Large-scale Birch Bark Canoe Model


Native American birch bark canoe models that were made in the 1800s to early 1900s were accurate replicas of a tribe’s full-size birch bark canoes.  The scholarly book titled The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America by Edwin Tappan Adney and Howard I. Chapelle (Smithsonian Institution, 1964) has numerous detailed drawings and descriptions of traditional birch bark canoes and their construction.  The authors document the characteristics of many different tribes’ canoes, which makes it possible to attribute a birch bark canoe model to a particular tribe.


birch bark canoe model


This early 20th century model has the shape and characteristics of an Abnaki canoe. The Abnaki Indians included some Malecites and Penobscots, as well as members of southern and central New England tribes including those in New Hampshire and Vermont.  Eventually this group settled on the St. Francis River in Quebec, so Abnakis were also known as St. Francis Indians.

The various tribes making up the Abnaki group each had its own traditional style of canoes, but by the 1850s when they were living together in settlements along the St. Francis River they produced distinctive canoes that were an amalgam of different tribes’ designs.  Known for their excellent quality, these canoes sold well to sportsmen who used them for hunting and fishing.


Abnaki birch bark canoe

Fisherman and guide in a St. Francis Abnaki canoe (Adney & Chapelle)

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A Design Tool That’s Quick, Easy and … Inadequate



It can sometimes be hard to buy furniture without knowing how it will fit into a room, so I (KH) thought it would be useful to introduce our customers to a quick tool for inserting furniture footprints into a scale drawing of a room.  Huge companies such as Pottery Barn that sell mass-produced furniture online now have tools that let you draw your room dimensions, then insert two-dimensional outlines of their furniture to get a basic idea of how their products might fit your space.  This article reports the initial results of my quest to figure out how Cherry Gallery could adapt such a tool to assist buyers of unique antique furniture.

Fortuitously, we are completing renovations on an old (original portions built circa 1800, with major 1890s additions) house, and are nearly ready to furnish the final room that was gutted and refurbished over the past several months.  This room provides our real-life case study for testing online tools for drawing a floor plan and experimenting with adding furniture to scale.  My two main criteria were that the tool be free (not requiring purchased software), and so friendly that drawing the initial room outline on a computer screen would take no more time than it would to draw it on a piece of graph paper.

That quick-and-easy criterion pretty much ruled out using 3-D design tools, even though there are some good ones available online for free.  When designing our kitchen a few years ago, I was inspired by a 3-D rendering our brother-in-law had made of their kitchen plan using free but powerful modeling software called SketchUp.  I saw his rendering while visiting the completed kitchen in their new house, and was impressed by how well his plan evoked the actual space I was standing in.

Kitchen plan from Sketchup's sample renderings

Kitchen plan from Sketchup’s sample renderings

Deck plan from  Sketchup's sample renderings

Deck plan from Sketchup’s sample renderings

So I diligently set about trying to use SketchUp to transform our mental images of a new kitchen into a snazzy architectural rendering.  Suffice it to say that I flunked my self-taught course in SketchUp, being impatient to produce a product rather than master a process.  I resorted to making a 2-D floor plan on graph paper to give to our cabinet maker who then created elevations.

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