The Presentation Style Pipe Tomahawk of Captain Meriwether Lewis (1774 -1809)
The Lewis tomahawk is the only surviving weapon that can reliably identified as belonging to any member of the Corps of Discovery other than a long rifle that belonged to William Clark. Clarkâ€™s rifle was not carried up the Missouri.
Cowanâ€™s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk “Captain Lewis is brave, prudent, habituated to the woods, & familiar with Indian manners & character” (Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Washington, February 28, 1803) Cowan’s is pleased to offer the presentation style tomahawk of Captain Meriwether Lewis, military officer, political figure, and, along with William Clark, one of co-leaders of the Corps of Discovery and their expedition up the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean (1804-1806). The Lewis and Clark expedition is heralded as one of the greatest explorations in history, and laid the groundwork for the opening of the American West. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that this tomahawk was carried by Lewis on the trip. Its history after the trip is indisputable: this was the tomahawk that was with Lewis at the time of his tragic death in 1809. It has been in the hands of his family since then, except for a brief period when it was part of major traveling exhibit mounted by the Missouri Historical Society for the celebration of the bicentennial of the expedition. In September, 1809, after learning of a dispute with the War Department over some bills he had submitted for reimbursement, Lewis left his post as Governor of the Louisiana Territory to travel to Washington. Leaving St. Louis, he began a trip that he intended would take him to New Orleans and then via the ocean to the Capital to resolve the disagreement. When he arrived at Fort Pickering (l near present-day Memphis), Tennessee, Lewis was seriously ill. After recuperating for ten days, he abandoned his original plans, and took an overland route, following the Natchez Trace. Lewis was accompanied on the Tennessee leg of the journey by Major James Neelly, the Indian Agent to the Chickasaw Nation. The party left the fort on September 26, en route to Nashville, with an assistant and two horses carrying Lewis’ papers and other personal possessions. On the morning of October 11th Lewis and Neelly woke to find that two of their horses had wandered off during the night. Lewis went on, agreeing to stop at the first inn he encountered, and to wait for Neelly to catch up. About sunset, Lewis arrived at Grinders Stand, an inn on the Trace about 70 miles southwest of Nashville. Sometime during the night, two pistol shots rang out from Lewis’ room. At the time, most believed that Lewis took his own life; later, conspiracy theorists posited that he was murdered. A more recent — and more plausible — explanation suggests that Lewis death was accidental, brought on by the deleterious effects of end stage malaria. Neelly arrived at Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Captain Meriwether Lewis by Charles William Peale, 1807
Grinder’s Stand a few hours after Lewis died. A week later, at the small army depot near Nashville, Neely wrote to Thomas Jefferson describing the entire account. Neelly’s report provides the first recorded mention of the Meriwether Lewis tomahawk. Writing to Jefferson on October 18th, Neelly described the contents of Lewis’ trunks. In addition to his various articles of clothing and personal papers, Neelly noted “I have also in my Care his Rifle, silver watch, Brace of Pistols, dirk and tomahawk….” (Jackson, 1978:468). November 23rd — still in Nashville — the contents of the trunk were more carefully inventoried — this time with annotations regarding their ownership, and ultimate disposition. In addition to property to be delivered to Jefferson, President James Madison (noted at “P.U.S.”), William Clark, and the War Department, various other items were enumerated. Lewis’ personal property was to be delivered to a cousin, William Meriwether for ultimate conveyance to Lewis’ mother and sole heir, Lucy Marks. Among these personal items was noted One Tomahawk — handsomely moun[te]d (Jackson 1978: 470). Sometime after January 5, 1810 Lewis’ personal property — including, presumably, the tomahawk was returned to Virginia. It has not left the family since. 3
