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    c. 1850

    maple wood, hand-forged steel

    Height: 27 inches

    Gunstock clubs - so called because they resemble a European gunstock - were employed in tribal warfare from the region of the Upper Great Lakes west to the Missouri River. A flint or horn spike might be inserted at the striking corner, replaced by a metal knife blade after their introduction by the fur traders. Printed on the blade of this club we read CAST STEEL, JOHN ALGOR, indicating the producer of this knife blade. The end of the handle is perforated, presumably serving to attach a wristband or a decorative pendant. The decorative carvings along the upper edge of this club are reminiscent of the chip carving on older clubs from Minnesota, and so are the bird figures.

    Frequently engraved on the flat handle are images of mythical beings, human figures of slain enemies, and tally marks referring to specific war deeds. Mythical symbolism is most explicit on clubs originating from tribal organizations divided into dualistic divisions, associated with either sky or underworld. Gunstock clubs tend to picture images related to spiritual powers of the sky realm, such as the birds on this club. They are identified as thunderbirds by the lightning flashing from their heads.
    The sun or star-like design is a sky symbol by itself, but placed behind the metal blade on several similar clubs the design may also become the eye of a raptorial bird. It seems that the native owner of this club wished to proclaim the thunder bird either as his personal guardian spirit or as the symbol of his clan. Remarkable and unique is the identical decoration on both sides of this club.

    After the 1830s and the adoption of fire arms the popularity of these clubs as weapons diminished, but they remained important as ceremonial batons carried by chiefs and respected war veterans, noticeable in several early portraits. Most likely this club is of Minnesota Sioux origin in the second half of the nineteenth century. Despite some minor damage it is a fine example of the skill in woodcarving among these people.

    Theo Brasser
    March 2015

    Condition Report*: In overall very good condition. Three minor chips to wood. Surface with cracks around blade. With old blade replacement. Lightly varnished.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    15th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,613

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