We soon had a roaring fire & I finally succeeded in getting warm. We built a fine camp & had a good supper after wh. I felt better. We had, to me, by far the pleasantess evening of the trip.”

Sept. 4 (Sunday) – (West Branch of the Penobscot) “Camp Shipwreck”

The next morning they search the river but are unable to find their lost boots. They have a meeting to assess how many days they have left before having to catch the steamship home from Bangor on “Monday next.”

Worried about meeting their Bangor rendezvous, they reluctantly make the decision not to push forward to Chesuncook Lake, so stay another night at the same campsite.

“We are very sorry not to reach Chesuncook, especially being within 2 mls. of it. But so it must be, and adieu to any further explorations into the wilderness. Had a pleasant day.”

Sept. 5 (Monday) – (West Branch at Lobster Brook) “Camp Welcome”

On Monday morning they start poling upstream on the West Branch to return to Moosehead the way they came, through various rapids. It is tough going as the journal’s record of the day’s commands from Bunker in the stern reveal:

“The 2nd rif is a tough one. Pull: Now, with all your might! Don’t let her head round! There – Now she goes! Oh! Wasn’t that a pull! Another and another and so on, tugging away at our poles. Keep her straight in the current! But we advance, altho’ it is hard work.”

“Now an adventure! I am pulling my pole quite hard when it slips off a stone & I lose my balance, the canoe slides out under me & down I go, a regular full length plunge into the water. After a brief while our canoe man himself loses his balance & over goes into the same as my element.”

“Our case called forth a hearty laugh from the others who have not been wet. But be not too jolly, boys, your turn may come yet!”

Poling up the West Branch of the Penobscot River, c. 1920 (image:

They stop for a while to hunt,

“But partridge do not like to be shot, & as for ducks they have no idea of it. They become (coy) with canoes full of hungry men! Not a bit of it! And they allow you just a short glimpse and bid you adieu.”

They reach their campsite at 7 pm, cold, tired and hungry, but then after a “pleasant night of fire & hearty food” they decide to call their site “Camp Welcome.”

Sept. 6 (Tues) – (Moosehead Lake) “Camp Urania”

They pole and paddle the final 2 miles upriver back to the Carry where they buy supplies of milk, molasses & potatoes (which inspires L.G. to list the entire contents of his pack) before walking the portage. They reach the lake at 11 A.M. then paddle down it for 14 miles.

However, they once again encounter their old nemesis, the wind, which had built up waves to white caps along the enormous length of the lake.

“On we go at very good speed … The waves seem mountainous high compared to so small a thing, but really are about 6 ft. the highest. Sometime we are 1/3 out of the water & when a big billow behind strikes us the (canoe) is as if a feather & (the wave) rolls on under us carrying us with it until it rolls forth fr. under the bow when down we go with a (splash), hurled forward a rod. It is fun after all, & she rides them like a dude. It is wonderful what a high canoe can weather.”

Later, however, they find the wind to be less fun, as they have to round a point to make for shore, seemingly as it is getting dark:

“But how can we turn into big waves? There is a chance! No, on again. There’s one! Yes; about with her, quick! All right, now boys we’ll go forward and round the point safely. Boys what an escape! We almost shudder to think of it. God has saved us. On, on, on in the clear moonlight.”

Illustration of waves on Moosehead Lake’s North Bay, looking toward Mount Kineo.

They finally settle into camp 2 1/2 miles above Mount Kineo. They name their campsite after the Greek Muse of astronomy, Urania, after sleeping out in the open under a clear and starlit sky.

“It was very pleasant lying down on the boughs with nothing above but the forest trees and blue sky beyond studied with stars. I enjoyed it much, flat on my back with such a (peace) above and a roaring fire at my feet.”

Stars over Moosehead Lake (image:

Sept. 7 (Weds) – (Moosehead Lake) “Camp Moosehead House”

They have a short day of paddling in order to take a hike up Mount Kineo, and along the way “have a splendid feast” of blueberries and huckleberries.

Table rock at the base of Mount Kineo (image:

“The view from the top is most delightful, the lake stretched out for 20 mls … Little did one suppose that such a lake was so treacherous!”

A view from Mount Kineo, c. 1900 (image:

“Altogether the view was one long to be remembered & the finest lake view I have seen. But the boys are in a hurry so we must be down.”

It was a cold, windy day, so when they find a logger’s cabin with the name “Moosehead House” chalked over the door, they spend the night there.

Sept. 8 (Thurs) – (Moosehead Lake) “Camp Dry Up”

On their final day on the lake, Bunker gets up at 5:00 am to fish.

“He caught some 15 small ones & we have a trout breakfast. The duck from yesterday forms an excellent dish when roasted.”

Trout catch northwest of Moosehead Lake, c. 1887 (image:

“At about 7 P.M. we land in Greenville after 150 mls. in canoes. Behold Greenville! How pleasant is the sight of that little church steeple!”

Village of Greenville, circa 1890 (image:

They sleep on a sand beach near Greenville where they have “a general wash-up” in the lake, and thus name the campsite “Camp Dry Up.”

Sand bar on Moosehead Lake (image:

Sept. 9 (Fri) thru Sept. 11 (Sun) – Greenville to Bangor, Maine

In Greenville they sell their canoe back at the warehouse where they had obtained it just two weeks before.

“And we must bid adieu to the little ferry with whom we have so long (traveled). We have been so long in her that it feels like home … over the waves in this little thing of life; & we leave her indeed with regret. In due time we land her in the old warehouse where we took her & succeed in selling her for fourteen dolls. (2/3 her cost). I feel pretty well satisfied. Our canoe therefore has cost us seven dollars or $2.33 a piece.”

“Left Greenville at 8 A.M. and start for Bangor on foot some 63 mls. Having lost my boots I am obliged to walk in Bunker’s slippers wh. I find quite easy tho’ not very solid.”

They take three days to walk from Greenville to Bangor, although they do catch some rides in carts. It pours rain during some of their trek. They part ways with Bunker in the town of Guilford. There is no further mention of Warren, so perhaps he had departed from them in Greenville.

Sept. 12 (Mon) – (Penobscot River) Bangor, Maine

The three original travelers, John, George & L.G., arrive in Bangor and board a steamship to travel down the Penobscot River, out to the coast, and onward down to Boston, about a 24-hour trip.

“We had a rough passage – at night the boat rocked badly, however we got a tolerable sleep.

The steamer “Penobscot” on the Bangor to Boston route. (image:

Sept. 13 (Tues) – Newton, Mass.

L.G. Barrett arrives home in Newton where he writes his final journal entry.

“At last got in safely at about 7 A.M. Went at once home & found the folks at breakfast.”

“I am now once again in my study, after walking 125 mls, paddling in a canoe 150 mls., & riding in steamboats & carts some 500 mls, making in all about 775 mls. perhaps 800 mls. of traveling at a cost of $24.”

“I thank Gd. for all His watch, care & protection, thru all this journey.”

1864 canoe trip journal

As the journal comes to an end, we are left wanting to know more about the men whose adventure we’ve vicariously shared. How old were they? Were they married with families? What were their occupations? Why were they not off fighting in the Civil War? Were they conscientious objectors? We’ll leave these questions to be answered by another analyst who has the time and inclination to do additional sleuthing through historical records.

Perspectives from Today

Having canoed the same Moosehead to Chesuncook route ourselves, it is interesting to make comparisons between 1864 and modern-day canoe tripping. In 1864 wilderness travelers were free to hunt, kill and eat any animal, at any time of year. They were definitely not low-impact campers, as they regularly cut balsam boughs to sleep on, and cut and gathered lots of wood and birch bark to have huge fires every night.

The West Branch of the Penobscot River has also changed since 1864. We were surprised to read of the men’s ordeal in rapids approaching Chesuncook Lake on the West Branch, as there are no longer any rapids there to speak of. But the rapids did once exist, as described in a 1902 handbook (In Pine-Tree Jungles: A hand-book for Sportsmen and Campers in the Great Maine Woods):

“(on) the West branch, quick water is encountered for about two miles below Lobster Stream to Warren Island….Several small islands dot the stream below here, and rough water is encountered most of the way to the lake. Pine Steam falls, where Pine Stream pours its waters into the river, are passed six miles below the Half-way house.”

The reason that those rapids are no longer there is that a 92’ high dam (Rippogenus Dam) was built from 1915-20 on Rippogenus Lake downstream on the West Branch from Chesuncook Lake, which raised Chesuncook’s level and thus flooded the area where the West Branch flowed into it. The original rapids that foiled Barrett’s party are now submerged.

It is also interesting that the 1864 trippers essentially rented a birch bark canoe, much as trippers might rent a canoe for a trip today, although the transaction was not called “renting” at the time.

Instead they bought a canoe for $21 and sold it back at the same warehouse for $14, in essence renting it for two weeks for $7—which was a bargain indeed, given that they had wrapped the canoe around a rock and cracked it “clear across her middle.” So, there was obviously no pesky damage clause to sign in an 1864 sales/rental agreement.

Despite the differences in canoe tripping practices over the past 150 years, we were also struck by the similarity in the general arc of a canoe trip with friends: Beginning with an anticipatory journey to the put-in, getting acclimated to the scenery and routines of camping, having harrowing adventures yet pulling through relatively unscathed, developing in-jokes with fellow trippers, having a few rest days to explore beautiful surroundings, and hating to see the trip come to an end while also looking forward to returning to the comforts of home and family.

But perhaps the most notable similarity in canoe tripping across centuries is the universal feeling of rejuvenation that traveling  through wild areas provides. Thoreau said it best:

“We need the tonic of wildness … At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us … We can never have enough of nature.” -Henry David Thoreau, 1854

The concluding line of L.G. Barrett’s 22-day journal reiterates more simply the continuity of Thoreau’s truism:

“(I) can say that I am profited in much every way, in health of body and of soul.”