Up The Missouri: For Diplomacy and Trade “The river Missouri, & the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is rendered desirable….It is understood that the country is inhabited by numerous tribes…. An intelligent officer with ten or Twelve chosen men…might explore the whole line, even to the Western ocean, have conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse… and return with the information acquired in the course of two summers. (Thomas Jefferson’s message to Congress, January 18, 1803) Meriwether Lewis knew where he was going and what was expected of him when he accepted Thomas Jefferson’s proposal to lead the Corps of Discovery. In his June 20, 1803 letter providing instructions for Lewis, the president was quite explicit: Lewis would encounter numerous Native nations, and he was to record as much information about these groups as possible. Jefferson was interested in the unexplored Louisiana Territory but even more so the potential for commerce between the Indian Nations of the west. After
laying out the specific cultural categories that should be collected, Jefferson wrote: “In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly and conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your journey, satisfy them of it’s peaceable and commercial dispositions of the U.S.[,] of our wish to be neighborly, friendly and useful to them…” (Jackson 1978: 68-76). As a military man posted on the frontier of America in the late 18th century, Meriwether Lewis knew importance of the presentation style pipe tomahawk as a symbol of diplomacy. In 1795, near the beginning of his professional service in the military, he was an eye-witness to the Treaty at Greenville where assembled tribes of the Northwest Territory ceded great swaths of what is today the American Midwest, and where pipe tomahawks were not only smoked, but given away as gifts. From Greenville, Lewis went on to serve at various far-flung posts in the Northwest Territory, including Detroit, Pittsburgh, Fort Washington, Fort Wayne, and, in Tennessee at Fort Pickering. Much of this time was administrative; he carried dispatches between posts, served as a recruiter, and in 1799 was appointed a Lieutenant and regimental paymaster. At each of these postings he could have observed men with silver inlaid tomahawks that were not mere weapons, but symbols of personal status. These experiences would serve Lewis well on the trip up the Missouri. From the outset diplomacy was part of the mission. Lewis was well aware of the manners and customs of Eastern North American Indian tribes, and the importance of cementing relationships with the smoking of tobacco and the use of the pipe. A silver inlaid pipe tomahawk would have been a highly visible symbol of his status and authority and the perfect tool for diplomacy.
George Catlin; River Bluffs, 1320 Miles Above St. Louis, 1832 Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Presentation Style Pipe Tomahawks as Symbols of Status and Diplomacy
Alexander Gardner Imperial Albumen Photograph of a Treaty Delegation, Commissioner Bogy in Council with Sacs, Fox and Kansa February 23,1867; (note the presentation style tomahawks)
Lewis’ pipe tomahawk is typical of an “English” style first used in eastern North America as early as the late 17th century, and in common usage by around 1750 (Peterson (1971:33). From the beginning, pipe tomahawks were recognized as superior items of trade by both Europeans and American Indians. They are often enumerated in trade and treaty lists in the East, valued from 3 shillings for a “simple” hatchet to as much as 12 shillings for a fine example (Ibid). The pipe tomahawk was an ingenious invention. It combined a sharp blade valuable for everyday use, as well as warfare, with a pipe that could be used in important social contexts. Traditionally, American Indians did not smoke tobacco recreationally. Tobacco was seen as a gift from the world powers and its burning smoke a means by which peoples on earth could communicate with otherworldly beings. Tobacco was universally used in major and many minor ceremonies, including encounters with neighboring groups (West 1934). Combining a pipe with a tomahawk was the perfect means by which tobacco could be used to seal important relationships and send messages to both living and supernatural powers.
silver, and exhibiting superior craftsmanship, this style also reflected the social status and standing of their owners. In a seminal paper Wobst (1977) has suggested that among many non-western groups highly visible headgear, costumes and other regalia emit powerful messages about the status, wealth, and identity of the owner. In social situations rife with uncertainty — such as an initial encounter between potential enemies — these sorts of symbols make social intercourse between strangers more predictable by helping to define roles. While most tomahawks were simple utilitarian items, a silver inlaid tomahawk served to immediately identify its owner as someone of a different — and potentially important — social status.
