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Original owner 1938-39 Old Town Canoe, Serial # 120782 17

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by BB767, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello everyone, this is my first post. Several years ago I inherited my father's Old Town 17' canoe and I'm trying to find some additional information about it. He was the original owner having purchased it brand new around 1938 in Janesville, Wisconsin. It is all original wood/canvas including paint (dark green), caned seats and still retains it's original Old Town decal in nice condition. It is in excellent, overall original condition and has always been well cared for, stored properly and always inside. It is equipped with a factory lake keel and I still have the original sitka spruce paddles. Serial number is 120782 17.

    Something rather interesting about it is that he and Mom used it on their honeymoon in the boundary waters of Canada, summer of 1948. I am seeking any additional information anyone here might be able to provide about it. I have emailed Old Town Canoes with the serial number but have yet to hear back from them. I'm sure pictures would be helpful and I will post some when I am able. As I am retired now, one of these days my son will inherit it, keeping it in the family for a third generation.

    Thank you in advance for any and all help in this matter.

    Thomas
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The Old Town canoe with serial number 120782 is a 17 foot long, CS (Common Sense or middle) grade, HW (heavy water) model with open spruce gunwales, oak decks, oak thwarts, oak seats, and a keel. It was built between March and July, 1937. The original exterior paint color was dark green. It shipped on March 26th, 1938 to Delavan, Wisconsin. A scan showing this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.

    This scan and several hundred thousand more were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/about-the-wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA and http://store.wcha.org/WCHA-New-Membership.html to join.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Canoes with a family history are always extra special. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions. Good luck,

    Benson
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  3. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you Benson for that information, it matches up nicely with our canoe. I did a Google maps search and found Delavan, where it was shipped to from the factory, is 20 miles from Janesville so that makes sense. I couldn't quite remember eaxctly when Dad said he bought it but it must have been in 1938. As I recall he thought he paid about $75 dollars for it new, would that seem about right? What we'll never know is whether he ordered it or just bought it from the the retailer unless that information is somehow available.

    A couple of more questions for you. The seats are described as oak. Is that reference to the seat frames as the seats themselves are caned and I'm very sure they are original? It is also a HW (heavy water) model. Is that in reference to the the canoe's beam? I've always noted our canoe is very wide compared to most others for its length. That does contribute to it's fine stability, even in choppy waters.

    I'll admit to being a little misty eyed when I read the build record you supplied. That canoe was very special to my father. He was 19 years old when he bought it having saved money working summers for the Parker Pen company in Janesville prior to going to college. We've enjoyed many memorable trips in it as a family and just he and I alone. Always knowing that he and Mom honeymooned in it has always made it that much more special. Over the years my father, son and I have taken a few trips ourselves to the boundary waters and Dad has passed on to my son his love for the area and proper use and care for our canoe.

    Thomas
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The HW model in CS grade listed for $76 dollars in the 1938 Old Town catalog. More details like this are available from http://store.wcha.org/The-Complete-Old-Town-Canoe-Company-Catalog-Collection-CD-ROM.html in the catalog collection. The "Order of" notation on the build record implies that this was a special order and not a regular dealer stock item. Only the seat frames were oak with cane in the middle as described at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/specific.gif from a period catalog. The HW was Old Town's most popular model as listed at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/models.html and the page at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/dimens-1.gif gives the original dimensions. The page at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?10762 has some more background on this model. Enjoy,

    Benson
     
  5. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Wonderful background information. I can't thank you enough Benson for taking a few minutes and putting that together for me. Dad's recollection of about a $75 purchase price in 1938 was bang on. I note the HW models weight without any gear is approximately 70 lbs. Dad told me he use to carry his Old Town overhead by himself, 2 blocks down hill to the Rock River to use it and when done, he'd lift it back up and carry it back home, 2 blocks up-hill. I suspect being a strapping young man that wasn't all that difficult, but the rotation and balance needed to get that old war horse overhead by one's self is not something I think I could have done at his age.

    At any rate, you have my profound thanks for filling in some gaps and I'll do my best to get at least a few pictures of the canoe posted here as a follow up.

