Truth is uniform and narrow, but error is endlessly diversified . . . In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties . . . — Benjamin Franklin

Stephen of Philadelphia - James Otis

Canoes of Bark

The canoes made of bark from the birch tree are wonders in the way of lightness and swiftness. Jethro and I, hoping some day to be able to buy one, have spent very much of our time learning to manage these boats, which are like to eggshells for daintiness, and it is not certain but that we may be able to build such a craft ourselves, for we have watched eagerly the Indians at their work.

One must first get a quantity of thin splints of spoon-wood, which are to be steamed and bent into the form of the bottom and sides of the canoe, until one has made the shape of the entire hull, when a narrow rail of tough wood is put on to fashion the sides and ends.

[Illustration] from Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis

Then all, save the rail, is covered with bark from the birch trees, the builder taking good care to choose pieces which are free from such blemishes as unequal thickness, an overgrown cleft, or any show of weakness.

This bark should be stripped from a tree so large that each sheet or piece is of length sufficient to stretch from rail to rail, and is fastened in place by sewing with threads of sinew taken from deer.

When all this has been done, every seam, or hole made by the needle, is covered plentifully with pitch from the pine tree, which is not unlike soft tar, and when it has been thoroughly dried, you have a boat that will support from two to six persons, while yet so light that one may easily carry it on his shoulder.


Front Matter

The Name of My City
My Own Name
Why We Went to London
Bound for America
On Board Ship
Unknown Country
The End of the Voyage
Going Ashore
Our First Shelter
A Tedious Task
Our Cave Home Completed
How We Kept House
Savages Come to Town
What the Savages Wore
Game in Plenty
Sea Food
News of the Factor
Arrival of the Amity
Going to Meet the Factor
A Tiresome Journey
Meeting Old Friends
Roasting Turkeys
Turning an Honest Penny
A Place for the City
Building the City
A Bear Hunt
The New Home
Penn's Care for Colonists
The First Baby
How the Indians Live
Indian Utensils and Tools
Canoes of Bark
Making Wampum
The Beehive Huts
Finishing the Cure
Starting a Fire
Cooking Indian Corn
News of Penn's Arrival
Our Humble Preparations
The Welcome to Penn
A Day of Festivities
Penn Joins in the Sports
More Serious Business
What a Bake Oven Is
Baking in the New Oven
Penn Plans to Buy Land
Penn and the Indians
The Price Paid for Land
Gratitude of the Indians
Trapping Wild Turkeys
New Arrivals
Government by the People
The Promise of a School
Dock Creek Bridge
The Nail Business
Buying Iron in New York
No Merrymaking after Dark
Busy Days
Enoch Flower's School
End of Our School Days
Settlement of Germantown
New Laws in Our Own Town
A Division of Opinion
A Matter of History
Boundary Lines
The Governor's Following
A Proud Departure
The Settlement of Chester
Dining in State
Anchored off New Castle
An Uncomfortable Night
A Dull Journey
In Lord Baltimore's City
A Splendid Home
A Question of Duty
Amy of Maryland
The Shops of Maryland
The Result of the Visit
Philadelphia Progresses
Penn Goes Back to London