Over time, the simple pipe tomahawk of the late 16th and early 17th centuries evolved. As their symbolic importance grew, the “presentation style” emerged. Often inlaid with Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Tomahawks on the Lewis and Clark Expedition Lewis was also keenly aware of the value of the pipe tomahawk as a utilitarian item and for trade. This knowledge is reflected in the list of supplies Lewis ordered for the Corps of Discovery (Jackson 1978:69-75). Two types of pipe tomahawks are specifically noted in the list: Under “Arms and Accouterments” for the expedition members, “24 pipe tomahawks” are recorded, and for “Indian Presents” 36 Pipe Tomahawks — at H[arpers] F[erry] though only 12 were actually purchased. No original example survives of either these varieties of tomahawks, so it is impossible to determine what differences separated the two types. Neither Lewis nor Clark mention this distinction in the Journals. The Journals indicate that co-expedition leader William Clark carried with him a distinctive brass tomahawk (see Lewis’ journal entry for Friday, April 11, 1806). This fancy tomahawk proved irresistible to at least some Indians; at one point it was stolen and Clark spent several days trying to recover it, suggesting Clark valued it highly.
Later, Lewis described an exchange that was made between Clark and a prominent Chief on the Columbia River. After presenting a small peace medal to a local chief, Lewis noted that the chief: “…. had in his possession a very good pipe tomahawk[emphasis added by the present writer]….he was pleased with the tomahawk of Capt. C. in consequence of it’s having a brass bowl and Capt. C. gratified him by an exchange. “ (see Clark’s journal entry for June 8, 1806). These entries are important for they suggest that Clark carried a stylish tomahawk made of brass. Since brass cannot be welded or easily annealed to steel, Clark could not have carried a tomahawk with only a brass bowl; either the entire head would have been cast in this metal, or partially cast in brass and fitted with a dovetailed-in steel blade. In the East, similar cast brass tomahawks were prized for their symbolic value (see Peterson 1971; Hartzler and Knowles 1995). If Clark carried such a presentation style tomahawk, it is logical that Lewis might have brought along his personal tomahawk.
The travelers meeting with Minnetaree Indians near Fort Clark, ca 1833, by Karl Bodmer. (Not the tomahawk carried by the figure at the far right. It is suspended in a leather “frog” at the base of the shoulder strap. The same device was probably employed by Lewis and the other Corps of Discovery members. Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
When and Where Did Lewis Acquire the Tomahawk? Unfortunately the tomahawk Lewis carried on the expedition, is not mentioned anywhere in the Journals or in any of Lewis’ surviving correspondence before or after the trip; the historical record is silent regarding the tomahawk until after Lewis’ death in 1809. According to the descendants of Mary Garland (Marks) Moore, Thomas Jefferson commissioned three presentation pipes and gave one of these to Lewis. This story is probably apocryphal. There is no mention of the pipe tomahawk in any of Jefferson’s writings, and for that matter, the word “tomahawk” turns up no matches in a search of Jefferson’s papers online . It is not known, for example, when or where Lewis acquired the tomahawk. As an up-and-coming staff officer, Lewis certainly could have owned the tomahawk before 1803 when the Corps of Discovery began their journey up the Missouri. By this date Lewis already knew of its symbolic value from his time in the Army. Furthermore, if Lewis didn’t own the tomahawk before the expedition, once Jefferson’s proposal was accepted, he would have seen the necessity for a such a “presentation style ” tomahawk, and ordered it specifically for the trip. If Lewis ordered the tomahawk expressly to carry on the trip, he might have done so when he was in Philadelphia, Lancaster, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania preparing for the expedition in the spring and summer of 1803. In the lead-up to the expedition, he was repeatedly in Philadelphia, spent two and a half weeks in Lancaster studying surveying techniques, and was in Pittsburgh for more than a month waiting for boats to be built to descend the Ohio (Danisi and Jackson 2009:6370). There were master gunsmiths who could have made the pipe tomahawk in each of these cities, but especially so in Philadelphia and Lancaster. The quality and craftsmanship exhibited in the Lewis tomahawk is exceptional. No mere frontier rifle maker or armorer would have had the skills and ability to produce it. Like most tomahawks, it is unsigned, and thus virtually impossible to identify