Monthly Archives: November 2013

Another Thanksgiving rolls around…

‘Tis one of my favorite seasons: Thanksgiving.

I am, in general, a lover of autumn, probably due to my allergy to grass pollens (which, thankfully, are things of the past and future but not the present), but also because I’ve always considered it one of the nation’s best holidays.

It’s difficult in this nation of ours to get away from crass commercialization, but the idea behind Thanksgiving is, well, just kind. We should, at this season, be thankful for what we’ve got. No need to buy gifts for anyone or engage in other frantic activities. Just—provided we’re lucky enough, of course—settle down with relatives and friends and enjoy some great food and, we can all hope, some great fellowship.

As a kid, Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal. Not only did we get two days off school, but we were all able to get together at my grandparents’ or at an uncle or aunt’s or even at our house to enjoy a meal of quite amazing proportions. While the dinner location was shared around the family, I most remember the ones we had at my grandparents’ house, especially the dinners out on the farm.

Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" is an iconic illustration of Thanksgivings past.

Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” is an iconic illustration of Thanksgivings past.

Some years ago, I remember reading a blog post by someone or another complaining that those tales of Thanksgiving tables groaning under loads of food were just that—tales. Most families, this person wrote, had Thanksgivings nothing like that. And not only that, but the blogger pointed to the fiction behind Norman Rockwell’s famed painting, one of his “Four Freedoms” series, titled “Freedom from Want,” which the writer derided as obvious fiction depicting an era that never existed.

As I was growing up, Norman Rockwell was, hands down, my favorite artist, with the possible exception of the guy who drew the “Prince Valiant” comic strips I eagerly read in each week’s Sunday Chicago American.

I sort of dimly recalled the “Freedom from Want” painting, along with its three companions, and since we have this great Internet thingy, I looked it up to refresh my memory. Turns out Rockwell painted it, and its three brethren in 1943 as both wartime propaganda and to illustrate, for the Saturday Evening Post, aspects of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech laying out those same four freedoms.

When I saw the image I, of course, immediately recognized it and the other three in the series. You see them often, although not usually together, to illustrate this or that aspect of American culture. But as I really looked at “Freedom from Want,” it occurred to me that, far from depicting some sort of fictional incident of overwhelming gastronomy, Rockwell’s dining room table seemed pretty thin on the ground compared to the ones my family set.

Granted, there’s the big roasted turkey being proudly placed on the table, but the side dishes seem awfully scarce. Of course you have to take into account the painting depicts a wartime table, with all the shortages and rationing that was going on then.

My grandparents farmhouse as it looked about 1955, with Grandpa and Grandma Holzhueter's lawn chairs out front. The dining room was at the far left of their house.

My grandparents’ farmhouse as it looked about 1955, with Grandpa and Grandma Holzhueter’s lawn chairs out front. The dining room was at the far left of their house.

But my family were mostly farmers and even during the war there was plenty of food harvested from gardens and orchards. So on one of our post-war Thanksgiving tables would be turkey, but also, sometimes pheasant that one or another family member had taken while hunting; mashed potatoes; stuffing with gravy—generally two boats, one with and one without giblets; homemade bread with homemade butter; spiced apples; sweet corn and green beans; squash; sweet potatoes; Jell-O molds filled with all manner of things from pineapple to grated carrots; Waldorf salad; and loads of relishes including the eagerly sought-after ripe olives, to which all us kids were addicted. Dessert was always at least two kinds of pie, the constant being pumpkin with apple, cherry, peach, and others as the whim took the bakers.

After dinner, the men repaired to the living room where most quickly fell asleep as us kids first helped clear the table and then engaged in a variety of apparently extinct games including “Hide the Thimble” and “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?”

Some, mostly city folks I suspect, deride Thanksgiving as a celebration of American excess. But those of us with farm roots know it was a celebration of both work largely done and a harvest brought home buoyed by thankful feelings that another farming year had passed with no serious accidents or injuries. And while we definitely weren’t rolling in cash, there was that Rockwell-like feeling of thankfulness for what we did have, for the good fellowship, and that we were surrounded by the comfortable embrace of our extended family.