    Thomas
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  6. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

  7. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you for the link. I don't think (hope) I'll have a problem posting pictures but I note most of the pictures here seem to be thumb nails. I'm pretty active on a couple of other forums: http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=51567 for example, where I've posted several hundred pictures over the years detailing how my son and I restored an old auto shop. My fall back position is my darling daughter who's business is computers. She's come to my rescue on more than one occasion! We moved last fall and are in temporary housing until we build our retirement house starting this spring. As such the canoe is not as accessible as it ordinarily would be. Be that as it may, I'll still see if I can get something posted here this weekend.

    I've been meaning for several years, since my father passed away, to get some additional background information on his canoe. Today was the day and Benson's information was exactly the type I was looking for. I love history and my father had instilled in me a respect and caring for all things old. I feel a duty to pass along family history and family items to the next generation as much as I am able. That canoe was important to my father growing up in Wisconsin and for him to care for it for almost 70 years means a lot to me. Now it's my turn.

    Thomas
     
  8. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Wow what a remarkable shop! Incredible work to bring it back. Brought back some frightening memories seeing that lift, the shop i worked at during university had the same style lift, and while working on my car one weekend after close i stepped out from under it, evidently a seal blew and the car hit the floor in about a second and a half. The safely bar that goes under it when fully extended had not been around for decades apparently. Didnt get the shakes till later than evening since the day before 3 of us had been under it changing out a transmission. Seems garage envy is a constant in my life! thanks for posting
     
  9. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Pictures of Original Condition 1937 Old Town HW Canoe

    Here are a few pictures of my Dad's Old Town Canoe, serial # 120782. Please remember it is in temporary storage so the pictures are not the best. The last picture shows the canoe sitting sideways on top of a cardboard box. This was only for a few minutes, just for picture taking purposes only!! I know better. It was on its side just long enough to take pictures and then promptly inverted again. For temporary storage it is always stored upside down resting on the gunwales, not to worry. When we move, it will be suspended upside down and hung from the gunwales the way Dad always stored it.

    Note in the first picture it has a middle thwart. If that was not standard, I suspect Dad ordered it that way to make handling and carrying it easier by himself.
    It has open gunwales and a keel. Dad always referred to his canoe as being equipped with a "lake keel". I don't know if that is his term or not. I did measure the keel and darned if it isn't exactly 7/8" as specified in Old Town specifications.
    I'll get a couple pictures of the original spruce paddles posted also.
    As you can see it's in overall good but not in pristine condition. It has been used, but generally speaking, used with care. It is approaching 80 years old and I suspect I'll have to throw an 80th birthday party for it, July 3, 2017.
    I believe I have some B/W pictures of Dad with this canoe in the boundary waters circa 1938-39. I'll try to find them and post them as well. I think you might find that interesting. I know I will.
    Thanks everyone and especially Benson for all your help with this.

    Thomas
     

    Attached Files:

  10. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Wow... Maybe not pristine, but aging quite gracefully! Nice patina...
     
  11. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Was your father involved with the Boy Scouts? There was Boy Scout Camp in Delavan until about 1990 (I camped there a few times in the late 1950's -- my first experiences with camping in a tent).

    Greg
     
  12. portagedog

    portagedog Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Tom,

    Very nice canoe and every better back story about it. I grew up in the area and remember Janesville, Delavan, and the whole surrounding area quite well. My wife's folks still have a place on the south shore of Delavan Lake. The Rock River is familiar too, as while in Boy Scouts, we would often camp at Camp Indian Trails. This was circa the early 80's. A quick web search shows it still there and active.

    Greg,

    What was the name of that camp in Delavan? I don't recall ever having been at a Scout camp in Delavan and think I would have or at least known of it in the 1980's, if it was still open until 1990. I didn't live there, but in Sharon, though I had an after school job there and spent a good deal of my 'getting into trouble' years around there.

    portage dog
     
  13. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    A beautiful canoe. It must have had good care and storage practices!
     
  14. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Nice canoe and story.

    Interesting that it's a late 30's canoe with hand cained seats and the "late" style deck cutouts.
    It also looks very flat bottom as compared to the 2 17 ft HW's I had, they were both very arched.

