Pipe Tomahawks

One of the top contenders for the coolest historic artifacts related to American History has to be the pipe tomahawk. Like the Kentucky Rifle, with it’s distinctive patchbox and long rifled barrel, the pipe tomahawk is also distinctly American. I use this claim broadly: United States-American and Native American. And well, Canadian-American. Let’s not leave out the Canadians. And like American Longrifles, they were brought here by the old european powers, seeking to exploit the inhabitants of the new continent. Due to the pipe tomahawk’s use and popularity, it grew into its own and became a unique art form.

The genre of pipe tomahawk is much too large alone to include other tomahawks. So spike tomahawks and miscellaneous tomahawks will have to have their own space somewhere at a later time. And belt axes, hammer poles, war axes, and so on.

We all know the history of tomahawks by now. As I’ve said before in other posts, when the first Jamestown settlers arrived in Virginia, they were shocked to find some of the local inhabitants already in possession of metal axes. They loved them at first site. It became the real gold discovered in Jamestown – at least prior to the discovery of tobacco – along with other European trade goods.

An illustration of pre-Jamestown natives executing Spanish Jesuit Priests in Virginia. Looks like a version of tomahawk or small axe to me.

And thus started a long drama of trade, warfare, manipulation, destruction, and so on. While the pipe tomahawk was primarily a Native American object per se, and intended for the fur trade, they were almost all made by non-natives. American or European blacksmiths and trade companies, as well as their agents and contractors. The first pipe tomahawks were likely invented by enterprising traders circa the turn of the beginning of the 18th Century. Harold L. Peterson wrote that:

When J. Simon engraved the portraits of the “Four Kings of Canada” (they were Iroquois chiefs) who visited London in 1709-1710 with Peter Schuyler, he included what may have been pipe tomahawks with symmetrically flaring blades among their accoutrements, and a similar tomahawk is shown in a posthumous portrait of King Philip which appears in Thomas Church’s Entertaining Passages Relating to Philip’s War published in Boston in 1716.

American Indian Tomahawks, by Harold L. Peterson at pp. 33.

Here are two of the Simon engravings. But they were actually copies of original paintings by Dutch painter John Verelst, who was commissioned by Queen Anne.

Indian Kings: “Etow Oh Koam, King of the River Nation”; and “Tee Yee Ho Ga Row Emperour of the Six Nations” , by J. Simon two from the set of four mezzotints, both first state, printed, published and ‘Sold at ye Rainbow and Dove ye Corner of Ivey Bridge in ye Strand’, London, [1710] 16 ½ x 10 3/8in. (41.9 x 26.2cm.)

Here are the originals below, and if you look closely it’s difficult to tell if the flared-blade tomahawks at their feet are actually pipe tomahawks, or whether they have a spike, or whether they only have a poll. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell. For arguments sake, you don’t see many of the flared blade early tomahawks with a poll. They seem to usually have spikes.

Moreover, we’re assuming that the painter cared all that much about the details of something so insignificant as to be laying on the ground as a prop. The implication is that the painter must have observed a flared-blade tomahawk in their possession. Perhaps there was a pipe hawk; perhaps not. Sadly I can’t add all that much to Peterson’s 1965 speculation.

As for the 1716 publication by Thomas Church, it does indeed look like a pipe on the back of a flared blade hawk, if you look closely. However, it’s my understanding that the engraving was actually made by Paul Revere in the 1770s when he reprinted Church’s book, which by the way, if you can find a copy, is extremely valuable.

In any event, we have to presume the invention of the pipe tomahawk well in advance of the mid 18th century, or at least the end of the French and Indian War, as they started pumping out the cast brass import heads at that time. As Peterson also noted, Henry Timberlake, who was a Virginia Militia officer who fought in the Cherokee War of 1761-62, observed pipe tomahawks already among the Cherokee as of the late 1750s. See Peterson at pp. 33; citing Samuel Cole Williams, ed., Lieut. Henry Timberlake’s Memoirs 1756-1765 (1927; Marietta, Georgia, 1948), 77-78 (though not circa “1750” as Peterson states – more like the very end of the 1750s. Possibly 1760.