These days, farmers are a tiny minority of the nation’s population. While you might see lots of what look like farms as you drive through the countryside, most of those farm houses are rented to non-farmers, with the land being rented to someone else entirely. The days when it was possible to make a living on 180 acres is long gone, and all those giant consolidated farms mean the industry simply doesn’t need as many folks to do the work. But those days are still alive because there are a few of us around to recall them. It’s an era that I still relive at least once a year around Thanksgiving time.

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Thoughts on the incident that started the ’60s a half century ago today

I’ve been spending the day doing history sort of things, but it’s impossible to listen to the radio, TV, or read any of my usual blogs without the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination being mentioned.

JFK’s murder was a big deal, even here in a northern Illinois  county that had voted pretty much straight Republican ever since that bunch of disgruntled Whigs and Free Soilers met to create it up in Wisconsin. Oh, there were a few lapses, especially during the Great Depression, but Kendall County had been solid GOP turf for more than a century.

I was in study hall at Oswego High School when we heard what had happened, and what had caused several of our female teachers to be seen crying in public, which was certainly something different. And it was definitely a shock for all of us. We were dismissed early that day, and had a few more days off for the next several days. My dad and I were watching TV when Jack Ruby shoved his revolver into Lee Harvey Oswald’s stomach and pulled the trigger. It was truly a surreal time.

The thing I remember most about the Kennedy Administration is girls crying. When he was elected in 1960, I remember them crying in the hallway at school because in our (at that time) mostly Protestant corner of the world, they were convinced the Pope was about to take control of the U.S. And I remember many of the same girls crying in November 1963 after his murder.

The Kennedys had been different, far more different than the Presidents us Baby Boomers were familiar with. Harry and Bess Truman looked like those elderly folks who sat in the center pew at church, while Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower looked a lot like my grandparents. But Jack and Jackie? They were young, stylish, and apparently vigorous. It was impossible to imagine Ike playing touch football, but there in the newsreels were Jack and Bobbie and the rest of the Kennedy clan goofing around and actually having fun. It was their youth that appealed to me and to most of my generation. The President urged us to ask not what our country could do for us, but rather ask what we could do for our country. He set us on a course to land men on the moon. And he started the wheels turning for what eventually became the civil rights movement.

In reality, the Kennedy assassination was the kick-off for what everyone calls the ’60s. Until Nov. 22, 1963 we were all still living, culturally at least, in the ’50s. With the events in Dallas, the nation received a severe psychological shock that affected none so much as the young people my age and a bit older. Our music changed right along with our outlook on life, reflecting a profound change that turned into one of the most turbulent eras in the nation’s history.

Vietnam, the protest movement, the Beatles, Woodstock, flower children, Watergate, the Days of Rage, Haight-Ashbury, the Weather Underground, and all the rest were to follow, but we didn’t know that at the time. What we did know was that a young, attractive President with whom we could identify had been cut down in a shocking murder and we wrestled with the idea of whether this violent change would change us. It did and it has.

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So where did all that corn come from again?

The harvest for another Illinois growing season is mostly laid by.

The vast fields of corn growing in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa are so common that most of us Midwesterners take them for granted. But while most of us figure the Midwest’s well-tended fields of corn are one of life’s constants, a look at its history illustrates that today’s crops are the result of centuries of selective breeding and genetic manipulation.

Ancient corn's family group sheet.

Ancient corn’s family group sheet.

The ancestor of corn—teosinte—originated in Mexico, where it was domesticated. For several hundred years, ancient Mexican horticulturists crossed and re-crossed varieties until the earliest varieties of maize emerged with well-filled cobs and larger kernels. According to botanists, the ancient variety that spread north, eventually reaching Illinois after many changes, was Maize de Ocho. As its name suggests, Maize de Ocho featured a cob with eight rows of relatively large kernels. Corn cultivation technology gradually spread northward as annual crosses resulted in shorter maturations and more resistance to cold weather.

Corn’s northward spread was slow but steady. By 1000 A.D. corn was being grown by Huron Indians living in the Georgian Bay area on the Canadian shore of Lake Huron. Of courts, it had reached Illinois many years before that.

Flint Corn, with its hard, shiny, smooth kernels was the earliest corn grown by early settlers.

Flint Corn, with its hard, shiny, smooth kernels was the earliest corn grown by the pioneers. Though hardy, flints produce relatively low yields.

