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Online Exhibit: Outdoor Life: Camping and Woodcraft

Camping and Woodcraft book shown with photograph of Hrace Kephart at a table in an encampment.

Clippings about moccasins.Drawing from a library career familiar with information organization, Kephart carefully collected his research material for all his published works. His note system evolved over time. Many early notes are still held on library catalog cards. He also collected notes in a variety of bound notebooks. Many of these early notes were later incorporated into the system of loose leaf thesis binders that could grow with additional information and currently holds the bulk of his research notes. In these research journals, Kephart developed elaborate index and page numbering systems that could also incorporate future material in careful organization based on library catalog schemes.

Particularly thrift, Kephart recycled by using the back side of various papers. Note paper includes a variety of unused printed stationary no longer needed notes from earlier, and draft pages of his writings. Many pages were on Bryson City stationary from when Kephart served as town chariman. Archivists identified the few pages of draft material while preparing for this current exhibit. These pages are included in the searchable database.

Research notes included hand written quotes, clippings from earlier notes, and clippings from publications of both text material and advertisements for equipment. He also organized the notes with subject headings and included cross references to related subjects.

Hand written notes about moccasins.

This page from journal seven covering footgear begins with the subject of moccasins. Here the following quotes are collected:

Footgear. (See 306, Shoemaking, Moccasin making.)

Moccasins. "A moccasin is to all intents and purposes a leather sock, so that the foot has full play, and can bend and grasp as nature intended. At the first attempt the pains of practically walking barefooted amongst sticks and sharp stones are of course severe. But after a few days the foot becomes hardened, and can stand much knocking about, and then it is that one begins to appreciate what Mr. Pike happily names 'the moccasin of freedom', and to despise the boot of civilisation; for you soon find that you can walk easily, swiftly, and silently for long distances without becoming tired, that your foot does not stick in deep mud, that you can move with ease upon slipping logs, and, most important of all, that you do not break every twig that you may chance to step on. It would be utterly hopeless to attempt to stalk in boots in a North-western forest. You would see more game in Picadilly." (Somerset, 100)

In the depth of winter, moose or caribou hide is warmest. Toward spring, oil-tanned or moose shanks are preferable. The latter are quite waterproof, but do not last long, being merely green hide stripped from the beast's hock and then sewn up with waxed thread. Two pairs of thick worsted socks are sufficient for the coldest weather. (C.A.B. in S.&F., VI, 313.)

Towards spring, an oil-tanned shoe pack is occasionally useful and certainly keeps the feet dry, but is by no means a perfect foot-gear, as, when snowshoeing, the toe slips back a little at every step unless the heel strap is painfully tight. The best moccasins for cold weather are of caribou or moose hide (the former being by far the best). They should be Indian-tanned and cut low (see ill.). During March and April nothing can compare with moose shanks, these being merely the green hide removed (shown in ill., AA to BB) from the freshly killed beast, then sewn up at the toes and a running-string inserted round the tops. Snowshoeing in these is delightful; but they are perishable in the extreme. Large, gray, country oversocks, knit for use not to sell, are the best things out for dead of winter. (Saint Croix in S.&F., VIII, 52.)

"For dry weather and dry land, winter or summer, in the woods, in the mountains, or in the plains, the most comfortable and serviceable of all footgear is a heavy buckskin moccasin....The moccasin is the most natural, rational, perfect piece of foot-wear ever worn by human beings." (Shields, Camping & Camp Outfits, 18.)

"In timber or on the plains, where the are no cacti, the soleless Chippewa or Crow moccasins should be worn. In northern Montana, where the prickly pear is common, the Dakota (or Sioux) moccasin with par-flesh soles, made from pemmican bags, and firmly sewed with sinew, do good service. For winter, wear in the north, the buckskin moccasin partially filled with hay and worn over woolen socks and footings of blanket, will be found very comfortable. The perspiration freezes in the hay, and after a hard day's tramp a solid cake of ice will often be found, while the feet are warm and dry." (Batty, How to hunt & trap, 13-13.)

Draft page of Camping and Woodcraft describing moccasins.