Moose We Have Known


moose hooked rug

October is a good time to celebrate one of the largest mammals native to North America, the stately Moose (Alces alces). These mid-autumn weeks are rutting season, when moose do their best to ensure the production of offspring.

Our thoughts turned to moose on a recent trip to northern Maine. We saw a few of the majestic beasts atop trailers being hauled behind pick-up trucks, as Maine’s highly-regulated and restricted moose hunting season had just begun.

We were in the area to check out one of the newest additions to our National Parks system, the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument (KWWNM).

Mount Katahdin

One of the views we captured of Mt. Katahdin (find out more about the KWWNM at

After driving along the KWWNM Loop Road, stopping at scenic vistas and taking a few jaunts to explore short side trails, we finished the day with a hike along the historic Wassataquoik Stream—used in the 1840s by loggers to access stands of virgin white pines, and later for driving spruce logs downstream.

Wassataquoik Stream

Wassataquoik Landing by George H. Hallowell, circa 1901. Maine state Library collection.

Explorers, naturalists and sportsmen—including Henry David Thoreau in 1857 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1879—used Wassataquoik Stream in the latter half of the 19th century as an upstream route to access Mount Katahdin.

Wassataquoik Stream

The Wassataquoik looking upstream.

Wassataquoik Stream

The Wassataquoik, looking downstream while dreaming of paddling it.

When we were not musing on Wassataquoik Stream’s distinguished history or looking for boreal birds (we saw two Black-backed Woodpeckers!), we were thinking about moose. That is because we were frequently reminded during our hike that moose are prominent denizens of the northwoods—not because we spotted any, but because we had to watch where we stepped along a trail dotted with piles of fresh moose droppings.

moose droppings


There were also recent moose tracks everywhere.

moose track


Although we didn’t see a living moose that day, like anyone who has spent time hiking in northern Maine or canoeing in Canada, we have seen our share of moose in the wild.

moose family

A decades-old photo taken by a family friend of three moose on Maine’s East Branch of the Penobscot River which runs along the border of the KWWNM.

Occasionally we also hear first-hand stories of the worst kind of moose encounters: those involving cars. Last October, Kass’ sister was driving along a country road in northern Maine and hit a moose that bolted out in front of her car.

impending moose hit

Coincidentally, a teenager had been videotaping the bull moose in a field next to his house and was still filming as it darted across the road, so he recorded the moose/car crash—the photo above is a still shot from his videotape showing the moose just before its collision with the car.

Luckily, the driver was going slowly so nobody was hurt, although since the moose ran off into the woods we don’t know its ultimate fate.

Indoor Moose

Now to transition to our indoor encounters with moose, namely those we’ve experienced as antiques dealers. Moose have long been a favorite subject for fine artists and folk artists to depict in a wide range of mediums. Moose in many renditions have always been a popular rustic accessory.

So here is a look back at some of the hundreds of moose we have known—and owned—over the past 25+ years in the antiques business.

Moose Textiles

moose with bears hooked rug

Moose with bears hooked rug

mooe blanket

Camp blanket with moose border


moose hooked rug

Moose, cattails and ducks hooked rug


moose hooked rug

Moose at sunset hooked rug


moose hooked rug

Naive portrait of a moose hooked rug


moose hooked rug

Moose hunting hooked rug


moose hooked rug

Moose by a stream hooked rug

Moose Paintings

moose painting

Mural-size moose painting


knowles moose

Moose painting by Joe Knowles


Moose watercolor

Moose watercolor


moose painting

Moose head portrait


moose painting

Moose painting rebus on faux birch bark background


moose painting

Strolling moose painting


moose painting

Moose in a marsh painting

Moose Carvings

moose carving

Carved bull moose


seated moose carving

Seated moose carving


moose carving

Moose carving by Albert Demers


moose family carving

Carved moose family


moose carving

Folky moose carving


moose carving

Moose relief carving


moose head carving

Moose head carving


moose head carving

Life-size moose head carving



moose carving

Large-scale carved moose silhouette

Moose Etchings

moose on birch bark

Moose on birch bark container

birch bark moose call

Birch bark moose call


moose mocuck

Moose on a mocuck

moose canoe cup

Moose on a canoe cup


moose on fungus

Moose on bracket fungus

Moose Lamps

moose table lamp

Moose table lamp


moose floor lamp

Moose floor lamp


moose table lamp

Moose and friend lamp

Moose Furniture

moose settee

Arm of a settee incorporating a carved moose


moose antler chair

Moose antler chair


moose leg table

Taxidermy moose leg table

Moose Miscellany

carved moose antlers

Moose antlers with central carving of a Native American




Needlepoint moose box

Needlepoint moose box



moose bookends

Moose bookends


The Future of Moose

While we’re confident that moose antiques will always have a strong market, we’re not as optimistic about the future stability of wild moose populations. Milder, shorter winters in the north country favor the longevity of winter ticks that feed on, weaken and even directly kill moose.

We hope that moose will survive these challenges and thrive for millennia to come—for their own sake, and also for the awe they inspire in artists, in everyone who sees them in the wild, and in those who are happy just knowing that they are out there, roaming the wilderness.

a Maine moose



White-tailed Deer Family: Three Wall Sculptures by Noah Weiss


Noah Weiss carving

These large-scale carved deer – a buck, doe and fawn – are products of the artistic vision and incredible talent of self-taught carver Noah Weiss (1842-1907).

The wall sculptures are carved from pine – in relief on the front and flat on the back – to be approximately half life-size, and they are in fairly accurate proportion to one other.

deer family

The upright buck is 35” wide x 47” high; the grazing doe is 40” wide x 29” high; and the standing fawn is 25” wide x 20” high. (The shoulder height of an adult White-tailed Deer is 32” to 40” and their body length runs 52” to 95”.)

Noah Weiss deer carvings


Weiss painted and varnished these deer, as he did all his carvings, and he added a real antler to the buck (he was also known to have added real antlers to a carving of an elk head, and horns to the carving of a bison head). Most compellingly, Weiss captured each deer’s elegant body shape and proportions – their long, thin legs, pointed snouts and alert ears.

Noah Weiss deer carvings Noah Weiss deer carvings


These circa 1890-1900 deer carvings turned up recently in Northampton, Pennsylvania, the town where Weiss lived, worked as an innkeeper, and produced sculptural works of art to decorate the walls of his inn. Fortunately, newspaper accounts during Weiss’s lifetime as well as research by art historians have documented details of the life history and creations of this incredible self-taught artist.

Noah Weiss: Hotelier and “Untaught Sculptor”

Noah Weiss was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania where his paternal great-grandfather had settled upon emigrating from Germany. He grew up on a farm in the Lehigh Valley region (near Allentown, PA) where as a boy his artistic talents were recognized by a wealthy doctor who offered to send him abroad to study art. But his father declined, saying he needed Noah to work on the farm. Thus Noah had little formal education and no encouragement or tutoring in art.

It was not until 1872, when Noah had been married for several years and his only son Howard was three years old, that his latent artistic tendencies reemerged. Howard become ill, so Noah sat at his bedside carving toys with a pen knife to amuse him. He thus discovered a penchant for carving, and from that point on Weiss reportedly “left no workable piece of wood untouched if it was possible to embellish it.” (Ames & Fiske, 1985)

carving by Noah Weiss

Considered to be one of Weiss’s earliest large-scale relief carvings and his only signed work, this lion is inscribed on the back: “Carved with pocket knife by Noah Weiss in 1881, Son of Abraham Weiss” (photo: Joe Leary)

Weiss pursued relief carving as a hobby while continuing to make a living through other endeavors, including working in cigar manufacturing for ten years, with a coach company for three years, and at a food preserving company for three years.

In 1893 he became proprietor of the Allen House in the village of Siegfried (now Northampton, PA), finally discovering his perfect occupational niche as an hotelier. This gentle family man became a “warm and genial” innkeeper. Locally he was a popular figure known as “Pop” Weiss, described as a humble man who was loved by all who knew him.

Noah Weiss carving

Photo postcard of the Allen House as it looked several decades after Weiss worked there.

By 1897 Weiss had built his own hotel, The Mt. Vernon Inn, which he designed as a replica of George Washington’s home. He ran that establishment for the rest of his life while pursuing his avocation: creating elaborate relief carvings to decorate the walls of his inn.

Noah Weiss carving

The Inn that Weiss built in the town of Siegfried, which in 1909 was combined with two other villages to form one borough and given its present-day name: Northampton.

While maintaining his active hotel business, Weiss worked in the early morning hours on mural-size carvings depicting historical and biblical characters in iconic scenes, using just a pocket knife —thus earning a reputation as an expert “whittler” whose work exhibited “gusto and vigor.” (Robacker, 1973)

Noah Weiss carving

This portrait was eventually acquired by and displayed in Merritt’s Museum of Childhood in Douglassville, PA and then sold to a private collector in 2005 after the museum closed.

This 6’ x 6’ portrait of General George Washington on horseback which hung in the office of the Mt. Vernon Inn is considered to be one of Weiss’s finest carvings. The relief-carved horse and rider are mounted against an oil-on-canvas landscape background. A similarly large-scale (6’ 4” high x 9’ 7” wide) mural depicting Civil War General Philip Sheridan leading a cavalry charge hung next to the reading room at the Inn.

Although Weiss was not a religious man, he carved at least three Biblical scenes that were even more elaborate than his military murals: the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion—the latter of which purportedly took 14 months to complete. He made these murals available for public viewing in an outbuilding at the Inn which he called the Curio Hall.

Noah Weiss carving

This grainy photo of Weiss’s Birth of Jesus carving appeared in a 1909 publication, and is perhaps the only surviving record of the carving.