As soon as they arrived, European colonists adopted corn as a major grain crop. The principal type of corn grown by the colonists—developed by the Indians they displaced—is known today as Flint Corn. Two major varieties of Flint, Northern (or New England) and Tropical, accounted for most of the corn grown early in the nation’s history. However, another type, called Dent Corn, was also developed by Indian agronomists. As it’s name suggests, Dent develops a dent in the top of the kernel when ripe. Dents were more productive than Flints, but at first, they only grew in warmer, wetter climates. The French and the Spanish imported Dent Corn into North America in the 17th Century. By 1702, it was being grown in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

Dent Corn sports larger, yellow kernels each with a characteristic dent in the top of each kernel. Dents were more productive than flints but were less hardy. When crossed, though, flints and dents produced the classic Corn Belt Dent variety that was the ancestor of today's modern hybrids.

Dent Corn sports larger, yellow kernels each with a characteristic dent in the top of each kernel. Dents were more productive than flints but were less hardy. When crossed, though, flints and dents produced the classic Corn Belt Dent variety that was the ancestor of today’s modern hybrids.

Farmers soon recognized the benefits of crossing Dents and Flints. The resulting crosses featured the larger, fatter kernels of the Dents and the hardiness of the Flints. The Dent-Flint cross, which made the tremendous productivity of the Corn Belt possible, was dubbed Corn Belt Dent. Its defining characteristics were a stalk with two ears, which included large red cylindrical cobs each with 14 to 22 rows of large yellow dented kernels. When pioneer farmers arrived on the Illinois prairies, they discovered that even the earliest of what became known as Corn Belt Dents thrived in the rich soil. As early as 1839, just a decade after the first settlers arrived in Kendall County, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois accounted for more than a quarter of the nation’s entire corn harvest.

From the period of settlement until about 1900, farmers successfully improved yields by cross-breeding Corn Belt Dents and varieties of Flints. But by the turn of the century, they had wrung about all they could from the available genetic material and existing techniques. Then in 1904, botanists in New York and Connecticut began developing hybrid corn varieties. In the 1920s, Lester Pfister, an Illinois farmer and seed corn dealer living near El Paso in Woodford County, began developing his own hybrid corn varieties based on the most popular Corn Belt Dent variety. By 1930, he had developed a successful hybrid that, in 1934, produced the best yields in the University of Illinois’ trial corn plots. Very quickly, “Genuine Pfister” hybrids became extremely popular varieties throughout the Corn Belt. But competition is the American way, and it didn’t take long for Iowa’s Henry Wallace to develop his Pioneer Hi-Bred varieties and for Eugene Funk of Funk’s Grove in Illinois to come up with his. In fact, Wallace and Funk quickly came to dominate innovation in corn hybridization. Wallace rode his corn’s popularity all the way to Washington, D.C., becoming Secretary of Agriculture and eventually Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Sometime in the 1940s, Graeme Stewart picks a field of Corn Belt Dent corn on his Oswego Township farm. Nowadays, the corn harvest is completed with giant combined harvesters that pick and shell the corn right in the field. (Little White School Museum collection)

Sometime in the 1940s, Graeme Stewart picks a field of Corn Belt Dent corn on his Oswego Township farm. Nowadays, the corn harvest is completed with giant combined harvesters that pick and shell the corn right in the field. (Little White School Museum collection)

Farmers found hybrids had their own positives and negatives. Since they weren’t open-pollinated, hybrid varieties required farmers to buy seed each year instead of growing their own, creating a new financial burden. But the positives far outweighed the negatives. The hybrids’ stronger stalks stood longer and were better suited to mechanical harvesting. Hybrids also had far higher yields than their open-pollinated ancestors. Reliance on mechanization tempted farmers to plant more dense fields by changing the spacing of plants. In the 1950s, fields had about 12,000 plants per acre, but by the 1960s, 25,000 plants were being planted on each acre, with proportionally more herbicide, insecticide, and fertilizer being used to sustain land with crops that were being rotated less and less. Genetic modifications made stalks even stronger to withstand new combined harvesters, and to put each stalk’s two ears of corn at the optimal level above the ground to be harvested with the least amount of waste.

Today, signs in area corn fields still advertise the end results of Lester Pfister, Henry Wallace, and Eugene Funk. Each of those signs on test plots throughout Kendall County are historical reminders marking the trail of Maize de Ocho from Mexico to Illinois.