    Dan
     
  15. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Original Paddle Pictures

    Here are some pictures of the original paddles. Dad never said otherwise, but it's always been my assumption they were supplied with the canoe. Did Old Town supply all their canoes with paddles or were they purchased separately from the retailer?
    They have never been refinished. As I recall, Dad told me they were made from spruce. They have a slightly springy feel to them in the water and are absolutely feather light. Truly amazingly light weight and are a joy to paddle with. The handhold end of the handles are unfinished as you can see. Both are identical in the amount that is unfinished. Not sure why that part was unfinished. Perhaps to keep them from getting slippery?
    Dimensions: stern paddle overall length is 66-1/4", bow paddle is 60-1/8" overall. Both are 6-3/4" wide. The 5th picture with the close up of the measuring tape might help someone with dimensions for where the curve of the blade tapers to the shaft.
    Please take a close look at the last picture. I've used these paddles my whole life and I never noticed the arrow pointing to a circle stamped in the bow paddle until today. From the tip of the blade to that circle is 24 3/4". Does anyone know the significance of that stamp? It is the only marking on either paddle and it's only on the bow paddle.
    I forgot to measure the thickness of the blade end (it's very thin) and the shaft diameter. i can supply those if someone needs them.

    For those curious, the bench in the background is all maple with a 3" thick maple butcher block top. 9' long with an "el" end 5' long. I built that bench several years ago to fit that corner of the building I refer to as my barn. If you click the link to my shop restoration, http://garagejournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=51567 ,go to page 151, post #3007. That's the start of documenting building that bench and is heavily documented with dozens of pictures. The build continues for several pages. If you're a wood working enthusiast I think you'll find it interesting.

    Thomas
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast


    The name of the camp was Camp Delavan. I’m not sure of it’s exact location -- my scout troop was in LaGrange, Illinois, and for each of the three years I was a Boy Scout in the late 1950s, we would take a weekend trip up in the fall -- October or early November, I would guess, because it was cold and we always arrived late in the day, after dark, so we always ended up camping on the side of a hill, in the floor-less two-man army-surplus canvas pup tents that the troop owned. We did no canoeing -- one evening of one trip we did go to the nearby Yerkes Observatory with its 40 inch refractor telescope -- otherwise just hiking and other woodland activities and campfire cooking. I don't know when the camp began operation.

    I did a bit of googling to see if I could find any information -- the information about the 1990s closing is from a zoning variance application from people who apparently now own part of the land -- see p. 11 of
    http://www.co.walworth.wi.us/committees/BOA\pdfs\2013\BOAFebruary2013Packet.pdf

    This document indicates that it was on the north shore of Lake Delavan.
     
  17. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Greg. Yes Dad was involved in Scouting as a child/teen and then later as a scout master until WW II. He truly had a love of the outdoors and possessed many life skills which made him comfortable in a rugged, primitive environment. His first solo trip to the boundary waters was when he was still in high school, age 17 or 18. I think that was a life changing event for him.

    I have several pages of receipts from that first trip when he bought all his supplies from an outfitter at the start of the trip. The total amount was under $9.00. It is fun to read through them and see what types of items he bought and the cost of each. I should scan them and post them here. I expect many here would find that interesting as well. The outfitter was in Minnesota and as I recall the establishment was a hotel, at least that's on the header of those receipts, all hand written of course. I wonder if that hotel is still in business?

    Thomas
     
  18. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you Dave. Yes it had good care and always dry, proper storage. Dad was a meticulous fellow but not overbearing. As a family we used the canoe but treated it with respect. We kids would have never dreamed of doing anything harmful to it. I had a modest upbringing and was taught the value of taking care of personal possessions. They had to last!

    Thomas
     
  19. OP
    OP
    BB767

    BB767 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Additional Pictures

    Hello Dan. Thank you for the kind words. It does have a wide, flat bottom (except for the keel of course) and I've always felt it to be quite stable. I'm very comfortable in it. It carries the fullness both fore and aft which allows packing gear and keeping it low in the canoe much easier.

    Here are some additional pictures. Sorry it's so dirty. With the move and new home construction it's going to have a wait a while.

    Thomas
     

    Attached Files:

  20. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Thomas,

    More importantly, tell us the story and post some pics of those 2 beautiful cars I see.
    Did you restore those also?

    Dan
     

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