Another theme Weiss depicted in his carved wall art was hunting. Viewers have noted that Weiss’s lively portrayal of the dogs in his hunting mural indicates that he was familiar with the behaviors of hunting dogs at work.

Noah Weiss carving

Hunting mural by Noah Weiss; 16’ long x 8’ high; private collection

It is not surprising that Weiss had first-hand knowledge of animals and hunting, having grown up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. The following appreciative account of Weiss’s art that was written during his lifetime (Jordan, Green & Ettinger, 1905) mentions that Weiss also did taxidermy, another indication that he was a hunter:

Mr. Weiss possesses marked mechanical ingenuity and artistic skill. He is one of the most expert hand carvers in wood now known to the public, and carves out life-size figures which he afterwards paints, doing all the work himself. His master pieces are the Crucifixion and the Lord’s Supper. His skill, however, does not end here, for he is an expert taxidermist and many proofs of his handiwork adorn the hotel.

Noah Weiss carving

Another ode to hunting is Weiss’s relief carved hunting dog with a retrieved duck; 22″ high

Weiss’s hunting mural hung in the Inn’s reading room along with several other carvings, as described in a 1910 account of the author’s visit to the Mount Vernon Inn (Rominger & Bornman, 1910):

The interior of this hotel is beautifully decorated with the carvings of Noah Weiss. They at once excite the visitor’s admiration. As one enters the reading room, the most conspicuous display is a hunting scene in relief. All parts are colored in their natural hues. The hunter, with a dog and gun, is roaming through the woods in search of game. In this same room there is a carving of a covey of quail with a pointer nearby, a representation of the carver’s old homestead, and a Pittsburg-Philadelphia stage coach drawn by six gray horses . . . The remaining rooms on the first floor are lavishly decorated with alligators; heads of horses, lions and bison; rural scenes; artistic furniture; etc.

Noah Weiss carving

Bull by Noah Weiss, 37″ wide. Private collection.

Weiss’s appreciation for and familiarity with animals also extended beyond game and farm animals. One of our favorite Weiss animal creations, and the only one we had seen in person before acquiring the deer carvings, is more whimsical: a huge (9′ 5″ high x 12′ 6” wide) carved and painted fantasy forest filled with wild birds.

Noah Weiss carving

The central section is a large mirror with a tree trunk surround that has applied branches adorned with birds and nests. It is flanked by two oil-on-canvas landscape panels and two freestanding tree trunks populated with owls and other birds. This extraordinary carving is additional testimony to the fact that Weiss had no shortage of imagination or talent.

Noah Weiss’s Legacy

Weiss’s 1907 obituary hailed him as an “untaught sculptor” who was locally revered for gracing his hometown with truly awesome works of art. Noah’s son Howard Weiss kept the Curio Hall open to the public after his father’s death, charging visitors a small admission to view the carvings. But after Howard’s own death in 1937, most of Noah’s carvings were sold at auction, while a few were sold privately.

In recent years, several exhibitions of Weiss’s work have brought together some of his carvings from multiple collections, including five that were shown in 1991 at an exhibit in Reading, PA called “Just for Nice: Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania.”

Noah Weiss carving

The introduction to the book of the same name that was produced in conjunction with the exhibition explains that “Just for Nice” is a Pennsylvania German colloquialism meaning that an object exists not for any utilitarian purpose, but simply for pleasure.

What an apt descriptor for the motivations of a man who never sold any of his carvings, but produced them solely for his own creative fulfillment, as well as to amuse his family, friends, hotel guests, and fellow townspeople.

Weiss’s White-tailed Deer

Noah Weiss deer carvings

As is true of all Weiss carvings, these deer strike a pleasing balance between stylization and realism. The species’ gentle demeanor is captured, yet not sentimentalized.

Noah Weiss deer carving

Noah Weiss deer carving

Noah Weiss deer carving

The carvings are well preserved with some restoration and stabilization which can be seen from the back. Weiss’s original construction technique was to join several boards together, then carve the figures from the resulting large piece of wood.

The two larger carvings – the buck and doe – each have metal braces across the seams of joined wood, a technique that Weiss himself may have employed, although these brackets are likely later replacements.

Noah Weiss deer carving


Noah Weiss deer carving

A slight gap between two pieces of joined wood, seen from the front of the buck. The paint surface also has some age wear and chips.

Finally, there are also repairs to the ear and leg of the buck.

Noah Weiss deer carving


Noah Weiss deer carving

The result of the restoration is that each deer is structurally strong and sturdy.

Overall, the three deer show their nearly 120 years of age and history, while remaining remarkably crisp and visually appealing.


Noah Weiss deer carvings

When hung in a vertical arrangement the three deer carvings occupy wall space that is approximately 6’ 7” high x 3’ 6” wide, so they can easily be displayed in a regular room setting.

An article (Ames & Fiske, 1985) about Weiss in the American Folk Art Museum’s magazine The Clarion states:

It is in his portrayal of animals, even more than of people, that Weiss excels. The physical strength and personality of the creatures are rendered with sensitivity and conviction.

We agree! These three White-tailed Deer are superb examples of Noah Weiss’s artistic ability to convey the beauty and essence of animals using only wood and paint – and, most importantly, an expertly wielded pocket knife.



Ames, Walter M. and Fiske, Dana W. (1985). Noah Weiss Pennsylvania Folk Whittler. The Clarion.

Csencsits, Sonia. (2002). Noah Weiss Exhibition will Open Sunday.  The Morning Call, July 6.

Jordan, J.W., Green, E. M. and Ettinger, G. T. (Eds). (1905). Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of the LeHigh Valley Pennsylvania, Volume II. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company.

Lindenmuth, Keri (2018). Northampton Area Historical Society Takes Photographic Journey Through the Past. The Home News, March 13.

Machmer, Richard S. and Rosemarie B. (1991). Just for Nice: Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania.  The Historical Society of Berks County.

Robacker, Earl F. and Ada F. (1973). Folk Whittling. Pennsylvania Folklife, Vol. 22.

Rominger, Charles H. and Bornman, Charles J. (1910). Noah Weiss, Wood Carver: An Unappreciated Genius.  The Pennsylvania-German: Volume 11, No. 11.

Whelan, Frank. (1991). Whittlers Show Best of Folk Craft. The Morning Call, July 17.

A Collector’s Passion


While this month’s musings are inspired by one collector and her passion for tennis antiques, our reflections delineate three of the universal driving forces that impel collectors of every genre of antiques, including our specialty which is Adirondack/rustic antiques.

On August 30, 2018 The Jeanne Cherry Collection of Tennis Antiques will be sold at Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania.

(View lots from a desktop or laptop computer at:

On mobile devices scroll to Lot 746 from this link:

Jeanne Cherry (1932-2017), the mother of Cherry Gallery’s co-owner Jeff Cherry, was the author of a landmark book on tennis antiques, a leading member of tennis collector societies in the U.S. and abroad, a mentor to other collectors, and an indefatigable huntress of tennis antiques.

Jeanne Cherry’s 1995 book on tennis antiques.

The depth and diversity of Jeanne’s collection reflect her interest in the entire breadth of tennis history and its related material culture.

Group of 27 tennis tintypes; Lot 877

She acquired antiques related to the game of tennis in every possible category—including books, ephemera, photography, equipment, clothing and accessories, toys and games, fine art, jewelry, decorative arts, and furniture.


The Renshaw cup won by the first American finalist at Wimbledon, Maurice McLoughlin, in 1913; Lot 820.


Jeanne Cherry Collection of Tennis Antiques

This oil on canvas of four women tennis players by Edouard Francois Zier (1856-1924) was one of Jeanne’s favorite paintings – it hung in a prominent area of her home where she passed by it many times a day; Lot 748


The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques.

An 1887 oil on canvas of a Victorian lady with a tennis racket; Lot 747


The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Tennis table service items including a dinner gong, toast racks, salt & pepper set, and knife rests; Lot 753


The following sections highlight three of the motivating factors that compelled Jeanne to amass and curate her collection of antiques and which, time and again, we have also seen propelling other people’s collecting passions.

1. Fascination with History

There is an intellectual component to being a good collector, and thereby to forming a good collection. Driven by her keen intellect and unquenchable curiosity about all things related to tennis history, Jeanne was as much a scholar of the sport as she was an enthusiast.

For instance, she loved periodically living in and often traveling to England, where the modern game of tennis had its earliest origins in the 16th century game of court tennis.


the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Estate collection of Cecil “Punch” Fairs, four-time Court Tennis Champion of the World, 1900-1910; Lot 820


Visiting museums, historic homes, palaces, and tennis courts in England and elsewhere helped her develop a grounded understanding of the broader social and cultural contexts that gave rise to tennis objects.

In addition to telling a cultural story, antiques tell a story of human innovation over time. Tennis racket shapes through the ages, for instance, are physical manifestations of how sporting practices evolved over decades and centuries.

The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Sample tennis racket head shapes; over 125 tennis rackets are grouped in Lots 776-818

Another area of tennis history that Jeanne found fascinating was how class and social norms played out, literally and figuratively, on the tennis court. She loved learning about and acquiring the “tennis costumes” that both men and women wore, and understanding how women in particular coped with clothing that in our modern judgment would have severely restricted any woman’s potential for athletic prowess.


the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Early tennis attire including dresses, camisole, belts, and a cap; Lot 842


the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Antique and vintage tennis shoes, Lot 902


the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Locking tennis skirt lifter used in the 1880’s to raise a dress hem to make it easier to play tennis; Lot 935

2. Social Aspects of Collecting

Humans are social beings, and as such we enjoy forming and joining tribes.

Jeanne’s personal appreciation of tennis antiques was magnified a hundredfold through her interaction with her tribe of other passionate collectors. Scores of people she met through collecting became good friends as she built personal relationships that extended well beyond their shared interest in tennis antiques.

Just as playing tennis or any sport is a social activity, so too is collecting sporting antiques.

