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Adirondack Pack Basket History

One of the oldest surviving traditions inside the Adirondack Park. These baskets were used to carry the heavy loads needed for hunting, fishing, trapping and other pursuits in the mountain wilderness. Most early Adirondack pack baskets were made using hand pounded Black ash woodsplints split to satin like the one pictured here. They have a flat or slightly curved back and a "belly" that bows out somewhat to increase the volume of the contents the pack could hold. A leather or woven webbing harness with adjustable shoulder straps allows the basket to be worn comfortably on the guide or hunter's back.

This black ash woodsplint pack basket with a double lashed rim and woven cotton webbing harness was purchased in 1950 by a woman who is now in her late 80's and she got it in New Hampshire. She never used it for anything other than decoration. Image used with permission, courtesy of: Robin and Wayne Wechsler, Dove Place Antiques, 160 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, San Anselmo, CA 94960. http://www.doveplaceantiques.com/

Adirondack Guides and Guiding
Essays and historic photographs about Adirondack Guides and guiding from the Adirondack History Network developed by the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York. Includes numerous images of pack baskets in use.

Adirondack Pack Basket History
The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt., New York features a wide variety of historical information on the use of Adirondack pack baskets by mountain guides in the Adirondack Park.

Anselm Parsons, Adirondack Guide
View of Anselm Parsons (dates unknown), a guide in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The exact location of this photograph is unknown. The date is also unrecorded, but may be around 1920.

Canoe and Guide Boat
One canoe and one guide boat near the shore of an unidentified lake in the Adirondack Mountains. A man and two women pose at the shoreline.

Early Adirondack Guides Posing with Gear
Photo from the New York State Archives of two guides posing at an unidentified Adirondack location. Guides are carrying Adirondack pack baskets, and one has a hatchet. From the New York State Archives.

Man, carrying Adirondack pack basket
Photo depicts a man walking up logging trail on Blue Mountain, in the Adirondack Mountains. Felled and uprooted trees surround trail; signs of logging. From the New York State Archives.

Hiking Party Photo
Hiking party of three women and two men pose in an unidentified forest with guide boat behind them. Standing woman is holding a shoulder yoke used to carry to boat. An Adirondack pack basket is also visible.

Hiking Up Mount Marcy
Five men wearing Adirondack Pack baskets are shown Hiking up Mount Marcy, Adirondack State Park. (ca. 1930)

Historic Photograph of Three Men with Backpack Baskets
Old photo from the Adirondack Museum's Adirondack History Network shows three hunters with ash backpack baskets strapped to their backs. This historic photograph depicts Frederic Remington with guides Bill and Has Rasbeck.

Historic Photograph of a Group of Adirondack Guides
This photo, from the collection of The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt., New York, features Mitchell Sabattis of Long Lake who was one of the most famous of the Adirondack Guides.

Two hunters following the trail. One man has an ash splint pack basket on his back and a rifle in his hands. The other man examines the tracks in the snow. Copyright Susi Nuss 2006

Packbasket by Henry Arquette
This photo, from the collection of The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt., New York, Adirondack History Network depicts a black ash pack basket woven by Akwesasne basketmaker Henry Arquette.

Pack Basket with Trapped Bobcat
Wildcat Hanging From Tree in Woods with Pack Basket & Snow-Shoes. Second photo.

Photo of a Man with Pack Basket
This photo, from the collection of The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt., New York, features a man with an ash splint guide basket standing in a burned over forest. Photo taken circa 1902 by photographer Abraham Knechtel.

Photo of an Adirondack Open Lean-to Camp
New York Eighth Lake part of the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Adirondacks (Fulton Chain) State Open Camp and Campers; Pack Baskets and Canoe (1922).

Photo of a Man Carrying A Deer Head in a Packbasket
Hunter carrying a deer head in a basket, probably near Long Lake in Long Lake, Hamilton County in the Adirondack Mountains. This image was created to record the hunting related activities of the New York State Conservation Commission. It demonstrates dangerous hunting practices.

Photograph of an Adirondack Guide with an Ash Pack Basket
This photo, from the collection of The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt., New York, Adirondack History Network depicts a bearded guide by the name of Orsen Phelps. Orsen's packbasket.

Photo of Men at Lean-to Camp
Conservation Commission staff members preparing lunch at a lean-to on the Mt. Marcy trail in the Adirondack Mountains, circa 1928. Sign on lean-to reads "Gorge Camp, State Property." Adirondack pack baskets, cookware and fire pit in view.

Photograph of Students Ready For A Hike
Three New York College of Forestry sophomores in the woods near the College's summer camp at Cranberry Lake, ready for a hike, circa 1915. One is carrying an Adirondack pack basket, one a canoe and the other the paddles, as they prepare for a hike in the Adirondack Mountains.

Photograph of Two Adirondack Guides
Old photo from the Adirondack Museum's Adirondack History Network shows two guides, one wearing a packbasket near their guide boats. 

Photo of a Camp Lean-to with Two Ash Backpack Baskets
Old photo from the Adirondack Museum's Adirondack History Network shows a group of men and a women gathered in front of a camp lean-to having a meal. Two antique ash pack baskets are shown in the foreground.

Portrait of Orson Phelps
1920's Portrait of famous Adirondack guide, Orson "Old Mountain" Phelps. From the New York State Archives.

Two Women and Two Guide Boats
Early 1900's photo of two women standing on shore of an unidentified river in the Adirondack Mountains. Two guide boats sit nearby and Adirondack pack baskets are in the foreground. From the New York State Archives.

William Houck, maker of pounded ash Adirondack pack baskets
by Henry H Glassie A monograph from the Studies in traditional American crafts series published by the Oneida, N.Y. : Madison County Historical Society in 1980 about William Houck (1884-1967), maker of pounded ash Adirondack pack baskets. Out of print and difficult to find.

W.C. Leonard & Co., Saranac Lake, New York Catalog, 1913
Image from an outfitters catalog shows a hiker fitted out with a Adirondack packbasket.

Adirondack Pack Basket Index
Find more about Adirondack packbaskets including tutorials, how to's, supplies, kits, patterns, makers and where to purchase finished new and antique baskets.

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