Edited on 4/22/20 to add: I found a photo of an excavated pipe tomahawk on the Fletcher site from a Native burial mound in a cemetery in Bay County, Michigan. It measures 6-1/2″ in length with a blade that is 3-5/6 long and 1-7/8″ wide at the bit. The pipe bowl is 1-1/2″ tall and 7/8″ in diameter. The site is circa 1740-1750. This may be the earliest datable pipe hawk found:


Here’s a pic of a pipe hawk head dated 1757, the description for which from the auction house, refers to an apparent 1758 dated piece by the same maker, in one of Jim Johnston’s books:

Forged steel construction, measures 6″ with a 1 – 7/8″ edge. Of early and delicate form, head engraved on both sides with foliate scrolls and borders. Both sides feature moldings and chiseled rope borders. Octagonal faceted bowl with double lines engraved near base and relief band around neck. For a similar example, also dated (1758) and probably by the same maker, see pages 87-88 of “Accouterments” by James R. Johnston. Dated “1757” on left side, vertically between moldings. This may be the earliest dated pipe tomahawk, as Johnston lists the example shown in the book as the earliest known pipe tomahawk, dated 1758.

A couple more accounts from early recorded sources:

Fur trader and blacksmith John Fraser included “4 Dozen Pipe Tomyhawks” valued at 12 shillings each on his inventory of goods lost when the French and their Indian allies siezed his stock after the Battle of Great Meadows in 1754. See “Account of the losses of John Fraser,” August 3, 1756, in Kenneth P. Bailey, ed., The Ohio Company Papers, 1753-1817, Being Primarily Papers of the ‘Suffering Traders’ of Pennsylvania (Arcata, California, 1947), 85. Cited by Shannon, infra.

In September 1756, George Mason sent to George Washington a list of trade goods for the Catawba and Cherokee Indians on Virginia’s frontier that included “pipe Tom-Hawks.” W. W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, 10 vols. (Charlottesville, 1983-95), 3:407, n. 2. Cited by Shannon, infra.

A newspaper article in the February 5, 1756 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette stated that a group of Pennsylvania Militia had been involved with a skirmish with a party of Delaware Indians, killing two, and taking from them scalps, matchcoats, guns, and “a fine Pipe Hatchet.See Shannon, infra.

In an account entry dated October 15, 1757, the British commandant of Fort Augusta charged to Teedyuscung, the notorious Delaware chief, and confidant of Paxinosa, the “Great Shawanoe,” early Shawnee chief, a regimental coat, gold-laced hat, ruffled shirt, and pipe tomahawk. See Shannon, infra.

The possible Paxinosa Rifle, along with an brass trade pipe tomahawk, such as Teedyuscung may have owned.

When Delaware chief White Eyes died in 1778, the inventory of his estate included a pipe tomahawk. See Queequeg’s Tomahawk: A Cultural Biography, 1750-1900, by Timothy J. Shannon, Gettysburg College, at p. 27.

The earliest known reference in the French records to pipe tomahawks being exported for the North American Indian trade do not appear until 1760 (Walsekov, French Colonial, p. 39). The earliest document in the St. Lawrence trade area appears in 1772 when Montreal outfitter Louis Carignant recorded 18 of them in his ledger (MMR, Louis Carignant, n.p.; N.A.C., Microfilm M-853).

Clearly pipe tomahawks were around and popular by the third quarter of the 18th century. About a century later, by the time photography came about, pipe tomahawks were a popular prop in photographs of Native Americans. Here are some originals I found with pipe hawks:

It’s always a good idea to check out Mark Miller’s website, https://www.furtradetomahawks.com, which has many great examples, including many examples of fakes, reproductions, and so on. As he wisely notes:

No website can be a substitute for conscientious research of publications and hands-on study of a wide range of specimens as well as listening to those whom are more experienced . . . . Frankly we know so little about these objects that much of what we do know has to be drawn from clues here and there from records & the objects themselves . . . . With so many reproductions, deliberate fakes and wanna experts out there it makes learning much more challenging. It requires a great sagacity and unbiased, dispassionate judgment based on experience & knowledge of both the originals and the fakes.

– Mark Miller, https://www.furtradetomahawks.com

In fact just looking at that right now, I finally remembered where I had seen one of these things…. I knew I had seen one somewhere, I just couldn’t remember where. I dug this near Byrnside’s Fort. I knew it looked vaguely familiar. I scoured all my books on antique iron, tools, Neumann’s, etc., and still couldn’t find it.

I dug this on property near Byrnside’s Fort.

