Rare and Important Rarotonga or Atiu Pole-Club, 'akatara, Cook Islands
length 98in (249cm)
carved from the heart (taiki) of the toa tree (ironwood; Casuarina equisetifolia), with exquisitely carved broad, scalloped blade with needle-form tip, the collar with two "eye" motifs on each side and the butt with chevron design; beautifully finished with a rich, dark-brown patina.
Arthur Sewall (1835 - 1900), Bath, Maine; thence by descent.
Arthur Sewall was candidate for Vice President of the United States with William Bryan in 1896, and was one of the earliest and most prominent shipbuilders of Bath. His son, Harold Marsh Sewall (1860 - 1924) was General Consul to Samoa under Cleveland and Harrison, and minister to Hawaii under McKinley, until the time of its annexation. Harold joined his father's business after completing his education. The Sewall family can be traced back to Henry Sewall (1624 - 1663) Secretary of Maryland.
These magnificent pole-clubs, according to Steven Hooper (2006: p. 222), "have long been attributed to Rarotonga, but evidence for this assumption is hard to find. Formal analysis and an eye-witness account suggest that these were originally made on Atiu, though they may have found their way to Rarotonga and elsewhere. A number of them (Oldman 2004: pl.31, no. 445c; Phelps 1976: pls 77-8, nos 606; Buck 1944; fig. 179r-s) have collar designs as small figures of the central Cook Islands kind, and where they have 'eye' designs [as in the example presented here] they are of eye and lids, with no additional brow line, which is characteristic of Rarotonga. Others, [including the example presented here]...have a fine tip which is carved in exactly the same was as the tips of fan handles of central Cooks origin...When Anderson was there [Atiu] in 1777 during Cook's third voyage, he noted: 'The clubs were about six feet long or more, made of a hard black wood launce shap'd at the end but much broader, with the edge nicely scallop'd and the whole neatly polish'd'(Beaglehole 1967: 841)"
Cf. Phelps (1975: fig. 611) for a club sharing similar broad, scalloped blade with a needle, "fan-handle" point.