We would also argue that the social impetus behind acquiring a category of antiques extends beyond enjoying meet-ups with other collectors to share finds and knowledge. Appointing a home with antiques, whether to accent existing decor or to recreate an entire historic setting such as the interior of a 19th century Adirondack Great Camp, is also at its core a social pursuit.

We decorate our homes not just to enjoy being surrounded by an aesthetic we love, but also to welcome others into that aesthetic. Having an ultimate goal of sharing one’s antiques-filled home with family and guests is a powerful social motivator for many of the collectors we have known.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

A wicker tennis chair and vintage pillow that were in a welcoming corner of Jeanne’s home.

3. The Aesthetics of Antiques

The pure beauty of an individual object to an individual’s eye, even when untethered from its significance in the context of a thematic collection, is often a prerequisite for winning the favor of collectors.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Art Deco era tennis painting on silk, 85” x 52”; Lot 838

The above 1920s painting on silk, with its rich colors, crisp graphics and large size was a marvelous focal decorative element in Jeanne’s home and collection.

Likewise, this pair of garden chairs with crossed tennis rackets on the back, are aesthetically pleasing pieces of furniture that never failed to elicit appreciation from anyone who saw them, whether or not they had an interest in tennis.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Pair of wrought iron tennis chairs, circa 1920; Lot 837

Collectors of one of the most sought-after forms of traditional folk art, weathervanes, appreciate the sculptural beauty of diverse forms, from animals (such as horses), to objects (such as banners), to human figures (such as ladies of liberty). So while this tennis weathervane fits perfectly within a tennis themed antiques collection, it will also appeal to general folk art collectors in part because of its rarity, but also simply because of its beauty.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Fine molded copper woman tennis player weathervane, circa 1910; Lot 750


These are just a few examples of how antiques that have stunning visual impact in a room or outdoor setting have cross-over appeal to a wide range of antiques and decorating enthusiasts, all of whom, along with serious collectors, are united by the human need for aesthetic stimulation.

Process to Product and Past to Future

For us, Jeanne Cherry’s tennis antiques hold memories not just of how they were interwoven into her life and surroundings at home, but also of her process of finding them. Good things came her way, but even when the pickings were slim she reveled in the pursuit.

While walking the hot and dusty fields of the renowned Brimfield (Massachusetts) flea markets in July 2016 with Jeff, Jeanne found and purchased one of her rare tennis cameos, a favorite wearable antique that offered a glimpse into her passionate interests to anyone who noticed the subtle features of her jewelry.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

White gold and diamond tennis cameo, circa 1920; Lot 767


One of the fascinating things about antiques is that as physical manifestations of a cultural group’s heritage they will always have value, even as popular tastes and interests come and go, shift and change.

Some of Jeanne Cherry’s tennis collection will take up new residence in libraries and museums for the public to enjoy, while most will go back into private homes. Thus, as is true with all significant antiques collections that come on the market, her collecting enthusiasm will live on as the antiques she once owned and loved will pass along to others to appreciate.

Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques

Jeanne Cherry

“The Fighting Muskellunge” by Arnoud Wydeveld


fish painting by Arnoud Wydeveld


This dramatic scene of natural predation depicts a Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) capturing an adult Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis). The brass plate on the frame titles the painting “The Fighting Muskellunge” but more appropriate titles may have been “The Fighting Green-Winged Teal” or “The Predatory Muskellunge.” Although anyone who has ever had a Muskellunge on a line knows that it is indeed a fighter, in this portrayal it is the duck that is fighting for its life while the Muskellunge is about to enjoy easy pickings.


fish painting by Arnoud Wydeveld


This circa 1875 oil on canvas is signed (lower right) “A. Wyderveld N.Y.” Arnoud Wydeveld (1883-1888) was a distinguished Dutch American artist who was born in Holland and immigrated to America in 1853 to join his brother who had settled in New York a few years earlier.

His original Dutch name was Arnoldus van Weydevelt, but in America he was known as Arnoud Wydeveld—although he exhibited at the National Academy in New York using several different spellings of his last name including Wydefield, Wydefeldt, and Wyderveld, which is how he signed this painting.


fish painting by Arnoud Wydeveld


In America Wydeveld became known primarily for his luminous still-life portraits of flowers and fruit. He was influenced by the 17th- and 18th-century works of Dutch Old Master genre painters such as Johannes Vermeer, but his elegant paintings also incorporate elements of more contemporary mid-19th century European styles.




During his lifetime, Wyderveld’s still-lifes were exhibited in prestigious galleries, such as the National Academy in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Brooklyn Art Association.


fruit still-life painting by Wydeveld


In the 1870s, however, Wydeveld turned his attention to painting fish in their natural habitats. Whereas most of his flower and fruit still-lifes were portrayed on table-top settings, he sometimes depicted arrangements in outdoor settings, so he did have some inclination towards representing natural landscapes throughout his career.

Wydeveld also sometimes included fish and seafood as components of meals in his dining table tableaux, and also painted freshly caught fish, so he had previously portrayed fish from an edibles perspective.


Wydeveld fish painting


What inspired his transition towards painting lively fish in active scenes—artwork that fits within the sporting art rather than still-life genre—is not documented. One possibility is that he had taken up fishing himself and was thus inspired by observing the beauty of fish and their behaviors in their natural element.


Wydeveld fish painting


Wydeveld applied the skills he had honed during his years as a still-life painter to portraying fish in the wild, including an eye for detail and the ability to impart texture and a life-like presence in his painted depictions. This painting of a Muskellunge and Green-winged Teal is a masterful product of the artist’s focus on fish during the 1870s.


Arnoud Wydeveld fish painting

Frame size: 34.5″ h x 42.5″ w; Sight size: 27.5″ h x 35.5″ w


fish painting by Arnoud Wydeveld

The painting (seen from the back) has been relined and restretched for longevity.


Detail of the painting’s period frame.


Clearly the star of this painting is the Muskellunge, affectionately known throughout its range as “muskie” (it is also the state fish of Wisconsin). Wydeveld depicted this muskie lurking in the bay of a large, horizonless lake, perhaps meant to represent one of the Great Lakes that it populates.


Muskellunge painting by Arnoud Wydeveld

This muskie’s dark coloration and spotted pattern are typical of Muskellunge found in the Great Lakes, while in other locations their skin can be more barred or clear.


Wydeveld accurately captures the muskie’s streamlined body, elongated snout, and far-back fin placement—an ideal physique for an “ambush predator.”

While muskies typically range from 2.5’-4’ in length, the largest can be over 6’ long and weigh over 70 lbs. Muskies eat all species of fish present in their habitats (including smaller individuals of their own species), as well as muskrats, frogs, and yes, ducks.


A muskie showing a lighter coloration more typical of those living in turbid waters. (from


A Muskellunge cruising for food (


Jeff with a muskie he caught from a canoe while on a wilderness trip in Ontario years ago.


Although muskies have large stomachs that enable them to eat prey up to two-thirds their own body length, the Green-winged Teal is a very small duck—12″-15” long and weighing just 5-17 ounces—so it is more a snack than a meal for a large muskie.


A Green-winged Teal taking wing (


Wydeveld captured the cinnamon color of the bird’s head feathers, its dark green eyebands, and the spotting on its buff-colored breast.


As beautiful as Wydeveld’s floral and fruit still-life paintings are, we much prefer his spirited portrayals of fish in the wild. “The Fighting Muskellunge” is among the largest and most dynamic fish paintings Wydeveld created. Its presence will enliven a home with the energetic pulse and implicit story of fate and survival in the natural world.


fish painting by Wydeveld



A Brief Rant


Antiques show sign (from

When shoppers make the effort to visit an antiques show, they should be able to expect that every item in each dealer’s booth is an antique—an object with history and heritage that is authentic to a past period, not recently made.

It is difficult enough for antiques show patrons to view thousands of items in all of the booths and make decisions about what they like, what will work in their home, what will enhance their collection, what fits their budget, and so on. They should not also have the pressure of needing to worry about the age or authenticity of the merchandise for sale.

The titles of some shows prepare buyers to expect that not everything for sale will be antique—for instance at a show called an “Antiques and Design Fair,” a recent moniker for shows that mix old and new (usually high-end, artisan made) goods, or at a “Flea Market,” a shopping venue well-known for anything goes.

santa monica flea market

A stall at a flea market where anything goes.

But there should be no place for selling contemporary merchandise at an event billed as an Antiques Show. Period. That is our strong opinion.

This long-standing pet peeve of ours was reinvigorated recently when we saw this brand new furniture displayed prominently in a booth at an antiques show:

It is a recently manufactured hickory game table with four hickory hoop-arm chairs from Old Hickory Furniture Company, Shelbyville, Indiana.

The handwritten tag identified the set as “Old Hickory” (true), and it was dated as “20th century” (not true—it should have said 21st century). Even if the dealer thought the set was made as far back as the 1990s it was disingenuous to tag it simply as “20th century,” leaving it up to a shopper to determine when in the 100 year period from 1900-1999 the furniture was made.

We would classify this set simply as contemporary furniture, possibly lightly used, but definitely not vintage and not antique.

The set was priced $2,800 which might be slightly less than it would cost at a contemporary furniture store, but far more than its resale value as used furniture. Since shoppers attend antiques shows hoping to go home with a treasure that will likely retain its value, it is a sad outcome if they unwittingly purchase something whose resale value becomes a fraction of what they paid for it before the ink on their check is even dry.

So how do contemporary goods end up at antiques shows? Here are a few ways:

1. An unscrupulous dealer takes advantage of the cachet of an antiques venue to sell used or unused contemporary goods for more than they are worth. Once the merchandise catches the eye of an eager shopper, the dealer may or may not tell them its true age. Some sellers are not ashamed to bring new things to an antiques show, and will unabashedly tell people, if queried, that it is not old but nevertheless “has a great look.”