Then, as I’m writing this, and posted Mark Miller’s link, this is first on his list:

Yep, that’s it. Someone on our Facebook page correctly called it; well several did. Though I thought it was a pickaroon, along with several others. But this is close to identical, whereas most pickaroons look a little bulkier. And don’t you know it, as I also write this, there’s an almost identical piece on Ebay. “Spike Head War Tomahawk.” It may be… but it sure looks like a much more practical item. Emptor Caveat, as they say.

This is in no particular order, and will be ongoing…. so check back often. Please feel free to suggest/provide new submissions /information /revisions, etc. I’m not trying to replace stuff that’s already out there, but just to expand it and supplement.

Brass Trade Pipe Hawks:

These were generally mass-manufactured in Europe for the Indian trade from about 1750 through about 1830. They were cast of brass and then in-letted with steel edges, because of course brass is too soft for a cutting edge. After about 1830, the steel edge was omitted. See American Indian Tomahawks, Harold Peterson, at pp. 34. John Baldwin states in his book that these brass cast hawks may be one of the most historic surviving examples, though thanks to mid 20th century rendezvous enthusiasts, the market is saturated with contemporary replicas/fakes:

This shape and floral design was offered [by] the Chadwick Forge Supply House in Pennsylvania during the 1950-70s. Most of the sales went to buckskinners and rendezvous enthusiasts. It is these mid-century casts that have tarnished the feelings for all brass pipe axes for today’s collector. In truth, cast brass examples may be some of the very first pipe axes. Historical data and provable site finds establish many brass heads as being very desirable.

Tomahawks – Pipe Axes – of the American Frontier, by John Baldwin, 1995, at pp. 68 (emphasis added).

The following is an example of what is termed by Hartzler & Knowles as the “high brass” content casting, generally all decorated with a vine (rather than the “low brass” which is generally a trillium flower – see below).

I don’t recall offhand where I found these, but they’re awesome.

From Hartzler & Knowles’ book on tomahawks:

The new two examples were probable also introduced at the end of the French and Indian War when the British needed an enormous amount of trade goods. Not only for their loyal Indians, but for those who had been French allies. An action on the Oswego River in 1756 probably refers to the brass tomahawks, “Villiers put them to flight and knocked off a great number, and would have knocked lot more were it not for the poor quality of tomahawks furnished by the Kings Store, they took four scalps and killed or wounded in their flight, according to his estimates, about 300 men.” according to the American Journals of Louie Antoine de Bougainville, July 10, 1756.

The new, shiny tomahawks were all very similar and introduced into the northeast. They were made of a yellow colored brass known as high brass that is harder and would pass the strict English guilds. KRA member Rudy Bahr has observed that these small variety of brass tomahawks . . . had an iron dovetailed blade that was first beveled on the edge and laid in the mold . . . .

The second pattern . . . with the center flower, that is often referred to as a trillium, contains a high percent of copper and is reddish in color. This red or low brass is softer and would not have met European guild guidelines. This res flower from the lily family has three petals below each center and is native to North America, so it might have been produced here . . . .

J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Frenchman who resided in this country in 1782, described the British Indians at the Wyoming massacre: Above one hundred of them, decorated with all the dreadful ornaments of plumes and colors of war, with fierce and animated eyes, presented themselves and rushed with impetriousity into the middle area, armed with tomahawks made of brass with an edge of steel.

Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes, by Daniel D. Hartzler and James A. Knowles, at pp. 167-68.

This particular piece, described by Hartzler & Knowles as “high brass,” was found at Pelee Island and collected there by Bill Meyers. It has the original plain haft, with the leather gasket still in place. It shows what may be a couple tally marks. It’s a somewhat sobering reminder of the great likelihood that the vast majority of pipe tomahawk hafts were completely plain. No silver inlays; no quillwork; nothing.

It makes sense that this was found on Pelee Island, which was a well-known crossing point for the Great Lakes Native Americans heading to and from Detroit. This may have belonged to one of the ex-French allies, and left behind on the island for some reason. Hartzler & Knowles gives an opinion on the tribes most likely to have received these (though Mark Miller opines on his site that it’s somewhat absurd to make tribal attributions for such widespread trade goods):

[T]he particular early, fine cast, high brass form. Varies slightly in engraving. Most of the blade centers have seven leaves, but they can have five or four. Ornamentation of the bowls are in two similar forms and molding decoration is sometimes more enhanced. They may be stamped on the front edge just below the eye “G” or “3” and having an iron bit. This pattern has been associated with Huron, Winnebago, Mohawk, Sauk Fox.

Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes, by Daniel D. Hartzler and James A. Knowles, at pp. 175 (emphasis added).

This also belonged thereafter to Bill Guthman and has a full color page dedicated to it in his estate auction catalog from 2006. Thereafter it was in the Gordon Barlow collection, before being acquired by us. I’d love to one day return with it to Pelee Island. But it’s not going to be easy since it’s technically Canada, and it’s difficult to get to. I like a challenge though….

A couple more examples of the “high brass” English import:

This one sold at Sotheby’s in 2012 for $9,375.00. It has to be a replacement haft, though they didn’t mention the age of it:

Pipe Tomahawk composed of a wood haft of oval section, decorated near the bone mouthpiece with a pair of diamond-shaped plaques and wire-filigree decoration, surmounted by a brass-cast head with carinated bowl and expanding blade.  length 21 1/2 in. Collection of Herbert G. Wellington https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/american-indian-n08861/lot.52.html?locale=en

A brass vine pattern pipe tomahawk head recovered by divers in the St. Lawrence River at the site of a British shipwreck, circa 1777, at the site of Fort Haldimand:

Contrast that with a “low brass” trillium flower piece, which actually looks like a finer brass, as it appears today. But note the obviously soft smashed pipe bowl. This original example below, along with its smashed bowl, was pictured in the Hartzler & Knowles book:

[T]he particular early cast, low brass form. The shape and decoration is not altered. The blade has a center trillium flower and it has an iron bit. This model has been attributed to Iroquois, Miami, and Massachusetts.

Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes, by Daniel D. Hartzler and James A. Knowles, at pp. 176.
The “high brass” vine pattern on the left, and the “low brass” trillium pattern on the right, as discussed in Hartzler & Knowles’ book.

This piece was acquired by us from Walter O’Connor. The awesome contemporary haft on it was made by Carl Pippert.

Spontoon Pipe Hawks:

“Spontoon” style pipe tomahawks are perhaps the earliest style of pipe hawk. Allen Gutchess, the curator of the Fort Pitt Museum, took one look at this ground find relic and stated that was perhaps the earliest form of pipe tomahawk. This was obviously a ground find.

Early europeans arriving in the new world commonly carried pole-arms with them, which were relics-themselves from european battlefields and the old manners of waging war. Pole arms were basically fancy spears, many times used to equate status, rather than for actual combat. The natives observed this, and probably traded for them, and used them for fancy tomahawks. Which in turn also likely spurred the creation and trade of tomahawks crafted specifically to appear like small halberd type pole arms.

This naturally progressed into being paired with a pipe. First they were made without a pipe, like this contemporary version of such a piece, by Ken Hamilton. As this fine piece illustrates, the very first spontoon tomahawks were basically knives on a haft, though with a little glam. Peterson wrote that “the spontoon blade is known in the earliest pictures of pipe tomahawks. The spontoon blade is pictured with a pipe as early as 1757.” See Peterson at p. 35. I’m not sure which piece he’s referring to, but will supplement with a pic if and when I find it.

The Ken Hamilton spontoon hawk is currently for sale in the shop, if you have a burning desire to have one:

I’m not sure which illustration Peterson was referring to, but here’s a pipe hawk dated 1757:

Forged steel construction, measures 6″ with a 1 – 7/8″ edge. Of early and delicate form, head engraved on both sides with foliate scrolls and borders. Both sides feature moldings and chiseled rope borders. Octagonal faceted bowl with double lines engraved near base and relief band around neck. For a similar example, also dated (1758) and probably by the same maker, see pages 87-88 of “Accouterments” by James R. Johnston. Dated “1757” on left side, vertically between moldings. This may be the earliest dated pipe tomahawk, as Johnston lists the example shown in the book as the earliest known pipe tomahawk, dated 1758.

Here’s an original of the early style. I believe I have actual pics of this somewhere, just need to find them. Round eye, no pipe.

And then they were turned into pipes as well, as illustrated by this beautiful original example which was collected in Pennsylvania. The haft was made by Frank House, following a period of study as to what his best guess was as to how the original haft would have appeared.

