Brass Tomahawk Pipe

Image of Brass Tomahawk Pipe
Image of Brass Tomahawk Pipe
Symbol of war and peace

As European and Native American cultures mingled, new technologies blended with tradition to create new uses for everyday objects. The brass tomahawk pipe became a popular accessory, as it was useful in the field as a tool or as a weapon of war. During ceremonies, it was used as a pipe to smoke with friends or to cement agreements. Tobacco would be added to the metal bowl (opposite the blade) and smoked through the hardwood handle. Many similar tomahawks were manufactured by Europeans, cast of metals like brass or hammered out of old rifle barrels.

We have scant information about the object’s origins. It was likely made between 1760 and 1830. It was reportedly found in Illinois and given to Frank M. Aldrich of Peoria in 1920. He donated it to the Illinois State Museum in 1953. The blade of the tomahawk shows no sign of wear or use.

The tomahawk traveled to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 2001 for the 300th anniversary exhibition commemorating the signing of “Le Grande Paix de Montreal,” or the “Great Peace of Montreal” treaty. The peace treaty was between France and nearly 40 Native American nations. The exhibition was housed at the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History.

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