Totem Pole

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Specimen Count
1
FROM CARD: "54297-54300. 54298 - H. 30 FT. ELEVATOR LOBBY. FLOOR 1. FROM CARD: "AFTER AN EXTENSIVE SURVEY OF THE TOTEM POLES IN THE USNM COLLECTIONS, IT SEEMS LIKELY THAT THIS SPECIMEN IS ONE OF THE TWO SHORTER POLES PRESENTLY ERECTED IN THE OLD ART HALL. THIS SPECIMEN IS, THEN, ESSENTIALLY IN AGREEMENT WITH THE CATALOG BOOK. *THE SPECIMEN WAS PROBABLY COLLECTED FOR THE PHILADELPHIA EXPOSITION OF 1876, ALTHOUGH THIS CANNOT BE VERIFIED TO DATE. THE ORIGINAL (1882) ATTRIBUTION OF HAIDA HAS NOT BEEN CONTESTED TO DATE. 6/6/68 GP. *A SUBSEQUENT EXAMINATION OF PHILADELPHIA EXPOSITION PHOTOS POSSIBLY REVEALS A PORTION OF THE BASE OF THIS SPECIMEN.GP. PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THIS TOTEM POLE IN SECTIONS. NEG. NO. MNH 2337; 2338; 2346; 2347; 2349. 11-6-75. LOANED TO 1876 - CENTENNIAL EXHIBIT, A&I.-LEFT POLE. LOAN RETURNED SEP 1990. 1990-THIS POLE ON EXHIBIT IN NHB CONSTITUTION AVE. LOBBY STAIRWELL-LEFT POLE. 1991 - EXHIBIT LABEL IDENTIFIES POLE AS RED CEDAR (THUJA PLICATA), TSIMSHIAN, CARVED AT K'SAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA, COMMISSIONED FOR 1876 PHILADELPHIA EXPOSITION. CARVINGS ARE IDENTIFIED AS (FROM TOP): POSSIBLE WOLF; UNKNOWN; BEAR MOTHER WITH CUB; BEAR MOTHER WITH CUB. AS OF 1994 THIS HAS BEEN RELABELLED AS HAIDA IN EXHIBIT LABEL.
From 2009 exhibit labels: Pole is identified as carved from Western red cedar (Thuja plicata). Haida totem pole, carved at Kasaan, Alaska. This pole was commissioned in 1876 [sic, should be 1875] for the Philadelphia Exposition. Crests, from top: Possible wolf, unknown, Bear Mother with cub, Bear Mother with cub. A separate label for the pole tells the story of the Bear Mother, and identifies the lowest crest on the pole again as a crest of Bear Mother holding one of her cubs. It also identifies the pole as carved at Kasaan, Alaska in 1875; commissioned for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. "Story of Bear Mother. Bear spirits captured a young girl gathering berries. After turning her into a bear, they forced her to marry one. She gave birth to twin cubs - half human, half bear. The girl's brothers rescued her by killing the bear husband. Before dying, he taught his wife ritual songs. Bear Mother's children and brothers became skilled bear hunters. They and their descendants always sang ritual songs over bears they killed."
See the letter in the Smithsonian Institution Archives from James G. Swan to Spencer Baird, written at Port Townsend, Washington Territory, and dated November 5, 1875, where Swan notes: "Another [totem pole] has been carved expressly for me at Kazaan [Kasaan], Alaska and will be brought here by the Steamer to arrive Dec. 1st."
Illus. Fig. 4.33, p. 208, and discussed p. 206-208 of Wright, Robin Kathleen. 2001. Northern Haida master carvers. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Wright identifies as "Pole commissioned by James G. Swan through Charles Baronovich for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876 ... possibly was carved by Dwight Wallace." [Dwight Wallace (gid k'waajuss) of Klinkwan.] See pp. 121 - 126 in Jonaitis, Aldona, and Aaron Glass. 2010. The totem pole: an intercultural history. Seattle: University of Washington Press. See especially "The Swan Pole" by Robin Wright, on pp. 124 - 125. Wright notes "The first known person to commission a full-size pole for an outside audience was James G. Swan, on his Centennial Exposition collecting trip to Alaska in 1875. Having failed to purchase an existing pole on his trip [Swan] wrote a letter on July 15 [1875] to the trader Charles Baranovich, who had a store at Karla Bay that he had visited near the village of Kasaan .... In the letter, Swan ordered a new pole to be carved and sent to him at Port Townsend. ... It tells the story of Ku.l qe, who had an encounter with land otters. This is the same story recorded on a pole carved by Dwight Wallace for Kusqwa'i, John Wallace's mother's brother, that once stood in the village of Sukkwan. ... It is likely, given both the story and the similarity in carving styles, that Dwight Wallace was the carver commissioned by Baranovich to carve the pole for Swan. ... His son, John Wallace, would have been about fifteen years old at the time of this commission, and may have assisted his father. John Wallace also carved a copy of this pole in 1941 for Mud Bight Park north of Ketchikan...."
This pole appears to be the one on the left in engraving shown on p. 100 and captioned "The Indian Department, in the United States Government Building", in Norton, Frank H., and Frank Leslie. 1877. Frank Leslie's historical register of the United States Centennial Exposition, 1876. Embellished with nearly eight hundred illustrations drawn expressly for this work by the most eminent artists in America. Including illustrations and descriptions of all previous International exhibitions. New York: Frank Leslie's Pub. House. The pole or house post on the right in the same engraving appears to be E54301. The Library of Congress has a copy of this engraving and a thumbnail image is shown on their website here: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005689180/ .
A photo of this pole on display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Photo ID 90-7265, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 61, Folder: 5, https://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_sic_8250 . Pole partially visible in back left of photo.
Record Last Modified
29 Mar 2018
Topic
Ethnology
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Donor Name
Accession Number Unknown
Collector
James G. Swan
Height
122cm
Depth
91cm
Width
9m
Height
9m
See more items in
Anthropology
Place
Prince Of Wales Island / Kasaan, Alexander Archipelago, Alaska, United States, North America
Object Type
Totem Pole
Accession Number
000000
USNM Number
E54298-0
Culture
Haida
: Kaigani