This piece is featured in the spontoon section of the Hartzler & Knowles tomahawk book, which provides the following info:

Well-made knife configuration piece that was probably made in France with large, turned-down basal processes. Oval eye and very fancy facetted bowl of 6 diamonds with molding around the base. Forged iron mid 18th century. 8 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.

Indian Tomahawks & Frontiersman Belt Axes, by Daniel D. Hartzler and James A. Knowles, at pp. 71.

Spontoon hawks continued in popularity for many years, especially in the West, where they took on a second life of their own, often having a diamond shape, like this ground find relic.

Though there are early eastern finds of the same general shape, some of which have an 18th century provenance, so it’s difficult to tell. For instance, Robert Kuck’s book shows a ground find of close to identical shape from Wood County, Ohio. See Tomahawks Illustrated, by Robert Kuck, 1977 at pp. 28. I wish I knew where this one was found, but I don’t.

As time goes on, the spontoon style becomes really popular in the West, and becomes highly elaborate. This original piece sold at Sotheby’s for fifty grand. It is supposed to have belonged to Chief Red Cloud, having been acquired from his in 1876 by Reverend Joseph Ward.

Rarely does documentation exist that links an important artifact to its original owner. In this case, there is at least one photograph of Chief Red Cloud holding this pipe tomahawk which is believed to be one of two that the great Chief owned.

Chief Red Cloud (1822 – 1909) was an esteemed leader and chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. He led as chief from 1868 to 1909 and was a formidable opponent of the United States Army. He led a successful campaign in 1866–1868 known as “Red Cloud’s War” over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. After signing the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), he led his people in the important transition to reservation life. 

Of further importance is the distinguished provenance that accompanies the piece. Reverend Jospeh Ward was a catholic missionary and was a founder of the Santee Indian School and later the Yankton Sioux Indian College. It was Ward that had a reservation gunsmith punch stamp and date the head. Richard Pohrt was one of the most significant collectors of Native American art in the 20th century.

From the Sotheby’s Catalogue Note: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/lot.72.html/2012/american-indian-n08861

“English Type” Pipe Tomahawks:

These are generally iron pipe tomahawk heads of a certain style, which was perhaps the most popular through the pipe tomahawk period. Basically, the quintessential pipe tomahawk style: you know, with the chevron, acorn-ish pipe bowl, and almost always forged iron. It isn’t necessarily possible to label any particular one of these as English, French, Dutch or American just by virtue of the design, per se:

This shape head is referred to as the English style head due to the fact that it was the shape type most popular as trade goods from the British. There is no way to tell if an example was British, Dutch, French, or American blacksmith made unless the forging displays a recognizable touch mark . . . . They have large teardrop eyes and large acorn shaped bowls that are flatbottomed.

Tomahawks – Pipe Axes – of the American Frontier, by John Baldwin, 1995, at pp. 52, 62 (emphasis added).

A “presentation” quality English style pipe tomahawk:

The Fort Pitt / Richard Butler Tomahawk:

This is an epic piece of frontier artwork. I got to hold this a few times in person. I’m not sure where it is now, but it’s probably the most valuable pipe tomahawk on the planet. By the way, it’s also on the cover of the Harsher & Knowles book….

This work of art was made by Richard Butler, who was a frontier gunsmith, soldier, and ultimately the armorer at Fort Pitt, beginning in 1765. He later served in the Revolutionary War, as well as the Northwest Indian Wars of the late 18th century. He ended up being killed on November 4, 1791 at the Battle on the Miami River in Ohio.

In 1765, Richard signed on as an armorer at Fort Pitt. His daybook from Fort Pitt survived and is now owned by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa. The daybook list many pipe tomahawks and axes as being made by Richard Butler. This Pipe Tomahawk with an engraved and silver inlaid forged blade signed “Richard Butler”, with a silver screw off bowel, silver end cap engraved Lt J. Maclellan, and a maple haft with a silver band which also includes the magnificent Shawnee dyed porcupine quillwork is an example of the work he made while an armorer at Fort Pitt.

The Richard Butler Tomahawk: by Gordon Barlow: http://contemporarymakers.blogspot.com/2018/05/from-pages-of-flintlock-magazine_30.html

As for Lt McCleland, he served with Daniel Morgan and his Virginia Rifleman (whom my 5th great grandfather also served with – same unit) on their ill-fated invasion of Quebec, where Morgan ended up being captured. McCleland died on November 3, 1775 of pneumonia in camp, shortly before the rest were captured. Thereafter, this tomahawk spent the rest of its days at Warwick Castle, in England – no doubt a war trophy.