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Today’s ‘quake’ a false alarm, but…

So today I get a text from my daughter. Which a year and a half ago would have been really big news because here at the Matile Manse, we did not text. But after the younger Matiles insisted, we figured out how to do it and then we bought iPhones for each other for Christmas last year. Which has made the process lots easier—no more punching thousands of buttons to text “How are you? I am fine.” In fact, we don’t need to punch ANY buttons at all since the brain that lives in our iPhones lets us talk to it to create emails and texts alike.

Anyway, I get this text asking if we felt the earthquake. To which I replied no, and by the way when did this happen. About 12:30 or thereabouts, she said. But no quake did we feel, and now it turns out it was probably some guys dynamiting in a quarry over east of us.

But it could have been an earthquake, since we live just about on top of the Sandwich Fault. Making the story more believable, there have been a couple other minor quakes here in the Midwest during the past few days.

One of these days, though, and it’s only a matter of time, we’re likely to feel the effects of The Big One. Really. Right here in God’s Country. Because it’s happened before.

What may have been the strongest earthquakes ever to hit North America struck along the mid-Mississippi River Valley during the winter of 1811–1812. Tremors from a succession of quakes pounded the area not once but three times. Fortunately, very few folks were living in what was then called the Illinois Territory, but even with so few residents (scattered Indian villages, widely scattered white settlements in the south, a few French traders at Peoria, and a few soldiers at Ft. Dearborn) deaths did occur.

A 19th Century artist's depiction of the power released when the New Madrid Fault slipped in 1811, sowing chaos up and down the Mississippi Valley.

A 19th Century artist’s depiction of the power released when the New Madrid Fault slipped in 1811, sowing chaos up and down the Mississippi Valley.

The first quake, measuring an estimated 8.5 on the old Richter Scale (now superseded by the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS), on which it measured 8.2), struck about 2 a.m. Dec. 16, 1811. The second tremor rumbled through the area about six hours later, and measured the same 8.2 on the MMS. A third quake, with an MMS rating of 8.1, struck on Jan. 23, 1812. The most powerful of the three tremblers, estimated by some seismologists to have registered as high as 8.3 on the MMS, hit the by then well-shaken residents of the Mississippi Valley on Feb. 7. In comparison, the hugely destructive 1906 San Francisco Earthquake measured 7.7 on the logarithmic MMS scale, meaning the Illinois quake was about six times as powerful.

Future Illinois Gov. John Reynolds, a young man in his early 20s when the quake hit, said in his 1879 history of Illinois that the quake caused so much noise and shaking of the family’s log cabin that his father thought Indians were attacking.

The series of quakes was felt as far away as Washington, D.C. Richmond, Va. residents out walking when the quake struck found it difficult to stand as the shock passed.

The final and most powerful of the series of disturbances had its epicenter near New Madrid, Mo., then a small frontier hamlet, which was destroyed. A number of houses and other buildings were destroyed or damaged at St. Louis. The power of the uplift quake created temporary waterfalls on the Mississippi River, and changed the course of the river itself, creating the great looping Kentucky Bend. Temporary dams of fallen and uprooted trees and subsidence of sections of riverbank suddenly tumbling into the stream, along with the sudden uplift caused the great river to flow backwards for a period of minutes. One flatboat crew reported their craft was carried back upstream at a pace faster than a man could walk.

Artist Gary R. Lucy's evocative portrait of the New Orleans, the first steamboat on the upper Mississippi, depicts a calmer voyage than that the boat completed during the winter of 1811 when its crew witnessed the great earthquake. See more of his wonderful work at http://www.garylucy.com/

Artist Gary R. Lucy’s evocative portrait of the New Orleans, the first steamboat on the upper Mississippi, depicts a calmer voyage than that the boat completed during the winter of 1811 when its crew witnessed the great earthquake. See more of his wonderful work at http://www.garylucy.com/

As it happened, one of the very first steamboats on the Mississippi, the New Orleans, was steaming downstream when the quake hit, and the account by its crew, when they finally reached New Orleans after a harrowing voyage on a river that had suddenly become foreign to even the most experienced pilots, left a valuable eyewitness account.

