Object photography

View of the artwork on display in 'Shorelines'; Peabody Essex Museum; 2001 through 2004.
View of the artwork on display in 'Shorelines'; Peabody Essex Museum; 2001 through 2004.
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Object description

  • Penobscot Artist
  • Model canoe, 1878
  • Wood, birchbark, plant fiber
  • Maine, Northeastern United States
  • L: 38 1/2 in, W: 7 5/8 in, D: 6 1/2 in (L: 97.8 cm, W: 19.4 cm, D: 16.5 cm)
  • Gift of Mr. Edward S. Moseley, 1979
  • E28528
  • Work attributed to Joe Polis (also known as Jo Polis)
  • Narrative scene etched by scraping the outer layer of birchbark to reveal the lighter, inner layer

This birchbark canoe was made for sale in Old Town, Maine in August, 1878, during the height of the summer season, when tourists bought souvenirs such as this en masse. The exterior of the canoe is decorated with lovely scrolling curve and floral motifs, while the bottom depicts a winter scene with a hunter, a moose, and a clumsy snowshoer.


The inscription on the bottom reads, "Akist 24, 1878, O. T. Me Moose". This can be understood to mean "August 24, 1878, Old Town, Maine, Moose."


This is a birch bark canoe model with two paddles and one fishing spear. There are five thwarts in the canoe, the center one is decoratively carved. The outer surface of the canoe is ornamented with double curve and floral motif designs etched on the bark. There is an etched narrative scene on the bottom of the canoe depicting two men, wearing snow shoes, hunting a moose. One of the men has comedically fallen over. The artist has etched his name in the bottom with the narrative scene. Likely made by Jo Polis, according to scholar Joan Lester.

Exhibition History

  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997
  • Shorelines, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; 2001 through 2004