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Haida pipe collected from the Tahltan
ca. 1820–1830
British Columbia, Canada
Wood, ivory, pitch, metal
32 x 10 x 4 cm
Collected by Lt. George Thornton Emmons

This pipe is made of wood, ivory, and baleen, but it’s really part of the Haida argillite pipe-carving tradition. The vast majority of these pipes, carved from the black shale known as argillite, were made to sell as souvenirs to the sailors on the whaling ships who visited Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) during the first half of the 19th century. The European-style floral and classical motifs which appear on ships of the time presumably served as inspiration for the carver of this pipe. The miniature ship’s cabin (with a tiny figure inside?) pays homage to the ship’s captain. The figure riding the prow suggests a figurehead depicting a pale-skinned “Boston man,” the Haida expression for the American strangers who came to trade with them.

—Mary Jane Lenz, NMAI

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