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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

The Alfred Agate Collection: The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

1839

The ships methodically worked their way west through French Polynesia, arriving at Tahiti in mid-September. There the islanders were deemed to be more friendly and seemed to the explorers to be more advanced in civilization, a condition ascribed to the unification of local tribes under a monarch, Queen Pomare, and the presence of missionaries. Wilkes permitted more explorations ashore. The islanders, in turn, clamored for trade. Peacock and Flying Fish remained at Tahiti for a time and the scientifics were afforded several opportunities to make expeditions into the interior of the island and to make ascents of its mountains. Wilkes described the islands, their features, imports and products with his usual carefulness. He noted that previous accounts of the islands had described the islanders as dressed in tapa cloth fabric made from the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera), but he found no trees extant on his visit. The islanders now preferred cotton cloth, for which they traded with visiting ships. The women, however, still wore a traditional headdress, a rim of woven leaves which shaded their faces, called a hau.

Tahitian Trading Double Canoe
Alfred T. Agate
Ink wash and pencil
98-89-R

 

 

Tahitian Trading Double Canoe
Alfred T. Agate
Ink and pencil
98-89-S

 

 

Two Tahitian Men in a Canoe
Alfred T. Agate
Ink and pencil
98-89-FL

 

Tahitian Man in His Trading Canoe
Alfred T. Agate
Ink and pencil
98-89-U

 

 

Polynesian Women Beating Tapa Cloth
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-AD

 

 

Tahitian Girl with Hau
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-V

 

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Index of the exhibit

 

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27 March 2004