If these axe heads could talk...

Object of the Month: 01/2008

What is it?:

Fur trade axe head and felling axe head


Age: 1700s and 1800s
Made by:

French and Americans


Where was it collected:

Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota and Lake Pokegama, Minnesota


What is it made of?:

Metal


Accession #: 61-2093 and 61-2094

Axe heads
Axe headsCourtesy SMM

...they could tell us of the people who helped build Minnesota. We don't know their exact stories, but they might sound something like this:

Autumn, 1750. A crew of French fur traders are on their way to their trading post. They will spend the winter with the Ojibwe, bartering iron and wool for pelts of fox, mink and especially beaver. They make camp on the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs. Each man pulls a small hand axe from his deerskin sack. They chop firewood, build tents, slice venison for the evening meal. But when they head out in the morning, they leave one of the versatile axes behind—a discovery not made until after 16 hours of paddling. Much cursing ensues.

Autumn, 1850. Another axe rises above the shore of nearby Lake Pokegama. Heavier, broader, wrapped around a long handle, it slices through the crisp morning air and sinks into the base of a white pine. An American lumberjack hurries to fell one more tree before lunch. As he raises the axe for another swing, the axe head flies off the handle, landing in the lake. Much cursing ensues.