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Identified Indian Tomahawk, War Axe, from Famous Photograph, ca. 1890
Decorative spiked tomahawk, the exact piece featured in several photographs by famed pioneer photographer H. H. Bennett of Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indian "Chach-scheb-nee-neck-ah" or Young Eagle, ca. 1890. The Bennett Studio still exists in Wisconsin Dells and is operated as a museum by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, where prints of Bennettís photos of Young Eagle and this tomahawk can be purchased. A close examination of the photograph reveals the exact same bead pattern on the shaft and the same distinctive small nick in the top corner of the blade. This tomahawk was not used as a studio prop, but was the property of Young Eagle and shows field use after the photos were taken. The blade was sharpened at some point and a silver chain was added containing an 1853 silver half dime, possibly one of those hanging from Young Eagleís ears in the photos. The iron head of the tomahawk is likely a trade piece from the early 1800's, with the existing wood haft, beadwork, and most of the rawhide added sometime in the late 1800's before the Bennett photos were taken.
Included with the war axe is a 16" x 20" studio print from a 2nd generation negative of Bennettís plate #2074 of Young Eagle in full ceremonial costume and face paint holding the tomahawk. There is also an 8" x 10" photo of a different Bennett shot featuring Young Eagle and the piece. Included is a notarized statement dated March 25, 1993 by noted Indian artifact collector Dr. Victor Neu stating the tomahawk was purchased from an Indian family at an outside fair near Green Bay, Wisconsin n the 1970's. The Indian family told him that it once belonged to Ho-Chunk Indian Chief Yellow Thunder. This tomahawk is photographed and described in the books "Ornamental Indian Artifacts" and "Rare and Unusual Indian Artifacts", both by Lar Hothem. Bennettís plate #2074 is also reproduced in the book "Pioneer Photographer, Wisconsinís H. H. Bennett", by Sara Rath, a copy of which is included with the tomahawk.
It is extremely rare to find Indian tomahawks with positive ownership identification and even rarer to find the exact piece featured in a period photograph. There is no doubt this is the same tomahawk featured in the photographs.
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