Missouri River Fur Trade War Axe


Dating back to 1825-1850, this Missouri War axe represents those used by Indigenous tribes in the Missouri River region, such as the Sioux, Shoshones, Mandan, and Osage. Axes like this often possessed inscriptions left by the blacksmith who forged them or designs like the bleeding heart shown on this blade. A common folkloric symbol, the missing steel used to create the bleeding heart was believed to grant its user a steely or stronger heart instead.

War axes became common exchange items within the complex fur trade network that existed throughout the Missouri River and its watershed during the 18th and 19th centuries. European merchants traded manufactured goods, such as Italian beads, guns, whiskey, and metal axes with Indigenous peoples to obtain animal skins that fueled a growing fashion industry in their home countries. The fur trade became one of the first catalysts for westward expansion in the United States. While shaping the continental United States as it exists today, it also depleted natural resources and set in motion the European and American infiltration that increasingly stole native land over the coming centuries.

Object Details

Categories: Business & Economy, War & Conflict

Date: 1825-1850

Subject: Fur trade; Indians of North America; Trade routes

Contributing Institution: Missouri History Society

Accession Number: 2018-087-0001

Copy Request: Transmission or reproduction of items on these pages beyond those allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the Missouri Historical Society: 314-746-4510

Rights: The text and images contained in this collection are intended for research and educational use only. Duplication of any of these images for commercial use without express written consent is expressly prohibited. Contact the Missouri Historical Society's Permissions Office at 314-746-4511 to obtain written consent.

Region: St. Louis Metro

Type: Object

Latitude: 38.614904

Longitude: -90.25763