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Nessmuk's Adirondack Letters
Nessmuk wrote many letters to Forest and Stream magazine in the 1880s. These popularized canoeing, the Adirondack lakes, self-guided canoe camping tours, the open, Rushton-type single canoe (but with a double-bladed paddle) instead of the decked British canoe, and what we today call environmentalism. It was a happy union of technology and art, nature and life.
We select the most famous of his letters, those about three tours in ultralight cedar canoes. We hope you enjoy reading these pages and welcome any comments, suggestions, or contributions. (We especially need a map suitable for reference.)
George Washington Sears (1821-1890)
- Brief biographical sketch
- Photograph. By E. R. Shumway, courtesy of the late Mrs. Marie Sears Bodine. Plate 1 of Dan Brenan's book. [34KB]
- Home page for Nathaniel H. Bishop, another canoeist
- Table of data of the five canoes Rushton built for Nessmuk, from Brenan.
- Photograph of Sairy Gamp, Plate IX of Brenan, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution [76KB]
- Photograph of Wee Lassie,, Plate X of Brenan, photograph by James Fynmore, a J. Henry Ruston canoe with almost the same dimensions as Susan Nipper [50KB]
Letters to Forest and Stream
- Rough Notes from the Woods, 1880
(Cruise of the Wood Drake, also called Nessmuk No. 1)
- Moose River, July 21 (in Forest and Stream August 12, 1880)
- Foot of Stillwater, Jones' Camp, (Forest and Stream August 19, 1880)
- Forest and Stream Sept. 2, 1880
- Forest and Stream Sept. 16, 1880
- Forest and Stream Nov. 18, 1880
- Forest and Stream Nov. 25, 1880
- Cruise of the Susan Nipper, 1881
- Forest and Stream Dec. 8, 1881
- Forest and Stream Dec. 15, 1881
- Forest and Stream Dec. 29, 1881
- Forest and Stream Apr. 13, 1882
- Cruise of the Sairy Gamp, 1883
- Forest and Stream June 28, 1883
- Raquette Lake, July 27 (Forest and Stream Aug. 9, 1883)
- Forest and Stream Aug. 16, 1883
- Paul Smith's (Forest and Stream Aug. 23, 1883)
- Forest and Stream Sept. 13, 1883
- Little Tupper Lake, Aug. 12 (Forest and Stream Sept. 13, 1883)
- Forest and Stream Sept. 20, 1883
- Forest and Stream Sept. 27, 1883
- The Bucktail in Florida, the eighth of nine letters to Forest and Stream, July 16, 1885.
A Note on the Text
Copy-text for this HTML edition is the book, The Adirondack Letters of George Washington Sears, whose pen name was "Nessmuk" with explanatory notes and a brief biography by Dan Brenan and George Washington Sears. Copyright 1962, The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York. Boston Public Library catalog F127.A254, 177+2 pages, 24 black and white photographic plates. We give here only the portions originally printed in Forest and Stream magazine 1880-3, i.e., pages 33-178 of the copytext, and not Brenan's original editorial material.
The Brenan text is accompanied by some inline explanatory notes in square brackets, omitted here. We present the original 1880-3 text without modernization of spelling or punctuation, except that em dashes are rendered as two minus signs without spaces on either side, and end-of-line hyphenation has been altered so paragraphs flow as in normal HTML style. Some geographical names that Sears gives are not correct today. Do not use the text for navigational purposes.
Since the copyright on the Brenan text was not renewed, it expired at the end of its 28-year period, and the Brenan text as edited entered the public domain in 1991. (The original letters have been in the public domain for many years.) However, in 1993 the Adirondack Museum published a revised edition which is said to correct many small mistakes made by Brenan, who died before making the corrections. We have been advised that the editor's notes (which we don't reprint here anyway) are not totally accurate, and that omitted parts of the original letters are not always marked with the usual three dots. Please buy the new edition or read it in your library for the most accurate information.
On the 1996 version of this web page we reproduced some photographs from a book, but we have now withdrawn them (the publisher has not given permission). We suggest that if you are very interested in the Nessmuk type of canoe you should consult in your library this book, Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing, by Atwood Manley, with the assistance of Paul F. Jamieson, Copyright 1968 by Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York. LCC: 68-20484, published for the Adirondack Museum of the Adirondack Historical Association. Dewey Decimal code GV783.M26. Mr. Manley was a 1916 graduate of St. Lawrence University, near Canton, and formerly owned and published the St. Lawrence Plaindealer in Canton, N.Y. His book provides a wealth of information about Rushton and all his canoes.