In fact, boatmen up and down the river frantically tried to cope with the vast changes in the landscape that took place as they watched. No one knows how many of them perished during the series of quakes.

A request sent to Washington, D.C., dated January 13, 1814, by William Clark, he of Lewis and Clark fame and then the governor of Missouri Territory, asked for federal relief for the “inhabitants of New Madrid County.” Historians say this was quite possibly the first example of a request for disaster relief from the U.S. Federal government.

The central United States is far from any active volcanoes or any other of the more common guides to the possibility of earthquakes. So how did the 1811-1812 quakes happen, and could they happen again?

Eons ago, a failed rift in the plate on which North America rides became the Mississippi Valley, while cracks radiating from it became fault lines, the most active of which is the New Madrid Fault. It is that fault that slipped causing the great earthquake of 1811-12.

But there are those other faults as well, including one that diagonally splits Kendall County, running from Oswego (home of the Matile Manse) northwest to Ogle County. This dual fault, called the Sandwich Fault Zone by geologists, has been mostly dormant in historical times. A second fault system that cuts through nearby LaSalle County and extends southeast to the Wabash River—called the LaSalle Anticlinal Belt—is a bit more active. A September 1972 earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter Scale was related to the LaSalle Anticline.

Since Illinois and Missouri are in the middle of the North American tectonic plate, earthquakes here are not caused by our area colliding with another plate. Rather, quakes here are more due to stresses caused as the North American plate is thrust westward as new crustal material wells up out of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The gigantic stresses caused as the North American Plate is forced into the Pacific Plate sometimes cause the ancient faults along the Mississippi River to move, causing earthquakes.

So what would happen to us if another similar quake happened today? Well, we’d get shaken pretty well, and tall buildings in Chicago would sway and likely shed some structural panels. Here in Kendall County, damage would likely be minimal for buildings, including bridges, built on bedrock and in areas underlain by gravel. Homes and commercial buildings built on less stable soils, however, could be seriously damaged by “liquefaction,” as groundwater forced up through the soil momentarily liquefied it. For cities farther south, including St. Louis, Mo. and Springfield here in Illinois, the impact would be very serious indeed.

Today’s ‘quake’ proved to be a false alarm. But it’s been 202 years since the last Big One hit the Midwest. What has happened once could well happen again. And when it does, I suspect there won’t be a bit of doubt what has happened.

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Those marvelous Ojibwa birch bark canoes

When they arrived in the North America, Europeans brought the concept of ocean-going sailing ships, firearms, advanced metals technologies and other such modern accouterments to the battle to seize the New World, where the earliest of them expected to meet representatives of the Chinese Empire. Instead, they were greeted by hardy Native American tribesmen.

For their part, Native Americans brought superior sanitation, agricultural innovation, and a few other superiorities to the contest. One of those superiorities was the birch bark canoe, a Native American invention that, ironically, led to the destruction of its inventors’ cultures.

By the time they finally gained a permanent foothold in the New World from 1492 on, the Europeans had moved ahead of the rest of the world in the use of maritime technology. Northern European sailing ships had evolved from various ancestors ranging from Roman “round ships” to the long ships of the feared Vikings, who themselves were little more than sea-going banditti, albeit banditti who were the first to briefly colonize the New World.

Birch bark canoes were invented by Chippewa craftsmen and were first used by the "Canoe Indians," the Ottawa. Europeans quickly adopted the elegantly designed craft.

Birch bark canoes were invented by Chippewa craftsmen and were first used by the “Canoe Indians,” the Ottawa. Europeans quickly adopted the elegantly designed craft.

But in the design and development of light craft to navigate inland waters, the Europeans depended on boats built with the same basic technological elements as their sea-going ships. When it came to practical craft to explore North America’s intricate networks of streams, rivers and lakes, they were behind the technological curve—though they didn’t realize it at first.

When the first French explorers penetrated the St. Lawrence River system in the late 1500s they were astonished to find that Native Americans used boats made of little more than bark to travel everything from the smallest streams to the greatest of the Great Lakes.

Unfortunately, no one knows who the brilliant Native American inventor was who finally hit upon the idea of using birch bark as the hull sheathing for a canoe. The design was probably derived from the kayaks of the Inuits of the far northern latitudes who fearlessly sailed their hide covered boats across hundreds of miles of open ocean.

