Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: NC, U.S.A.
Native American spike tomahawk, fur trade pole axes and skinning knives
Although my primary collecting has always been maritime, I became fascinated with spike tomahawks when I learned that they were contemporary 'cousins' of the boarding ax. Here is one I just picked up recently and it may surprise some that they were not all huge beasties! This rather petite example is actually more the classic size, with an 11" haft, head measures approx 10" with the cutting edge at 1 1/4" inch. This cast steel head probably dates ca. 1825-50. I believe the wood haft is contemporary to the piece.
Some of the amazing facts about spike tomahawks; they predate the later (and more recognized pipe tomahawks), they were first introduced in the early 18th century and continued to be traded all the way up to the Indian Wars of the 1880's, most of the early ones were iron with steel bit inserts for the edge and sometimes the tip, they were primarily used as weapons but could also be used as tools to skin game, puncture leather, cut bark into strips, etc. Later steel examples were made by trip hammer forgings as early as 1800. Tool companies actually made these in catalogs and sold them to the Indians! The Underhill Tool Company made a 'hawk that often ended up in native hands. After later troubles and the Little Big Horn, the government looked down on the tool companies making these for 'the enemy' and discouraged it. The companies were too greedy to stop the trade and simply kept making them, but without their company logo!!