Without the use of word processors, Kephart drafts were typed. He would then mark changes and make the corrections on a future draft. In these drafts he selected details and observations from his collected clippings and quotes and integrated them into narrative form. The majority of the first edition was previously published as articles in Field and Stream and Sports Afield. Almost inevitably the narrative grew in detail with each draft. This provided readers with additional information and Kephart with additional income since he was paid by the word. The first edition of Camping and Woodcraft also included photographs.

Page describing moccasins from the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft.
Fixed camp photograph illustrating the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft.
Pages describing moccasins from the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft.

When Kephart expanded Camping and Woodcraft into two volumes in the 1916 edition, he adapted the earlier book for more of a vacation camper than hard core outdoorsman. His description of moccasins changed accordingly. Descriptions of how to prepare "Shanks" from a freshly killed elk or moose were dropped. Instead additional commentary on suggested moccasins are better made over a formal shoe last for a better fit and suggestions of "sneakers" as a comfortable alternative to moccasins that would better appeal to the casual camper. Kephart also included additional sketches in this edition. However, the photographs from the first edition were removed.

While the needs of less formal campers were incorporated into the new edition, Kephart maintained details for the hardened outdoorsman. He also received correspondence about subjects in the book in requesting more information. The letter from Martin Baker of Birmingham, England shows the wide reach of Kephart in addressing the needs of campers at all levels of expertise. In responding to Baker, Kephart incorporates material from his notes. Kephart also takes the opportunity to promote the latest edition of the book now published by Macmillan.

Kephart ended his long publishing relationship with Outing in the spring of 1923 over problems with payment. Outing ultimately went bankrupt while still owing Kephart money. At this point Kephart moved away from writing outdoors material and began working with fiction.

Pages describing moccasins from the second edition of Camping and Woodcraft.
Letter from Martin Baker to Horace Kephart, November 16, 1921.

28 Saint Paul's Square,

November 16th. 1921.

Dear Sir,

As a delighted reader of your book, "Camping and Woodcraft" may I venture to ask for help? It is not possible to obtain "Smoke tanned caribou moccasins in this country, can you put me in touch with a firm who can supply? I want about 1/2 dozen pairs, suitable for camping and canoe work, size as outline of foot enclosed, (Which is wearing one army sock of normal thickness to give an idea.)

As you are doubtless aware, the shoes obtainable here are all for town wear, and your description, combined with what I have already learned, emboldens me to try and get the real thing.

My camping has for years combined canoeing, and dry fly fishing for trout, including some tramping light, but the possibilities here are of course limited.

Thanking you in anticipation of your reply, and for very many happy hours with your book,

Yours sincerely,
Martin Baker

Horace Kephart, Esq.
Bryson City. N.C.

Letter from Kephart to Martin Baker, December 3, 1921.Bryson City, North Carolina, USA
3 December, 1921.

Martin Baker, Esq.
Birmingham, England.

Dear Sir:-

Caribou moccasins are not sold by the sporting goods houses but are procured from natives "on the spot." But there are a few houses in the United States that keep in stock moccasins made from Alaska reindeer hide, which is practically the same as caribou -- that is, has the same qualities. The reindeer of Alaska are bred from Lapp reindeer imported by our government and domesticated by the Indians of Alaska.

I have sent your address to the following houses and asked them to send you price lists:

Hudson Bay Fur Co., 918 First Avenue, Seattle, Wash.

D. Pike Co., 116 John St., New York.

Metz & Schloerb, 88 Pain St., Oshkosh, Wis.

From the first-named firm I think you could procure caribou skins, Indian tanned. Then you could have them made up into moccasins by a cobbler at home. It would be advisable to get a pair of moosehide moccasins, or reindeer, from one of the houses named above, as a pattern, so that your shoemaker could see how they are made. He could then fit you with others he would make from the caribou or reindeer skin you imported. The Indian [woman] uses no last in making moccasins, but simply measures the man's foot and then works by eye alone. You would get a better fit if they were made over a lasts.

An Indian tanned reindeer skin (Alaska) averages about 3x4 feet, and sold in 1915, at Seattle, for $7.00. I do not know the price today.

Thank you very much for you kind appreciation of my "Camping and Woodcraft." I hope you have the last edition, published this year by the Macmillan Co., London and New York, the two volumes bound in one. It is on thin paper, fabrikoid cover, and makes a handy book for the pocket, despite its nearly 900 pages.


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