Although not excusable, that is slightly better than a dealer who blatantly represents new merchandise as old (luckily there are very few dealers on the show circuit who fall into this category).

We were recently called in to purchase furniture from a rustic home that was going on the market, but we left behind a number of contemporary rustic pieces that had been sold to the homeowner at an antiques show, complete with an elaborately fabricated story about the lodge where they originated in the 1920s.

We happened to have encountered that seller and his merchandise (produced by craftsmen he hires) at various shows over the years, so we were already familiar with the whole saga. The homeowner, however, was dismayed to learn that he would have to figure out a way to sell those pieces in the used furniture market, for much less than he had paid for them.

2. A dealer is truly unaware of the age of what they’re selling. Every dealer makes mistakes now and then, and it can be harder for generalist dealers to know everything about the many types of antiques they buy than it is for dealers who have deep knowledge of one or a few specialty areas. But most dealers worth their salt develop a good feel for the age of objects, regardless of their familiarity with the particular type of antique they’re examining. Plus it is not hard to find another dealer who can shed light on an object in question. Mistakenly representing the age of an object for sale at an antiques show should rarely happen

3. Apathy. It is not uncommon to hear dealers and show promoters say that “Nobody cares anymore” about the age of objects as long as they look appealing. We hear that comment both from dealers who themselves have gone over to the dark side so are making excuses for mixing contemporary goods in with their antiques, as well as from those who maintain the integrity of selling only antiques, but bemoan the lack of antiques-only integrity among their colleagues.

Although there may be a grain of truth to the statement that buyers do not care as much about the age as they do about the appearance of an object, if they factor in purchase price, availability of the same or similar merchandise on the regular retail market, and diminishment in resale value, they should be less than enthusiastic about purchasing new things at antiques shows. Glimmers of buyer apathy about an object’s vintage should not be a legitimate excuse for letting antiques dealers’ age standards slide down a slippery slope.

4. Lack of consequences. If dealers round out their booths at an antiques show with new merchandise (which after all, is easier to find than antiques), and successfully sell that merchandise for a profit while experiencing no backlash whatsoever, it is only human to keep seeking those rewards.

Despite issuing grave warnings against bringing new merchandise to antiques shows (see excerpts from two show contracts below), show promoters rarely ask dealers to remove new objects from their booths, nor do they often disinvite the offending dealers to future shows.

There are several reasons for this. One is that it is getting harder for promoters to rent all of the floor space in their shows so they can turn a profit on the event, so the last thing they can afford to do is lose dealers.

Another reason is that vetting the age of merchandise at a show is a huge undertaking, done only at high-end, long-running shows such as the Winter Antiques Show in New York each January. Promoters of smaller, mid-range shows cannot be expected to do formal vetting—it is simply impossible, not to mention highly stressful and unpleasant when it engenders confrontations.

However, by asking a few dealers to remove goods that are blatantly not antique, word gets around quickly that someone is actually monitoring dealers’ merchandise, which can result in fewer new things being brought to future shows (no dealer wants to take up limited space in a van with something that might get booted off the floor).

It may not seem fair to the few dealers who are asked to remove something new when there are other new things on the floor. But if they signed a contract that included a passage similar to those below, they have no right to complain about being asked to adhere to their contract.

Here is an excerpt from an antiques show contract we recently signed:

“All merchandise must be antique and suitable for a high quality antique show. No reproductions will be acceptable nor will objects with extensive restoration be permitted. We reserve the right to remove at our discretion any and all objects deemed unworthy of the show. Our decision in this regard shall be final and binding.”

And another one, which is even more to the point (emphases in the original):


Clearly it is not okay to bring new goods to shows with contracts such as these. That is not to say that antiques dealers can’t legitimately choose to sell contemporary art or fine craft pieces in their own brick-and-mortar or online shops where they can distinguish them from antique merchandise; they just should not bring those things to Antiques Shows.

So What’s to be Done?

Beyond maintaining professional integrity with the merchandise in their own booths, dealers do not have much power or influence over the goods for sale elsewhere on the floor of an antiques show. In fact, shoppers can have more influence than dealers on this issue by taking the steps listed below, which also happen to be good ways to ensure that they spend their antiquing dollars wisely.

1. Attend only shows that are known for their roster of reputable dealers.

2. Ask questions about any merchandise that interests you. Most dealers love to share their knowledge.

3. Demonstrate to dealers that you care about antique integrity by explicitly asking the age of anything you’re interested in when an age is not noted on a label, and walking away from it if it is contemporary.

4. Give feedback to show promoters (who are usually easily found by inquiring at the show office) if you are unhappy about seeing contemporary merchandise on the floor.

We don’t want to create the impression that most dealers are passing off new merchandise as old—far from it. The vast majority of antiques dealers really do care about the age of the things they are selling, and adhere not only to their titles as antiques dealers, but also to the rules set forth in their show contracts that forbid bringing new merchandise.

So by all means, antiques enthusiasts should keep attending antiques shows, get to know the dealers they are buying from, then relax and enjoy the process of learning about and acquiring antiques.

We conclude with the simple hope that something good will come from discussing this issue openly. Now we’ll happily get back to the positive business of finding, buying, and selling great old things!

On the antiquing trail.

Rare Old Hickory Daybed


Old Hickory daybed

Having handled lots of hickory furniture over the years, we’ve seen the majority of furniture forms that are documented either in books or in our collection of vintage hickory furniture company catalogs. While no antique hickory furniture could be called common, some forms appear on the market more frequently than others.

There are several reasons for the differing availability of hickory furniture forms. One is that certain types of furniture, such as hickory hoop arm or “Andrew Jackson” chairs (shown below), were made in every decade of hickory furniture production for over 50 years, and several different hickory furniture manufacturers made nearly identical versions of popular styles.

hickory hoop arm chair

Another reason is that a greater number of certain forms were produced and sold in a given year reflecting differing demand, for side chairs versus desks, for instance. Finally, some types of furniture such as dressers and other case pieces, have very little market turnover—once they are in a home they tend to stay there, even when the homes themselves (especially summer cottages in remote locations) change hands.


Old Hickory dresser


So it is always a bit of a thrill when we find a form that we have never or seldom seen on the market. That is the case with this Old Hickory daybed, which is only the second one that we’ve seen or owned in over 25 years of buying and selling hickory furniture.


Old Hickory daybed

Old Hickory Daybed dimensions: 74″ wide, 27″ deep, 33″ high back, 17″ high seat


This daybed appears in the 1942 catalog titled “Old Hickory Furniture by Old Hickory of Martinsville.”


Old Hickory 1942 catalog


It was listed as No. 949W “Day Bed With Back” and the description includes the note: “Back is adjusted with ropes.” That pretty well sums up this intriguing piece of furniture. This one is in good vintage condition, retaining its original open-weave rattan cane seat and back.


Old Hickory daybed weaving


The back can be set at two angles by placing the rope loops around either of two side pegs.

Old Hickory daybed



Old Hickory daybed

The ropes are set around first peg to hold the back upright.


Old Hickory daybed.

The ropes are set around the second peg to make the back more angled.


Taking the ropes off the pegs lowers the hinged back all of the way down so that the daybed can be used as a bench or cot.


Old Hickory daybed

Daybed with the back down, seen from the front.


Old Hickory daybed

Daybed with the back down, seen from the back.


Old Hickory daybed

The daybed’s previous owner had a faux leather pad made for the bench.


With the back down, the 74” wide bench fits perfectly at the foot of a 76” wide king-size bed. It would even be possible to remove the back entirely by unscrewing the hinges, depending on desired usage and placement. In fact, Old Hickory also sold this daybed without a back, listed in the catalog as “No. 949 Day Bed Without Back.”



Versatility was clearly the intent of the Old Hickory designers who created this daybed. Whether piled with throw pillows, outfitted with a seat pad, or used backless as a bench, it is handsome and functional—and also collectible for anyone seeking to acquire uncommon Old Hickory furniture forms.


Old Hickory daybed

Rustic Plant Supports


Rustic garden ornaments naturally complement any home garden, whether or not the home itself has a rustic style or setting.


While anticipating gardening season several springs ago, we posted a Journal article titled Rustic Garden Structures that featured mostly sizable, intricate outdoor rustic structures manufactured by furniture companies such as Old Hickory and Lincraft from the early 1900’s through the 1940’s.

Although that article did describe a pair of large, never-used 1920’s Old Hickory obelisks that we once owned, wooden rustic garden structures typically do not survive long enough to convey into the antiques trade.


So to add time-honored rustic designs to your garden, a good option is to make your own simple rustic garden structures using natural, sustainably-harvested twigs, trunks, and branches. It is best to choose rot-resistant varieties such as cedar and black locust so that your handiwork will last longer than one season in the outdoors.


The following do-it-yourself instructions and design inspirations gleaned from the web focus on three kinds of simple rustic plant supports:  trellises, tuteurs, and wattle surrounds. These types of structures have imbued gardens around the world with a traditional rustic aesthetic since at least medieval times, and perhaps as far back as when humans first began cultivating crops.


A Rustic Trellis


Flat trellises can support climbing plants, or be used simply as ornamental backdrops for garden beds or to add architectural interest to the side wall of a house or garden shed.


How to Make a Simple Trellis from Prunings
(adapted from

Tools and Materials:

12 straight branches, limbs or canes, each approximately 1″ in diameter:
– Three pieces, each 3 feet long (A)
– One piece, 6 feet long (B)
– Two pieces, each 5 feet long (C)
– Two pieces, each 25 inches long (D)
– Two pieces, each 221/2 inches long (E)
– Two pieces, each 391/2 inches long (F)

One box of one-and-three-quarter inch nails


Spool of floral wire


The finished structure is 7′ 4.5″  tall x 3′ wide.