The Richard Butler Tomahawk, with original wrapped porcupine quill haft.

There’s a similar quill-wrapped tomahawk in the collection at Splendid Heritage, among many other cool items. This is ex: William Guthman collection, according to the site’s information. Like the Butler hawk, the original haft on this forged iron pipe hawk is wrapped in period porcupine quills, which is extremely rare, and most certainly performed by a Native American artist of the time. The iron head is dated 1759.

Jim Johnston Hawk:

Just a really nice shaped pipe hawk which was owned for many years by Jim Johnston, who stated that he always wanted a contemporary copy of this one.

Here’s a copy made by Brian Anderson, that I didn’t know existed. Thanks Brian, for the photo. It looks awesome!

McKees’ Rock Pipe Hawk:

This was dug at McKees’ Rocks, a historic site just downriver from Fort Pitt, and the site of Alexander McKee’s log cabin at one time, hence the name. It was the alternate site for Fort Pitt, and was almost chosen. Classic early English type.

Gun barrel tomahawk recovered at Fort Pitt:

This smallish pipe hawk was found by John Sandala, I believe, on the site of Fort Pitt, prior to the creation of the park and museum. I’m told there’s never been a proper archaeology. We also have a large flintlock lock dug there by him. It’s believed that this piece was forged from a gun barrel.

Peterson wrote at length about the gun barrel technique of making a pipe tomahawk. Now I wish I had taken a better photo of the interior of the pipe bowl….

In the early days, even in well-settled areas, iron was expensive. On the frontier the costs of transportation increased the price even more. Guns received rough usage and scrap gun barrels became an important source of iron. The tomahawk maker was quick to take advantage of the cylindrical shape….

Such tomahawks are readily identified by the funnel-like opening which, with the handle re over, may be seen under the eye. Sometimes traces of the original rifling of the gun barrel can be seen on either side of the eye or bowl.

American Indian Tomahawks, by Harold L. Peterson, at pp. 69.

This piece is pictured in Robert Kuck’s book, which also gives the gun barrel opinion:

#34 American tomahawk forged from octagonal gun barrel.

Tomahawks Illustrated, by Robert Kuck, 1977 at pp. 43.

The “MM” Hawk:

This is a rare example of a pipe tomahawk which is both signed and dated. One one side it has “M.M”, and on the other it has the year “1800.” The haft is contemporary, but extremely well done. It’s just a beautiful pipe hawk, and is one of my all-time favorites.

The MM hawk is pictured in Robert Kuck’s book at page 16, prior to the haft being installed, which shows that it had a completely round eye. He gives a location of Ohio, though I’m not sure of the basis for that:

#255 Engraved blade with initials and date. Faceted bowl mounted on brass shoulder. Eastern Ohio.

Tomahawks Illustrated, by Robert Kuck, 1977 at pp. 16.

Or is it “W.W.”? Hmmmm…… It also looks a lot like the early “M.M.” rifle. There’s enough here for a later post, for sure.

Corn planter’s Tomahawk:

This pipe tomahawk was in the news fairly recently as being given back to the Seneca Tribe, of which Cornplanter was chief in the 18th century. This was stolen from a museum many years ago. I actually got to see it while it was on the run. I had no idea it was on the run, I just thought it was awesome. I snapped a couple of pics. They are posted below. If I had known this thing would be behind layers of glass and security one day, I would have taken better pics. Back in the early days of the potato phone…..

Another thing about Cornplanter to discuss in the context of pipe tomahawks, is the illustration of him shown above with the highly-unusual pipe hawk. Or perhaps it’s a spike hawk and he’s just holding a long-stemmed pipe with the same hand? Hey…. it almost looks like a rare pipe version of the rare “Spike Head War Tomahawk” known to make an appearance on Ebay…..

The Melted Hawk:

Pretty self-explanatory. I wish I knew the story of how it ended up like this. But that involves too much science on top of speculation. Cool design and engraving though – if you look closely.

