Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Brass Patu

1932.86.1 front  

1932.86.1 back

Joseph Banks, the naturalist on Cook's first voyage, had forty brass replicas of Maori patu onewa made to take with him on the second voyage.  They were made in 1772 in Eleanor Gyles's brass foundry at No.9, Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, at a cost of nine shillings and sixpence each, and engraved with Bank's coat of arms by Thomas Orpin, at his shop opposite Northumberland Court, in the Strand, London, at a cost of one shilling each. 

At least two of the patu onewa collected by Banks on the first voyage were used as patterns for the brass replicas, being used to make a two part mould from sand and clay, which would have been destroyed in the casting process.  The marks in the surface of the stone cleaver can be seen replicated in the surface of one of the brass versions in the Pitt Rivers collection.

Banks withdrew from the second voyage after disagreements with the Admiralty over additional cabin accommodation on the Resolution - his place as naturalist on the voyage was taken by the Forsters.  Some or all of the brass patus were later given to Charles Clerke to take on the third voyage in the Discovery.  It has been suggested that the patus were meant to serve as a form of permanent visiting card, recording for posterity Bank's activities and connections.

The brass patus were sighted in various places in the next few years - in 1787, on the Northwest Coast of America in Hecate Straits, in 1788 Nootka sound, and in 1801 and 1816 in New Zealand.  Today the whereabouts of six are known - two in the Pitt Rivers, one in the British Museum, one in the Museum of London, one in the Tamatslikt Cultural Institute of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (which was said to have been excavated from a grave on the shore of the Columbia River in Oregon, and 'repatriated' to the Umatilla Nation in 2005) and one in a private collection.

One of the Pitt Rivers brass patus can be seen in the temporary exhibition 'Made for Trade' until the 27th January 2013.

See Coote, Jeremy, 2008: Joseph Banks’s Forty Brass Patus in the Journal of Museum Ethnography No 20 (March) pp 49-68.