This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
Wood splint baskets have been made by a number of First Nations peoples in the Northeastern Woodlands since the eighteenth century or earlier. As tourism became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, the demand for these splint baskets grew. In response to this demand, the “fancy” basket was invented. New tools were invented to standardize and speed up production. The gauge is a carved wooden tool with metal inserts that are evenly spaced so that the splints can be pulled across and cut to various uniform widths. This allowed for a change from wide to variously sized splints, which can be manipulated into a wider variety of forms. The block is a carved piece of wood, or several carved pieces of wood that fit together like a puzzle. The basket is measured and moulded around the block, which sped up production so larger quantities could be made in standardized forms.