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T.R.'s Axe:  The Story of John King and the

T.R.'s Axe: The Story of John King and the "President's Axe"

At our last open shop event our friend Howard Hardy traveled down from Oakland with one of his more unique Maine antiques:  a “President’s Axe.”  

In August, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was making a campaign trip to New England. One of the stops on the tour was to be Waterville, Maine.  Nearby Oakland (once known as West Waterville) was home to many axe makers:  Emerson & Stevens, Dunn Edge Tool and John King’s company among them.    Knowing that the President was an avid hunter, John King decided to make a special axe for him. 

The “axe” King made had a two-pound head hafted on a hollow oak handle into which was screwed a 14” long hunting knife with a black walnut handle. The head also had a claw for pulling nails.  Quite the multi-purpose tool!

[photo of a President’s Axe auctioned by Martin J. Donnelly on July 21, 2018 for $748]

When the President’s train pulled into Waterville, John King’s axe was presented to him by William T. Haines.  According to an account in the Pittsburgh Press on September 30, 1902:

“The President made a few remarks in acceptance, smiled as though he was much pleased with the gift, and waved his little axe triumphantly at the crowd as the train pulled out.  Since then John King has received a letter conveying the thanks of the President, and of this he is very proud.”

 

[Picture Source: http://maineanencyclopedia.com/roosevelts-in-maine/]

So enamored of this unique “axe,” T.R. had his secretary send a note to John King asking that another one to be sent to his son Kermit who was attending school at Groton. 

King Axe then began producing “The President’s Hunting Axe.”  Some of these were marked “KING” on the knife blade.  A paper label calling it a “Sportsman’s Axe” was put on some others.  It is unknown how many of these were made by King Axe, but they occasionally come up for auction. 

A unique piece of Maine history – the President’s axe (maybe to be re-created by Brant & Cochran?).

Sources: Tom Lamond, “The President’s Hunting Axe w/Knife in Handle,” Fine Tool Journal; “John King, Oakland, ME Who Made the Hunter’s Axe, Presented to President Roosevelt,” Lewiston Journal Illustrated, August 30, 1902, "Hunting Axe for President," Pittsburgh Press, September 30, 1902.  All collected in Art Gaffar’s Axe and Edge Tool Makers of Maine (August, 2018 ed.)

Focus On Friends -- The Patten Lumbermen's Museum

Focus On Friends -- The Patten Lumbermen's Museum

If you follow our comings and goings at Brant & Cochran, you may have seen pictures of us up at the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum every May and August.  We love being invited to participate in two of the museum’s signature events:  The Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival the third week of May and the Bean Hole Dinner the second Saturday in August.

Opened in 1963, the museum transports visitors back to the glory days of the lumber industry in Maine. 

There are nine buildings on the museum campus to explore.  The reception center contains a library showing films (including our favorite From Stump to Ship made in the 1930’s) and numerous pictures of logging and life in Maine lumber camps.  The museum also maintains a very large on-line photo gallery.  

Once you walk out of the reception center you can visit a working blacksmith shop, the Mt. Chase fire tower equipment shed, and a single 1820’s camp (shown below) and double camp complete with “dingle” (look it up!).  These two structures provide a real “insider” view of what life was like for loggers in a remote, cold winter camp.

There is also an impressive (to us of course) collection of axes and other vintage logging tools on display.

It was from one of these walls that we borrowed an axe to make the pattern for our new Allagash Cruiser Maine wedge camp axe.

New to the museum is an enclosure to display the museum’s steam powered Lombard log hauler – one of only 83 manufactured in Waterville between 1901 and 1917.  These machines were the first tracked vehicles ever commercially produced and are precursors to today's bulldozers and tanks.

Just last month the museum added the Kennebec to its collection.  The Kennebec is a tug boat built in 1956 and used to tow logs from lakes in Western Maine to coastal mills until her final log drive in 1976.

After visiting the museum, check out the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.  The park’s north entrance is just down the road from the museum. 

Your favorite axe makers will be on hand for the museum’s bean hole dinner on August 11.  For information on the dinner and the museum visit its website

We hope that you get the opportunity to visit the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum.  Of course, you can also support the mission of the museum by joining us as members here.  

See you in Patten!

"Axe On!" -- Axe Throwing Gains In Popularity Across America

Watching the evening news, reading the paper, or surfing the internet you may have seen at least one story on a new trend in recreational sport – axe throwing.  And it is being done in places we have been known to frequent.  Some recent headlines:

Axe throwing lanes can now be found in warehouses, gyms, and bars all around the country.  Here in Maine you can unleash your inner lumberjack at the Axe Pit which is part of the Maine Warrior Gym in Westbrook. 

This isn’t just about grabbing an axe or hatchet and whipping it at a wall.  There are rules. 

The National Axe Throwing Federation  was created in 2016 with the goal of publishing rules for axe throwing lanes, equipment and competitions.

You throw at a target that is 27” in diameter with a bullseye 7” from center.  The distance to the target is around 170” to the back of the target – so about 14 feet away.

Competitors can use two type of axes – small or big.  The “small axe” is really a hatchet – between 1.25 and 1.75 lb. head hafted on a handle no less than 13” long.  The “big axe” is what we would refer to as a camp or boys axe – 2.25 to 2.75 lb. head with a handle no less than 25” (sounds like our Allagash Cruiser!)

Scoring is similar to another bar game – darts.  5 points for a bullseye, 3 for the middle ring and 1 for the outer ring.  Two small “clutch” spots above the main target with a diameter of 2 5/8” are worth 7 points if hit.

What accounts for the newfound popularity of axe throwing?  No doubt there is certainly a cool factor just whipping an axe at a target.  Having a beer while throwing an axe?  Even better.  Is this just a passing fad or something that we will be doing fifty years from now?  I don’t have the answer, but we certainly enjoy it and hope that you'll get an opportunity to try it out. 

Steve set up an axe throwing target at camp for us to enjoy.  Check out his mad skills here.  And as usual, Steve hits the bullseye!  Hope you do too!