The Worthington-Tecumseh Pipe Hawk:

I didn’t know this one existed, but I happened to come across it while stopping at a historic home in Chillicothe, Ohio, while driving through. Tecumseh gave this pipe tomahawk to James Worthington in 1807. I figured they had a clean bathroom when I stopped, as we were just passing through, but I ended up staying a while when I saw this. As far as I know, this is still at the Worthington house museum visitor’s center, which is just off Route 35 if you’re driving through Chillicothe.

The missing Poe Hawk:

People have been looking for this pipe tomahawk for years and years. It disappeared in 1910 and nobody has ever seen it again. It was supposedly the war trophy of a frontiersman named Adam Poe, who took it from “Bigfoot,” a Wyandot warrior he killed in hand-to-hand combat in 1782 on the bank of the Ohio River in modern day West Virginia.

This Jourdain tomahawk, pictured in John Baldwin’s book, is about the closest one to the drawing that I’ve seen. But I’m still looking, of course. By the way, it wasn’t necessarily stolen; nobody knows, it may have been sold, as the first hand witnesses are all dead now. The family would just like to know where it ended up, and maybe see it again.

The Alexander McKee Pipe Hawk:

This is a nice one. I’ve already written about it before, here:

A Well-Documented Northwest Territory Presentation Style Pipe Tomahawk with forged steel American style head, overall length 8.5”, blade 3” wide, with flattened top and strongly keeled lower edge. Blade inset with coin silver and brass decorations on both sides, one face with an inset coin silver heart bordered by rocker engraving and further embellished with punched decorations, the heart itself with a serrated border, the initial “AM” centered on the inside of the heart over a two-lined element…..

The engraved “AM”, the style of the pipe tomahawk, and the probable date of manufacture suggest it might have been made for British Indian Department Agent Alexander McKee (ca. 1735-1799). The engraved “Syuontah” no doubt refers to a Wyandot headman whose name appears in various forms beginning in the early 19th century. “GW” may refer to silversmith George Walker of Philadelphia…..

Finally, although sources vary slightly on active dates, the touch mark of “GW” found stamped in the silver diamonds on the haft, may represent the work of Philadelphia silversmith George Walker. Sources place Walker in partnership with his brother William from ca. 1795-1796, then indicate that he went out on his own by 1797 and remained active until at least 1810 and possibly as late as 1822 (Ensko, 1988: 271; Kovel, 1989: 385). The most common mark used by George Walker was an elongated rectangle with his name “G. WALKER,” however, this smith is also believed to have used a smaller touch mark featuring only his initials “GW” framed within a serrated rectangle as seen on the diamond-shaped inlays on this piece (Hamilton, 1995: 183). At least one other presentation tomahawk attributed to “GW” is known to exist (privately-owned, and with provenance of having been collected near Pittsburgh from a Delaware Indian)…..

Excerpts from the Cowan’s Auction description, where it sold for $37,500.00 in October of 2019; see https://scavengeology.com/alexander-mckee-pipe-tomahawk/

Plains Type Tomahawks:

You’ll notice a particular style of pipe tomahawk being used by the Native American tribes of the Great Plains areas, such as the Sioux. They have a strong triangular shape, and sometimes long and narrow. Sometimes they are inlet with cut-out designs. The pipe bowl is generally narrow and tall, rather than acorn-like in appearance as with the eastern English Type pipe hawks.

The Ebenezer Patrick Tomahawk:

This plains style pipe tomahawk formerly belonged to a resident of Kansas, Ebenezer Patrick, who was presented with it by a group of Sioux Indians in 1843. Patrick’s obituary in his local newspaper explained how he obtained it:

One spring day in 1843 on his way back to the farm, he witnessed two men attacking a young Indian girl who was picking chokecherries along Wildhorse Creek, which is a tributary of the Delaware River. He fired two rounds from his pistol into the air near the men, frightening them off. Ebenezer took the young Indian squaw to the farm, then later back to the church where he and [his wife] Mary cared for her. Several days later, a party of two non-hostile Sioux Indians came into town looking for the girl and was told that the pastor and his wife had her at the church. They presented Ebenezer with a silver tomahawk pipe in appreciation of his good deeds.


It was estimated by Sotheby’s to sell for $75,000 – $125,000.00. I’m not sure what it actually ended up going for, if it sold.

To be continued….

Update: BROCK Pipe Tomahawk. Pics from the owner, who said it was most likely by Isaac Brock:

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