Catholic Ladders collection

Echelle Catholique [Catholic Ladder], 1840 Echelle Catholique, Historique et Chronologique [Catholic Ladder, History and Chronology], 1846-1847 Explication de L'Échelle Catholique ou Manière d'expliquer le Catéchisme aux Savages [Explanation... Escala Católica Y Misteriosa de Jacob [The Catholic and Mysterious Ladder of Jacob], 1856 Catholic Ladder or a Chronological and Historical Chart of the Christian Religion and Doctrine, 1859 Tableau-catéchisme [Pictorial Catechism], 1896

Identity elements

Reference code

Coll 51

Name and location of repository

Level of description



Catholic Ladders collection


  • 1840-1896 (Creation)


1.44 Cubic Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

Name of creator


Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Collection consists of hand-drawn and commercially printed Catholic ladders designed by Francis Norbert Blanchet between 1840 and 1859. The hand-drawn 1840 ladder is believed to have been drawn by Blanchet. The ladder matches extant examples of Blanchet’s handwriting and is addressed to his brother A. M. A. Blanchet at Cedars parish in Canada. Also included in the collection are three printed lithograph ladders with instructions written in French (1846-47 ladder), Spanish (1856 ladder), and English (1859 ladder). There are also photostatic copies of two additional early examples of Blanchet ladders. The collection also includes one Pictorial Catechism printed in 1896 that was designed by Albert Lacombe based off Blanchet’s ladders.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Languages of the material

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Collection is in French, English, and Spanish.

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Notes element

General note

Father Francis Norbert Blanchet was a French-Canadian Catholic priest who arrived in Oregon Country as a missionary in 1838. Blanchet designed the first Catholic ladder in 1839 as a tool for Christian evangelization. The ladders are visual teaching aids that use symbols and illustrations to represent concepts and important events in Catholic theology and history. The ladder design originated with the Sahale stick, a carved wooden catechism, which Blanchet designed in 1838 while working at the Cowlitz Mission (in present-day Lewis County, Washington). Sahale stick is a Chinook Jargon term which translates to, “stick from heaven.” The update to the long, paper design allowed the ladders to be rolled or folded into panels for easier portability. Blanchet and other missionaries used the ladders as an instructional tool for Christian evangelization to Native American and French métis communities. The ladders were a popular tool among missionaries globally during the later half of the nineteenth century as an aid for teaching about religion across language barriers. In 1872, Father Albert Lacombe expanded upon Blanchet's design. Lacombe was a French-Canadian Catholic priest and missionary who evangelized among Cree and Blackfoot First Nations in Northwest Canada. He developed a more elaborate version of the Catholic ladder, which he called the Pictorial Catechism. Lacombe produced further editions of Pictorial Catechisms, which were distributed globally throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

General note

Online collection is only a selection of materials from the full collection. More information about this collection can be found here:

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Catholic Ladders collection, Coll 51, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Accession area