Sometime before 1500 A.D., an enterprising Native American (or group of tribesmen) built a frame of split cedar or spruce and covered it with large sheets of bark carefully pealed from paper birch trees.

Eventually, the classic birch bark canoe was standardized by its greatest builders and users, the Chippewa, who called themselves Ojibwa. Chippewa canoes were built in a variety of sizes and were traded to the Ottawa, who established a great inland North American trade empire well before the Europeans arrived.

Canoes were begun by making a frame of split cedar or spruce. Then, sheets of birch bark were soaked in hot water and fitted over the frame, with the white outside of the bark inside the canoe and the tan inner bark on the outside to take advantage of the bark’s natural curl. The sheets were secured to the frame and to each other with pliable splits of spruce root called watap. The seams between bark sheets were sealed with a mix of spruce gum and charcoal.

So when the French arrived, they found an extensive system of inland trade routes waiting for them, plus the technology to exploit it. Depending on how you look at it, Samuel de Champlain’s actions in helping an Algonquian tribe attack their Iroquois neighbors was either a disaster (because he initiated 200 years of Iroquois hatred for the French) or very fortuitous (because he made instant friends of the Ottawa and the rest of the Algonquian tribes who had long lived under the thumbs of the well-organized and efficiently ferocious Iroquois).

The French quickly assimilated Ojibwa canoe technology and in time, roughly standardized canoes into three sizes, the canot, any canoe up to about 20 feet in length or so; the canot du nord (north canoe), craft of about 25 feet in length; and the canot de maitre (master canoe, also called the Montreal canoe), vessels of 35-40 feet in length.

The smaller canoes were used on small and shallow inland rivers and creeks, although they were also sometimes favored as express canoes. North canoes (cargo capacity of about three tons) were primarily freight haulers on medium rivers, while the giant Montreal canoes (cargo capacity of about six tons) were used to transport freight on the largest rivers and the Great Lakes.

Peter Pond was one of the most fascinating individuals of the fur trade era. His bad experience with a birch bark canoe illustrated the craft's limitations.

Peter Pond was one of the most fascinating individuals of the fur trade era. His bad experience with a birch bark canoe illustrated the craft’s limitations.

Although of elegant design, birch bark canoes were not without their drawbacks, of course. Bark canoes can be easily hulled in rocky rapids, and so are not really practical for use in areas where birch bark to make repairs is not readily available—as American fur trader Peter Pond found out.

While on a trading expedition up the Missouri River well beyond the paper birch range in the late 1700s, Pond’s camp was struck by a storm. As he later reported in his own inimitable style (he never met a word he couldn’t misspell): “the wind toock the Canew up in the Air Leat hir fall on the frosen flat & broke Hir in Peceis. I was then in a Sad Sittuation.” As a result of the accident, Pond and his companions had to walk back to the nearest fort, a trip of several weeks.

Dugout canoes proved more sensible for traders and explorers in areas south of the paper birch's range. They, in turn, were replaced by batteaux, large flat-bottomed boats, along with other varieties of oared boats including the York Boat and the Mackinac Boat. This excellent illustration of a fur trade era dugout is Fur Traders on Missouri River, painted by George Caleb Bingham, painted about 1845.

Dugout canoes proved more sensible for traders and explorers in areas south of the paper birch’s range. They, in turn, were replaced by batteaux, large flat-bottomed boats, along with other varieties of oared boats including the York Boat and the Mackinac Boat. This excellent illustration of a fur trade era dugout is “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri,” painted by George Caleb Bingham about 1845.

As a result of these shortcomings, it didn’t take long for traders to exchange their bark canoes for something a little more sensible when they started trading extensively up the Missouri, not to mention elsewhere south of the paper birch’s range. Here in Illinois, birch bark canoes were often used by explorers, missionaries, and traders early in the European period, but were soon replaced by dugouts, batteaux, large (flat bottomed boats propelled by oars), York Boats, and Mackinac Boats.

It’s not often a people hand their conquerors the seeds of their own destruction, but that’s what Native Americans did when they introduced Europeans to birch bark canoe technology. Without the versatile craft, the exploration and exploitation of the interior of North America surrounding the Great Lakes probably would have taken a very different course.

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