1. Trim any side branches from the prunings.
2. Lay the crosspieces (A) horizontally on a flat surface, with two of them 18 inches apart, and the third 16 inches above the center one.
3. Lay the centerpiece (B) vertically across the crosspieces. The bottom end of the centerpiece should overlap the lowest crosspiece by 4 1/2 inches. Nail centerpiece to crosspieces at center joints.
4. Lay side pieces (C) vertically over crosspieces as shown, setting them about 3 1/2 inches in from the ends of the crosspieces. Nail to crosspieces at the joints.
5. Place D and E pieces diagonally between crosspieces, slightly overlapping the horizontal crosspieces as shown. Nail them to the horizontals at the joints.
6. Place top pieces (F) so they cross behind the centerpiece (B) and on top of the side pieces (C).
For additional stability, turn structure over and nail joints from the back side, then wrap wire several times around the main intersections.


Here is some additional inspiration for designing your own rustic trellises:








A Rustic Tuteur


Tuteur means “trainer” in French, thus tuteurs are traditionally used for training climbing plants. Similar free-standing garden structures are also called obelisks and teepees, depending on whether they are rectangular, pyramidial, or circular.

How to Make a Simple Branch and Twig Tuteur
(adapted from

1. Obtain 3 cedar poles and cut them to a height of 6-7’

2. Tie the poles together at the top

3. Use the cut-offs from the cedar poles as horizontal supports for the structure. Secure them to the tall frame with wood screws.

4. Wrap shoots pruned from grape or honeysuckle vines or other thin twigs around the branch frame.


Here is some additional inspiration for designing your own rustic tuteurs:









A Wattle Surround

Wattle is a panel, fence, or enclosure that is woven from pliable branches such as willow. Wattling has long been used as a fencing technique to contain livestock and protect pasture.


(from the 15th century French manuscript Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry)


But wattle also makes attractive, easy-to-construct smaller enclosures for individual garden plants and beds, as shown here.


How to Make a Wattle Plant Enclosure
(adapted from and

1. You will need both upright stakes for the “sales” and shoots or saplings for the “weavers.”


For weavers it is easiest to work with freshly cut long, straight, slender (about ½” diameter) saplings such as willow, hazel, sweet chestnut, plum, or forsythia (or a mixture these—yellow willow and red dogwood twigs make nice color gradations in the final product). Dry willow can become pliable again by soaking it overnight in a stream, barrel, or bathtub.


Hardwood or a rot-resistant wood such as cedar are good choices for the sales. The length of the sales will define the height of the wattle enclosure.

2. Pound the sales into the ground into a circle of whatever diameter you want your raised bed to be.


3. Begin weaving the sapling rods around the sales like basketry, tucking ends into the weave as you add pieces to continue around the enclosure. Alternate the weaving so that each row is woven on the opposite side of the stake from the sapling below it. Firmly press down each sapling so it sits tightly against the previous row.


4. Fill the finished wattle enclosure with soil and compost, and it is ready to plant with seeds, seedlings, or transplants.



Here is some additional inspiration for designing your own wattle enclosures:








Rustic Resourcefulness

As with indoor rustic furniture, locally-sourced natural materials inspire the designs for rustic garden structures, even those as simple as plant supports. The impetus for making them may come from practical needs, but for generations they have also satisfied the aesthetic urge to accent our gardens with rustic adornments.


Gardens at Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York in the 19th century and today. (from and

George Browne’s “A Bluebill Drake”


When I look at a duck painting by George, I am immediately transferred there with the duck; I am on its level, whether it be a power stroke, setting wings, or a flight pattern.
To me that is the greatness of George.
(Sporting art dealer Robert Fraser, Ordeman & Schreiber, 20041)


The best sporting art—appreciative representations of game, fish, waterfowl, and upland birds, along with their landscape settings and sometimes sportsmen in the act of pursuing them—is interpretive rather than academic. Sporting artists strive to do more than accurately represent the physical features of an animal; they also seek to capture the ambiance of a moment in time, such as a misty trout stream at dawn, the startled flush of a covey in grasslands, or—as in this oil on canvas panel painting of a Greater Scaup by George Browne that we are now offering for sale (update: sold 2/19/18)—a duck alighting on an open patch of water.

Painting titled verso “A Bluebill Drake,” signed lower left George Browne. Untouched condition with light soiling and minor abrasions, in its original molded gilt frame. Canvas size is 16″ x 20″ and frame size is 20.75″ x 24.5″.

In the opinion of sporting art connoisseurs, George Browne (1918-1958) was not only a master at painting animals and their habitats, but also of that hard-to-capture essence of place, time, and the spirit of wildlife. Browne was as talented as, yet less well-known than, his sporting art predecessors and contemporaries—luminaries such as Frank Benson (1862-1951), Carl Rungius (1869-1959), Frances Lee Jacques (1887-1969), and Aiden Ripley (1896-1969). Although Browne was quite prolific as an artist, he produced a more limited body of work than these other sporting artists, and had less time to be promoted and appreciated, given the brevity of his professional career due to his untimely death in a shooting accident at the age of 40.

George Browne with his dog “Kelly” (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

Browne’s painting of a Greater Scaup, known colloquially as a “bluebill” or “broadbill,” exemplifies his expert ability to capture a bird’s shape, feather patterns, and posture.

Wildlife artists such as Browne must have superb observational acuity, a skill they have in common with both naturalists and sportsmen.

A Greater Scaup coming in for a landing (photo from


This label on the back of Browne’s painting reads “A Bluebill Drake” Canvas size: 16″ x 20″ “The bluebill or broad bill is the larger of the two scaups and generally inclined to salt water bays and estuaries of both coasts of this continent in winter.”

George Browne’s observational skills were honed during his many hours in the outdoors watching wildlife as well as hunting. His field notes, a sample of which follows (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004), are not unlike those that a naturalist would write while observing birds, although Browne’s observations of the subtle plays of light are distinctly those of someone with an artistic eye and purpose:

Bird: Canada Geese 13
Background: Timbered Ridges
Lighting: Sun just set, Early twilight
Distance: 35 yrds over River
General Impressions: Birds noticeably flying fast. General color tone cold. Black areas noticeable lack of detail. Head and body unaffected by motion of wings, but base of neck and chest rise and fall alternately with wing beats. Chests cool whitish gray, check marks buckskin color. More light areas visible on geese in profile than when coming and going. Flock seemed dense, birds between 6 and 8 ft. apart on average.

Browne often captured the finer details of feather colors and patterns of the birds he had shot by creating small oil sketches that he then kept in his studio for reference. His wife Tibby once wrote:

Fishing and shooting were his relaxation, inspiration and spiritual refreshment…George prided himself in deriving the multi-faceted satisfaction from the hunt: the bird in the hand, the sketch of the same, the meal of the same, and finally the use of the feathers of the same for fly tying. (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

Browne’s total immersion in his subject matter comes forth in the insightful representation of a Greater Scaup in this painting.


Signature in lower left of “A Bluebill Drake”

Fortunately, Browne was as fastidious in keeping records about his art production as he was about the accuracy of his paintings, which allows us to trace the creation of this painting to 1945, and its original sale to 1950. Before exploring this painting’s history, however, let’s first put it into the context of Browne’s life and career.

George Browne’s Early Development as an Artist

The life story of George Browne must begin with his father, Belmore Browne (1880-1954), an accomplished artist, author, explorer, mountaineer, hunter, all-around outdoorsman, and widely respected man of integrity. Belmore was arguably the most important influence on George, who followed remarkably closely in his father’s footsteps.

Belmore Browne in his studio (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

Belmore Browne grew up in privilege, but by the time he was a young man his father’s lumber business in Tacoma, Washington was failing. In the early 1920s Belmore’s love for the western frontier led him, together with his wife Agnes and their two small children (George and his sister Evelyn), to move to a one-room cabin at the conjunction of two rivers near the then remote village of Banff, Alberta.

Settling into the Rocky Mountain countryside resulted for the Browne children in what their mother called an “idyllic existence.” Over the next decade the family took summer trips on horseback with pack mules into the Alberta wilderness to explore, camp, hunt, and fish. In 1922, when Evelyn was 6 and George was just 4, Agnes wrote about her children:

I’m very proud of them, I must say. They’ve seen magnificent country and have learned to love it and appreciate it. Because they walked, they’ve learned the deer, bear, goat and sheep tracks and many of the wild flowers. They’ve learned the discipline of keeping up and bearing fatigue, hunger and even cold from the rain. They’ve learned to be good sports, to cast a fly, and no one can ever take from George an interest in fishing that has been awakened on this trip. He has been a constant source of amazement to Belmore and me. This ability to travel—the way the trip has developed him and roused him, and with it all his sweetness to all of us. (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

During these camping excursions Belmore would often sketch, which is when George first became interested in drawing.

George Browne watching his father sketch (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

George reflected on his father’s ongoing influence on his development as an artist and a person in a letter to his mother in the 1940s: “He represents (the wilderness life) and has presented it to me in his paintings and in his tolerance and patience with my feeble efforts to follow in his footstep as an artist and out door man.”

Indeed, George was much more drawn to learning through an active outdoor life than he was to passive school learning. He struggled with dyslexia, and simply did not like school. A headmistress in Banff said “his mind goes on private exploring expeditions” during school hours. A teacher in Santa Barbara, CA where the family later lived during winters said “George resisted formal education with greater ferocity than any student I have had.”

At age 15 when George was in 8th grade, his request to quit school and devote his time to drawing and painting was granted by his parents. He thus became his father’s apprentice as well as receiving formal instruction for the next five years at the California School of Fine Arts.

Belmore and George Browne (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

George’s artistic training was interrupted in the early 1940s when he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. He was assigned to a U.S.-based unit that tested survival equipment being developed for aircrews whose planes might be shot down. In his capacity as an equipment tester he survived for three weeks without food or water adrift in a small inflated life raft in the Gulf of Mexico. He was also the first person to survive a parachute jump from over 40,000 feet, an assignment for which he eagerly volunteered.

