Totem Pole

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Topic
Ethnology
Data Source
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
Specimen Count
1
Notes
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. 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.]
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 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 1975; 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."
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/ .
Record Last Modified
1 Dec 2014
Object Type
Totem Pole
Accession Number
000000
USNM Number
E54298-0
Culture
Haida