the maker. The silver inlays on both the haft as well as the iron blade were used by many makers (see Hartzler and Knowles 1995:109-164; Peterson 1971). Recently Dresslar and Jaeger (2009:43) have suggested that the Lewis tomahawk was made by John Small, a gunsmith in Vincennes, Indiana Territory. There is nothing, however, to separate it from similar tomahawks made elsewhere, and it lacks a number of Small’s distinctive traits. Could Lewis have purchased the tomahawk after the expedition when he was the Governor of the new Louisiana Territory? Possibly, though in his capacity as governor, he would have had little use for it as a symbol of diplomacy or status. Lewis did assist Clark at the signing of the Osage Treaty at St. Louis in November, 1808, and attended other Indian councils, but by and large his duties were focused on the administration of the Territory. Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Captain Meriwether Lewis by Charles B.J.F de Saint Memin, ca 1801
During his period as Territorial Governor Lewis maintained an account book for his expenses for 1807-1809 (Danisi 2012: Appendix F). Though it is clear that he did not record every expense, Lewis did note the purchase of a “pair of pistols from a Mr. Boot” on May 20, 1807. Presumably, had he purchased an expensive tomahawk during this period, a similar entry would appear in his account book. It is also possible (though in this researcher’s opinion) unlikely, that the tomahawk was presented to Lewis after the trip. Lewis set out from St. Louis to Washington on October 21, made a detour to the Cumberland Gap in November, arriving at his family home in Charlottesville at the beginning of December, 1806. He finally arrived in Washington on December 29th, three months after leaving St. Louis. En route from St. Louis he was feted in every town he passed through; perhaps the tomahawk was given as a gift at one of these events. At this early date there were few published newspapers outside of major towns and cities. St. Louis, for example had no printed newspaper to announce the return, yet a Frankfort, Kentucky paper received a letter from a St. Louis citizen and published news of the arrival of the Corps on October 4. The few printed and manuscript accounts of these events describe much celebratory toasting but there is no mention of any gifts being given (Houchins 2003:866-83). In the absence of concrete evidence otherwise, it is this cataloger’s opinion that Lewis owned the tomahawk before the expedition, and probably carried it up the Missouri where it served as a status symbol and tool of diplomacy. 7
History of the Tomahawk After Lewis’ Death “I also have in my Care his Rifle, silver watch, Brace of Pistols, dirk and tomahawk” (Captain James Neelly, writing to Thomas Jefferson, October 18th, 1809 informing him of Lewis’ death.) Gilman (2003:347-351) has thoroughly documented the history and chain of custody of Lewis’ possessions, including the present pipe tomahawk. When Lewis’ mother, Lucy, received the trunks containing her son’s personal possessions, she was living at the ancestral home, “Locust Hill,” in Virginia after the death of her second husband, John Marks (17401791). In addition to two surviving children from her first marriage to Thomas Meriwether (Jane (1770-1845) and Reuben (1777-1844), her union with John Marks produced two offspring — John Hasting Marks (1785-1822) and Mary Garland Marks (1788-1864). At Lucy’s death in 1837 she left a detailed will enumerating the transfer of various types of property to her children. No mention of the tomahawk was made, probably because it had already been gifted to Meriwether’s half-sister, Mary Garland Marks. According to family tradition, Mary was the “great pet” of her older half-brother, and because of this relationship, the tomahawk passed to Mary. Though there is no extant record of this gift other than the oral tradition of her direct descendants, the close relationship is commemorated on the blade of the tomahawk: along with Lewis’ initials, the tomahawk blade is also engraved (in a different hand) with the initials “MGM.” Mary Garland Marks married William Harvey Moore (17871866) and moved to Coosa County, Alabama. Presumably she took Lewis’ tomahawk with her when she married. Except for brief periods when the tomahawk was publicly exhibited, it has remained in Alabama. Together, Mary and William Moore had 12 children. By tradition, Mary Garland (Marks) Moore gave the tomahawk to her son, Dr. Merriwether Gaines Moore (1818-1890) of Wetumpka, Alabama. At Dr. Meriwether Gaines Moore’s death, the tomahawk passed to Dr. Elisha Meriwether Moore (1886-1951). At the death of Elisha Meriwether Moore, the tomahawk passed to his daughter, Eula Caroline Moore Dickson (19192011), and the to the present descendants.