But painting remained his central passion throughout his years in the service, as he expressed in one letter home:

I can no longer continue life without a paint brush in my hand, and when I get paid…I will go into town and purchase a small oil paint kit. Then when Sunday rolls around, I will rise at dark and go out and get some duck skies for future reference and to keep in practice. I will also get some sketches of water with both lakes and streams with reflections of trees, grass and mud banks. The dead grass and autumn trees will provide me with valuable sketches for bird pictures, and after the war I will be as good and probably better a painter than if I just let it go.  (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

In a subsequent letter he wrote:

I am learning a lot from my Sunday painting, and it means a lot to me…Painting is my biggest form of recreation and takes all my days off. For the first time I am beginning to know a little about water and reflections. I have been painting a lot along the river and the lake, and this practice is just as valuable to me as painting in the Rocky Mountains, but not so much fun.  (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

While in the army George also went hunting on his free days. In a letter he recounted one adventure in which his gun went over the side of his boat one pre-dawn morning while he was setting up decoys for waterfowling. He dove in the water while it was still pitch dark and followed a decoy line downward for seven dives before realizing the gun had sunk into the mud. So he dove again to search more deeply on the bottom, where on this eighth dive he found and recovered the gun from a foot of mud. This episode reveals his perseverance, stamina, daring, and strength of mind and body—characteristics that people noted about George throughout his life.

When George came back home following his discharge at the end of the war, he and his father did much bird hunting while George concentrated on painting waterfowl and other gamebirds. His mother commented in 1947:

George was developing fast—the grouse picture, a beauty—the groups of pintails on the marshes in the early morning. The bluebills around his decoys. And he often worked into the late hours by electric light.  (Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

Study of Ruffed Grouse by George Browne (from





Browne painted our “A Bluebill Drake” in 1945, so it was completed during the period from the early to the late-1940s when George was focusing on perfecting his painting of waterfowl. The late 1940s is also when his career started to take off as his work began to be more widely shown and promoted.

George Browne’s Early Professional Career and Gallery Representation

Prior to going into the military George had sold a dozen or so paintings for $10-$50 each, and while in the army a New York art dealer sold three of his paintings for $25-$45. In 1947 a more prestigious gallery in Manhattan that had been handling Belmore Browne’s paintings, the Grand Central Art Galleries, agreed to exhibit George’s work. They sold ten of his paintings from 1947-1949 in prices ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $750, a marked increase over his former earnings.

George became increasingly focused on the amount of money he was able to earn as a painter after marrying Isabel “Tibby” MacGregor in 1948, and eventually having two children to support as well. As his parents had done before him, he and Tibby moved to a small cabin in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta where George focused fulltime on producing art.

Although George admitted that he became a painter of wildlife in part to spend a lot of time outdoors, he became a disciplined artist in his studio as well. He was devoted to the life of painting, working between 12-14 hours a day which according to Tibby allowed “scant time for sleeping and eating and still it gave him a solid sense of fulfillment.”

His concern about providing for his family by selling paintings came through in the detailed records he kept of every painting he completed, how large it was, how long it took him to paint it, and how much the painting sold for—he even calculated a “Square Inch of Canvas to Sale Price Ratio” and broke down his yearly income as gross income per picture, profit per days worked, and income per day, week, and month.

We were able to locate our 16” x 20” bluebill painting on several pages of his log books (reproduced in Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004). In one book it appears as the 103rd painting he had sold since 1934.

Another log page shows the “Blue Bill Drake” as the 11th and final painting he produced in 1945, the prior ten of which he had sold for a total of $220.

He did not sell “A Bluebill Drake” however, until 1950 when Grand Central Art Galleries (abbreviated as “G.C.G.” in Browne’s logs) mounted a one-man show of Browne’s paintings at their Manhattan gallery.

George Browne during his show at Grand Central Art Galleries in 1950 (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

“A Bluebill Drake” was included in the Grand Central Art Galleries 1950 show, and the gallery’s label is still intact on the back of the painting.

When this painting sold at the show, George went back to his 1945 record book and added the information “Exhibition G.C.G 1950,” and in the Remarks column he noted that the painting sold to “Cousin Elizabeth” for $175, which is the price that is on the label still present on the back of the painting.

Browne’s Upward Career Trajectory, Move East, and Tragic Death

George Browne’s solo exhibition at Grand Central Art Galleries in 1950 provided a substantial boost to his career, helping him sell 22 paintings that year. But an even more significant opportunity came in 1952 when George made a connection with Ralph Terrill, the director of the a New York gallery specializing in sporting art, the Crossroads of Sport Gallery. From 1952-1958 Crossroads sold half of the paintings Browne produced.

Based on Terrill’s advice that “People seem to like to buy something which reminds them of their favorite shooting terrain,” Browne accepted invitations from Terrill’s clients to hunt with them and then paint their favored eastern terrain around the Chesapeake Bay, Georgia, and the Carolinas, as well as the birds they hunted there.

Pheasant painting by George Browne (from


Mallard painting by George Browne (from

Crossroads gallery sold George Browne’s paintings through their annual catalogs from 1952 until his death in 1958. Sporting art collectors across America could thus purchase Browne’s work along with that of Pleissner, Rungius, and Jacques whose paintings appeared in the same Crossroads catalogs.

As Browne was gaining success selling paintings of upland game birds and waterfowl to eastern sportsmen, his patrons convinced him to move closer to New York which was the center of the sporting art business. So George and Tibby Browne eventually sold their house in Alberta and in 1956 they moved into a home they had built in Norfolk, Connecticut.

Remarking on George’s artistic development, especially during his time in Connecticut, one critic wrote the following in the magazine Sporting Classics:

Almost daily his work grew stronger, richer, more poetic. Not only did he have the gift for breathing life into his birds and mammals, he knew how to arrange them in a composition for maximum dramatic effect. Few artists have been better at crafting the illusion of space, of three dimensionality; perhaps it was because of Browne’s own lack of depth perception,* a function of his monocular vision, forced him to pay extra attention to perspective. (*He had sustained an eye injury when he was 10 from the ricochet of a shotgun pellet.)

Likewise, his sister Evelyn once wrote about George’s deep knowledge of habitats and the individual qualities of each species he painted:

George knew what he was painting with scientific accuracy, and he had the transcendent ability to render what he saw, in paintings of unparalleled and arresting beauty.

It is all the more tragic then, that this artist of great accomplishment and even greater promise, was accidentally killed in 1958 by an acquaintance who was inexperienced with guns.

They were in the Adirondacks attending a March outing of sportsmen who served on the Camp Fire Club of America’s Conservation Committee. They were target practicing by shooting balloons blowing across a frozen lake when one of the men mishandled a gun’s hang-fire; the delayed discharge of the bullet then struck Browne in the neck. Thus George Browne, who by the age of 40 had survived parachute jumps, weeks alone in a life raft, an expedition up Mount McKinley, Rocky Mountain wilderness excursions, and countless hunting adventures, died within an hour being shot.

His family and friends lost a gem of a man that day, and the world lost a talented artist. Through his work George had attained what he once predicted and aspired to, as written in a letter to his parents:

“I believe I will gain an individuality and originality found in the work of men who are inspired by their subject rather than by themselves.”

George Browne painting on Mount McKinley in 1947 (from Ordeman & Schreiber, 2004)

Fortunately, photos of Browne, his personal records and letters, and descriptions of him as a gifted man of integrity written largely by the women who loved him—his mother, sister, and wife—remain for posterity, as do the images of landscapes and wildlife he so deftly captured on canvas.


1 Background information, images, and page references throughout this article are drawn from the book Artists of the North American Wilderness: George and Belmore Browne (2004) by J. T. Ordeman and M. M. Schreiber. Toronto: Warwick Publishing.

Nature is a Happy Pill


Let’s face it – stress and unhealthy habits are ubiquitous in modern society. Equally ubiquitous (in affluent cultures) are self-help books, diet plans, personal trainers, and by-the-hour therapists to help people achieve and maintain their best selves. But what if one of the most potent fixes for our woes is as basic as spending more time outdoors, in nature?

That is the idea that Florence Williams explores in The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (2017, NY: W.W. Norton). As a journalist (and contributing editor to Outside magazine), Williams delves into the topic by taking a participatory journalism approach in which her experiences are part of the story. She becomes an insider in the scientific research she seeks to summarize about nature’s effects on the human mind, body, and spirit, both by becoming a research subject herself and by probing the thinking of leading scientists in the field.

She explains the impetus for writing the book succinctly: “Scientists are quantifying nature’s effects not only on mood and well-being, but also on our ability to think, to remember things, to plan, to create, to daydream and to focus—as well as on our social skills.” This work has such important implications for all of us that Williams makes an impressive effort to summarize the many avenues of this research being done around the world.

Forest bathing in Japan (

Williams reports on her experiences traveling to research sites in seven countries where scientists and practitioners are doing cutting-edge work on nature’s effects on people’s well-being. She participates in “forest bathing” in Japan and Korea; attends a hiking retreat with neuroscientists in Utah; wears a portable EEG device on her head to explore the physiological effects of noise pollution in the U.S.; participates in a nature virtual reality lab experiment in Canada; walks along “health nature trails” in Finland; participates in outdoor adventure therapy and meditative walking in urban parks in Scotland; observes horticultural therapy in a garden in Sweden; becomes a research subject for a Canadian scientist studying the mental health effects of sustained (30 minutes a day for 30 days) outdoor walking; goes on a camping trip with psychology graduate students in Utah and on a rafting trip in Idaho with female veterans suffering from PTSD to explore the effects of longer-term immersion in nature within social groups; visits a summer camp in North Carolina for kids with ADD and learning disabilities; and explores green spaces in densely populated Singapore. She is ambitious and energetic, and those qualities permeate the book.

