Keech paddles are well known to collectors of rustic accessories. They are appreciated for their finely-detailed, painted scenes, as well as for the delicate quality of each carved paddle. They date from 1890 to 1920 and can turn up anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, since they traveled home with far-flung vacationers who had visited upstate New York.
The maker of these paddles was Alpheus E. Keech (1855-1926) who lived most of his life near the St. Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands region of northern New York. He descended from a long line of men whose lives centered around water navigation; he was even named after a ship captain uncle who died in a wreck on Lake Erie.
When he was 30 years old, while still making a living as a carpenter in the family’s boat-building business, Alpheus began focusing his talents as an artist. In addition to producing large paintings of steamships, sailboats, and landscapes, he established a studio (pictured below) to make and sell small souvenirs, the most popular of which were his paint-decorated model canoe paddles. Keep Reading