Captain Meriwether Lewis in Shoshone Regalia, 1807, painted by Charles B.J.F de Saint Memin
Line of Descent: Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) Lucy Lewis Marks (1752-1837) mother of Meriwether Lewis and Mary Marks Mary Marks Moore (1788-1864) half sister of Meriwether Lewis Dr. Meriwether Gaines Moore (1818-1890) son of Mary Marks Moore Dr. Elisha Meriwether Moore (1886-1951) grandson of Meriwether Gaines Moore Eula Caroline Moore (1919-2011) daughter of Elisha Meriwether Moore Thence by descent to the present owners
Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Physical Description of the Lewis Tomahawk Description: Overall length, 19.5” with a forged steel head 8 3/8ths overall height, with a tall and narrow 1.75” tall saddleshaped style pipe bowl joined to the eye by a finely crafted “stepped” device; the eye is tear-drop shaped; the flat of the blade inlaid with two isosceles-shaped insets of silver on each side near its juncture with the eye. In addition to these insets the blade also features a prominent oval inlay, finely engraved with the initials “ML” (Meriwether Lewis) and rimmed by a series of fine, punched devices interspersed with rock-stamping. On the opposite flat, there is another smaller, triangular silver inset, engraved in a different hand and style with the initials “MGM”Mary Garland Marks); it too is bordered with a similar series of small circular touches and rocker stamping. The handle of the tomahawk is crafted of strongly figured maple, pierced to allow for the drawing of smoke. The stem is “teardrop” in shape to allow for the insertion of the head, with two areas removed to along the underside to allow for added decoration. The mouthpiece is silver, and like the devices on the flat of the blade, is bordered on both edges with the same punch and rocker stamp design. The haft is inset with numerous coin silver devices, each affixed to the wood with a series of fine
Cowan’s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
silver pins. These devices include two bands, flanked at the mid-point with two opposing isosceles triangles; two small and one large diamond-shaped devices, each decorated with a finely crafted pinwheel. The top edge of the haft is further decorated with four distinctive open worked silver devices; the bottom edge is embellished with long, arrow-shaped device, and a rectangular shape terminating at each end in a lobed device. All inlays are edged with rocker stamped designs, and the larger pieces are finished with a series of deeply incised straight lines forming a distinctive pyramidal shape. These devices are tied together on three sides with a sinuous inlaid silver wire, terminating just below the poll of with a five-pointed silver star Condition: Overall excellent, with the underside of the haft exhibiting minor wear and caused by repeated slippage of the head. The underside of the haft is worn on various high points, presumably the result of repeated handling. The interior of the bowl of the pipe exhibits a medium deposit of “caked” burned tobacco. This suggests that the pipe was repeatedly smoked, and the sugars in the burning tobacco had been allowed to form a carbonized deposit on the bowl in order to mellow the smoke.
Cowanâ€™s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Cowanâ€™s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Cowanâ€™s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
Exhibition History Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition Missouri History Museum St. Louis, Missouri, January-August, 2004
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Philadelphia, November, 2004-March, 2005
Denver Museum of Nature and Science Denver, May-September, 2005
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C. May-September 2006
Oregon History Center Portland, November 2005-March 2006
References Cited Danisi, Thomas C. 2012 Uncovering the Truth About Meriwether Lewis. Prometheus Books. Danisi, Thomas C. and John C. Jackson 2009 Meriwether Lewis. Prometheus Books. Dresslar, Jim and Jeff Jaeger 2009 John Small of Vincennes. Gunsmith on the Western Frontier. Indianapolis. R.E. Davis and Company Gilman, Carolyn 2004 Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide. Smithsonian Books. Hartzler, Daniel D. and James A. Knowles 1995 Indian Tomahawks and Frontiersmen Belt Axes. Privately Printed. Jackson, Donald Dean (editor) 1978 Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. University of Illinois Press. Peterson, Harold L. 1971 American Indian Tomahawks. Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation, Vol. XIX. Revised edition printed by the Museum of the American Indian Foundation. West, George A. 1937 Tobacco, Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Indians. Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Volume 17(1-2). Winfield, Betty Houchins 2003 The Press Response to the Corps of Discovery: The Making of Heroes in an Egalitarian Age. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 80(4): 866-83. Wobst, Martin 1977 Stylistic Behavior and Information Exchange. In Papers for the Director: Research in Honor of James B. Griffin, edited by Charles E. Cleland. Anthropological Papers No 61, pp 317-42. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Cowanâ€™s Auctions | The Meriwether Lewis Tomahawk
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