tomahawks vs hatchets?

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Rod Lassey

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To the average person, the terms are probably interchangable. However, to a fur trader ordering specific tools, he and his customers would be greatly disappointed if he ordered 50 dozen tomahawks and got polled hatchets instead, or vice-versa. When I read fur trade invoices and inventories, I can be reasonably sure that the term tomahawk indicates a wrapped poll tool, while hatchet, half-axe, etc. indicates a punched eye with a poll for hammering.

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Spence10

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Rod L said:
When I read fur trade invoices and inventories, I can be reasonably sure that the term tomahawk indicates a wrapped poll tool, while hatchet, half-axe, etc. indicates a punched eye with a poll for hammering.
But you do run across confusing references...

The Conuest of the Old Southwest, by Archibald Henderson, quoting a British traveler (John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth?) in the 18th century who described the dress of Carolina backwoodsmen:

"Their whole dress is singular, and not very materially different from that of the Indians; being a hunting shirt somewhat resembling a waggoner’s frock, ornamented with a great many fringes, tied round the middle with a broad belt, much decorated also, in which is fastened a tomahawk, an instrument that serves every purpose of defense and convenience; being a hammer at one side and a sharp hatchet at the other;"

Spence
 

Rod Lassey

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Oh, no doubt about it. I'm just saying that to some people, the terms refer to specific tools, while to many [most?] the terms were interchangable. Sort of like the difference between butchers and scalpers, to anyone other than a fur trader, they're both just knives.

Rod
 

rfdr

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form or function - or both?

as with most things historic/colonial/primitive, there were no rules and a huge range of variances to any general theme abounds, as artifacts prove.

a shortish chopping blade of varying design and lengths, affixed to the end of a shortish single hand held handle, can be of greatly varied dimensions, and varied applicable tasks - some can easily multi-task, as well.

call it whatever you like - ax, hatchet, 'hawk - all will work on wood and flesh and bone. some will be better than others for a specific task.

choose whatever works best for whatever tasks the tool best offers for ... you (not me, or them).
 

matt denison

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Rod said: "To the average person, the terms are probably interchangable."

But, now wait a minute. In my mind they are two distinctly different tools. A hatchet has a squared off back of the blade. A 'hawk is a piece of steel wrapped around with no poll on the back side. Have you ever tried to pound tent stakes with a tomahawk? Don't work too good and will eventually ruin it. Unfortunately I know this from experience.

I've used a 'hawk for chopping in the past and it works but the extra weight of a hatchet works better. The hatchet balances better and is less likely to want to twist in your hand when chopping. 'hawks were inexpensive to manufacture like most goods made for Indian trade. Hatchets cost more and so may not have been so popular as a trade item except by "professional" types like longhunters and mountaiin men and carpenters in the settlements.
 

Stophel

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So, are there 18th century hardware advertisements saying something like "Tomahawks - ï¿¡1 , Hatchets - ï¿¡2"?
 

Jim Blair

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Tomahawk=Weapon

Hatchet=Tool

Either will do in pinch substituting for the other but that doesn't mean it is one. :wink:
 
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Scots Jim said:
Tomahawk=Weapon

Hatchet=Tool

Either will do in pinch substituting for the other but that doesn't mean it is one. :wink:
Exactly, and I'm sure people interchanged the two terms, just like people do today for all kinds of things.

Kleenex = any tissue
Coke = any soft drink
 

Rod Lassey

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Stophel said:
So, are there 18th century hardware advertisements saying something like "Tomahawks - ï¿¡1 , Hatchets - ï¿¡2"?
In a manner of speaking, yes. Often in fur trade invoices, what we'd call a hatchet today will be listed as hatchet, half-axe, etc. Tomahawks are listed as tomahawks, squaw axes, cassè-tête [French for 'head-breaker']. If not differentiated by name, price will be an indicator---punched eye 'hatchets' will be priced higher that wrapped eye 'tomahawks'.

Rod
 
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I have seen Ax and Half Ax listed as well as Small and Large Ax, but I've never seen "hatchet" or "tomahawk" on early trade company lists.
Go back a page or two and read where the words derived from.
They are the same thing being called different names by different peoples..
But they are not going to be called two names on the same list.
 

Rod Lassey

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The words 'hatchet' and 'tomahawk' both show up on numerous trade lists---for the last couple of years I've been going through the Chouteau papers on microfilm for the NPS, and see the references show up pretty often. Also variations of them---"smoak tommahak" for instance. Also 'hache' in French.

For a really good series of articles on this subject, check out the last few issues of Journal of the Early Americas----Ken Hamilton and Kevin Gladysz. Their work on the differernt styles of French hatchets/tomahawks/axes is well worth reading.
http://www.journaloftheearlyamericas.com/index.html


Rod
 
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Rod L said:
Also variations of them---"smoak tommahak" for instance. Also 'hache' in French.
Well that's kind of my point Rod, those words above are actually the original words,,
hatchet and tomahawk are the bastardized words in american english.
Our language is a hodge-podge mix of descriptive words taken (and twisted) from several of the worlds languages.

What several in this thread are trying to say is the two words/terms describe the same item.
A hatchet is a tomahawk,,
A tomahawk is a hatchet,,
Both describe a smaller version of an Axe head that's kept on a smaller handle than the larger Axe.
:v
John
 

suzkat

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Claude said:
Proof that the Vikings did come to North America. :wink:

Claude, can you tell me where you found this photo? I have a very similar axe and would like to learn more about it. Thanks
 

robert reed

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What a great read over morning coffee. Thanks to all for the research, pics and links. As to the OP's question......having spent most of my adult life as a regular soldier and militiaman and participated in some form in most of the several wars from the 80's through 12, I have developed some opinions. Then as now, pick your time period, regular soldiers and sailors used what was issued to them. Militia carried what they had and were used to, this also would be what the local smith made. Both regular and militia tend to acquire preferences and battlefield pick ups with experience. What fits ones hand and proved its worth in bloodletting is hard to separate from the kit of an experienced man. Then as now, terminology is based on geographic origin and dialect. Officers and men of means is an entirely different matter.

These opinions are based on 30 years of roaming the earth under arms. But, hey, I've been wrong before!

RANGERS LEAD THE WAY
 

Robert Egler

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I carry a very similar item, although my cover is nowhere near as nice as yours. :thumbsup:

I carry it hiking, camping, rock collecting, fishing, trapping, and of course hunting. Pretty much any time I'm in the woods. I find it to be one of the most useful items to carry in the woods, no matter what you're doing. I'd no more go in the woods without it than I would go without a knife.

I usually call it a belt axe, although I have no idea where I picked up that term. :idunno:
 
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