Hammock in an urban therapeutic garden in Sweden (

Although the scientists Williams visits are focusing on different aspects of nature’s effects on humans, and are using a wide range of clever measurement tools to do so, an underlying theoretical tenet of all the research is evolution. Since we, Homo sapiens, evolved in nature, we still have deep, automatic, physiological reactions to environmental stimuli. The idea is to recognize, understand, and then use those reactions for beneficial outcomes in our modern lives.

Some Fascinating Research Findings

Japanese and Korean scientists have documented positive changes in physiological responses such as pulse rate, variable heart rate, and salivary cortisol after people have taken sensory walks in forested National Parks. In one study in Korea, spending two days in nature lowered the cortisol levels of 11-12 year old “technology addicts,” and those effects lasted two weeks after the kids had nature immersion experiences.

Another avenue of this “forest bathing” (i.e., walking in the woods) research found that “nice tree smells”—specifically the aromatic substances that cedar and pine trees emit—boost natural killer (NK) white blood cells that strengthen our immune systems. Even a month after people walked in piney woods a few hours a day for three days, their NK cells were 15% higher than those of people who walked the same amount of time on urban streets.


In addition to affecting us through our sense of smell, nature also triggers profound effects through our visual system. One of the reasons that spending time in peaceful natural settings can improve our ability to think effectively and creatively is that we don’t have to use up as much precious cognitive fuel (specifically oxygenated glucose) filtering out distractions. Our inherent “soft fascination” with natural scenes gives our brains a rest so we have the potential to become better at higher order thinking.

Even brief views of nature, such as seeing green trees out a window, can have positive effects on our bodies and minds. One hypothesis is that visually processing nature scenes triggers natural opiates in the brain and “happy molecules” flow. Indeed, studies have shown that nature views outside hospital windows reduce patient stress and lead to better clinical outcomes. In schools, office buildings, and housing projects touches of nature visible from windows have been shown to support increased worker productivity, less job stress, higher academic grades and test scores, and less aggressive behaviors. Scientists propose that this is due in part to congruence in how nature scenes (“natural fractal patterns”) are fluently processed by our neurons, setting off a cascade of positive physiological effects.

In short, Frederick Law Olmstead (the father of landscape architecture and designer of urban parks such as New York’s Central Park) seems to have had it right back in 1865 when he wrote that viewing nature “employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.”


Our sense of hearing also has deep evolutionary roots, so ambient nature sounds trigger very different automatic responses in our bodies than industrial noise. Our sympathetic nervous system (the coordinator of our “fight or flight” responses) reacts dramatically to threatening sounds by elevating heart rates, blood pressure, and respiration. Those are stress responses, and when we’re constantly subjected to annoying noises, everything from airplanes and jack hammers to cell phone ringers and lawn mowers, those frequent stress responses can accumulate to the level of chronic stress within our bodies.

Given that there are fewer than a dozen sites in the continental U.S. where you can’t hear human-made noise for a span of at least 15 minutes (according to research conducted by an acoustic ecologist), this lack of respite from industrial noise can become a major health issue. For instance, every 10-decibel increase in nighttime noise is linked to a 14 % rise in hypertension. In primary schools located near major airports, every 5-decibel increase in aircraft background noise is linked to a drop in reading scores equivalent to a two-month delay in progress.


There are individual differences in people’s noise sensitivity, and Williams found that she is among the most sensitive. She wore EEG headgear to measure her brain wavelengths in different settings to see which places put her brainwaves in the desirable, meditative-like state of “calm alert.” In places where human-made sound is constantly in the background, our brains have to work hard to ignore the irrelevant soundscapes, stealing physiological resources and constantly creating undesirable small side effects. So it is hard for someone with noise sensitivity (like Williams) to unwind in an urban park. After numerous forays outside, Williams finally attained Zen-like brain wavelength tranquility one early morning while kayaking alone on a lake in Maine. The take-home message is that when you’re feeling stressed, go to a quiet place to reset your mind and body to a calmer mode.


In addition to documenting nature’s profound influence on our physiology, Williams also reports on how it can affect our emotional well-being. A researcher in Finland recommends that to elevate mood and stave off depression, people should spend a minimum of five hours per month in nature, and that 10 hours per month yields even more positive results on emotional stability.


While the work in Finland applies primarily to educated middle class people who are mildly stressed by everyday life, Williams also visited scientists in Scotland who looked at data on nature’s effects on the urban poor. One statistical finding was that death rates were lower for everyone in greener neighborhoods after adjusting for income, and that poor people in non-green neighborhoods fared worse than richer people who also live in non-green neighborhoods. While urban parks helped the poorest people the most, access to them is an obstacle. Williams describes some programs in Glasgow that provide brief forays into urban parks for “bushcraft” adventure and “ecotherapy” activities, but those are small efforts to address the large problem of inequitable access to restorative green resources.

Kelvingrove Park Glasgow (

Toward the end of the book, Williams considers the effects of more sustained immersion in nature within social groups. She joins a river trip in Idaho with female veterans who were experiencing PTSD, some of whom also had severe physical injuries. They traveled downriver 81 miles in six days. While it was just a small group and the results were anecdotal, some of the participants found the experience to be life-changing, giving them confidence to continue to pursue outdoor activities such as cycling, camping, and rock climbing to boost their physical and mental health.


The take-home message Williams gleans from all of the research she reviews is that “Basically, we need hits from a full spectrum of doses of nature.” Think of the recommended exposure to nature like the food pyramid wherein small, daily glimpses of even a single tree outside a window provide the biggest dosage at the base of the pyramid, to occasional walks in a park and slightly longer excursions for 5-10 hours a month forming the middle of the pyramid, and finally with multi-day getaways into the wild on a yearly or biyearly basis at the tip of the pyramid.

 The Author’s Style

One thing that is especially valuable about the book is that it provides subtle insights into the often messy process of doing science, especially of imagining, planning, doing, and refining research projects. For instance, Williams reports the discussions among a group of neuroscientists whom she joined on a hiking retreat in southern Utah as they generated ideas for new studies, and then followed up with one of them to learn about the promising preliminary results of a project whose design he had hatched at the retreat.


She also reports on some of the many challenges involved in devising effective scientific experiments. For instance, while trying out a laboratory test of a virtual reality video in which she was supposed to experience a relaxing tropical island including a dip underwater and viewing a rainbow and a waterfall, she got motion sick. The researcher admitted that the system needed some tweaking. In another university basement laboratory she questioned some of the judgments a prototype phone app was making about the therapeutic potential of different nature scenes, the researcher commented “I’m not saying it’s perfect.” Another scientist admitted that the technology he used for a study of people walking on a treadmill while watching nature videos was so loud and cumbersome that the whole study was “a bit of a bust.” Thus is the trial and error process of doing science.

In addition to relaying first-hand reports of science-in-the-making, Williams also personalizes the book throughout with details of her own background and current life—growing up in an urban apartment building, but taking frequent nature excursions with her father; her father’s later stroke and rehabilitation in a hospital room where a view of trees enhanced his recovery; her move from an outdoor-oriented lifestyle in Boulder, Colorado to a noisy neighborhood near an airport in Washington DC; and how she is acting on the research she summarizes in the book in ways as simple as how and where she takes walks in the city.

Throughout the book Williams accents straight-forward reporting with comments made in a casually trendy linguistic style. For instance, she describes the long, untamed hair of a physicist she interviews by concluding, “Come to think of it, my high school physics teacher had exactly this hairstyle. Must be a thing.” She punctuates the factual statement that in 1858 Frederick Law Olmstead ordered 300,000 trees for planting in Central Park’s 800 acres with the comment that his extravagance was “effectively freaking out his budgetary overlords.” Commenting on the challenges one scientist was having with delivering nature scenes via high-tech videos she says “Perhaps it’s time to admit it people: nature just does the elements better.” After reporting research results showing that walking outdoors can quiet the brain circuitry governing self-wallowing that leads to depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and ill-humor, Williams concludes “The world is bigger than you, nature says. Get over yourself.”


Williams’ voice and style make the book enjoyable to read, but not necessarily easy to absorb its contents—it takes concentrated effort to process the well-researched details of current science that she presents on every page, as well as the background facts that contextualize why the research is important. While this book would be a welcome respite from dry textbooks if it was assigned in a college course, it might not be as appealing a choice for leisure reading in an easy chair by the fire.

Yet the book exposes readers to many facts and ideas that, while not really surprising, are good to know that scientists are documenting. As Williams notes, if we value things like access to parks to promote the well-being of urban dwellers across the socioeconomic spectrum, measurements and data about nature’s benefits are crucial ammunition against the daily assaults that are turning living, leafy green spaces into inanimate, concrete gray ones by the minute. There is hope, as Williams says, that with the right “governing vision” in place such losses can be reversed as they have been in Singapore where the population grew by 2 million between 1986 and 2007, yet green space increased during the same period from 36% to 47% coverage.

Singapore (

Taking the Message Home

One of the joys of dealing in rustic antiques is that you, our customers with whom the rustic aesthetic resonates, are people who feel a kinship with the outdoors and want reminders of it in your indoor lives.

You would likely also be an especially receptive audience to the data this book presents on the benefits of nature immersion. While it is good to know the scientific evidence that is amassing across studies with lots of participants, luckily we can also be our own research subjects and perhaps see the results just as clearly—just try it (for free!) and compare how you feel with and without regular doses of nature.

Just maybe the world would abound with healthier, less stressed, and more creative people if we all heeded the advice that Williams quotes from American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892):

“To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice—Up! The world (perhaps you now look upon it with pallid and disgusted eyes) is full of zest and beauty for you if you approach it in the right spirit! Out in the morning!”