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Probable Kennebec

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by Kathryn Klos, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Canoe 17 11154 is listed for sale (on antiqueboatamerica.com) as a 1909 Old Town, but it appears to be a Kennebec to me. I don't plan to buy-- am only curious. I know it isn't a 16 foot HW with closed gunwales!

    Thanks!
    Kathy
     
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The canoe at http://antiqueboatamerica.com/ab_list_boatNew.asp?Left=&Type=ViewBoat&BoatId=28279 is listed as being 16 feet long but the serial number clearly indicates a 17 foot length. The Kennebec and Old Town records for this serial number show 16 foot long canoes. The short rail caps are commonly found on Kennebec canoes but the pictures at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=3453 show an Old Town with these. My guess is that this is the Carleton canoe with serial number 11154 which is a 17 foot long, AA grade, Indian Princess model with red Western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, mahogany trim, a keel, a floor rack, and a painter ring. It was built between March, 1915 and May, 1916. The original exterior paint color was dark(?) green. It shipped on May 27th, 1916 to New York City. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link under the thumbnail image attached below.

    These scans and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others as you know well. 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 renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/join.php to join.

    It is also possible that it could be from another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match the canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions. Good luck with the rest of your research,

    Benson
     

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    Last edited: Nov 5, 2008
  3. OP
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Thanks, Benson! Looking at the picture, the rail-cap detail on the open gunwales which is common to Kennebecs appears flatter than it is on my Kennebec, so I wasn't sure... so that explains it: it's a Carleton!
     

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  4. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Skowhegan?

    Just to throw another candidate out for consideration. Skowhegan used short rail caps too.

    I guess Skowhegan used coaming on their mahogany trimmed canoes, and the boat in question does look Old Towney.....Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2008
  5. OP
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    I thought of Skowhegan too, Fitz... but the Kennebec records are available and that's why I thought of looking into that. It seems the Skowhegan is a clone of Kennebec and the rail caps appear more rounded (in the pictures I've seen) than on the canoe in question... note how much the rail-detail of the Skowhegan (canoe on left) looks like a Kennebec (my Katahdin, on the right).

    B.N. Morris open gunwale canoes have a rail cap similar to Kennebec's... but the canoe in question doesn't have the Morris stem or a Morris serial number plate.

    The new "canoe photo index" category in "forums" may prove helpful to those trying to figure these things out.
     

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  6. OP
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Fitz, you reminded me that Kennebec also used coaming on their mahogany-trimmed canoes... the "type A" Kennebec has a heart-deck of oak, maple, or birch and "type B" is a mahogany deck with coaming. Sounds like Skowhegan had the same system. The canoe in question appears to be mahogany-trimmed... so it fits the Carleton description.
     
  7. David McDaniel

    David McDaniel Canoe Dude

    Kenebec-Skowhagan

    Kathryn;
    The Skowhagan is the same because, when the Kennebec co.
    closed, the shop forman Mr. Grant bought some of the forms and
    started the Skowhagan Canoe Co.
    Later Dave
     
  8. OP
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    An interesting topic at Assembly would be the connections, like this, among the Maine builders... the spin-off companies and the marital connections... things that would explain why one canoe might look a lot like that of another company (like this Kennebec-Skowhegan connection). Wasn't there a Morris and Kennebec connection having to do with marriage that might explain why Morris made some Kennebec hulls? I'd love to see some sort of flow-chart!

    Does anyone know what happened to those Kennebec forms?

    Kathy
     
  9. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Can anyone tell me when Mr. Grant made this transition since the Kennebec Canoe Company is known to have issued catalogs from 1910 to 1943 and the Skowhegan Canoe Company had them from 1932 to 1950 so it is not clear what was happening during the twelve (or more) years when they were both in business. See the Historic CDs for more information about this.

    There are many canoe forms that have been offered for sale over the years which people have claimed are from Kennebec. Rollin Thurlow has collected most of them but they don't look like the forms pictured in the Kennebec catalogs.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  10. David McDaniel

    David McDaniel Canoe Dude

    Kennebec

    Benson;
    I don't know the exact time, but Mr. Grant first worked for B N Morris,
    then went to Kennebec, then started Skowhegan. I'm sure Dan or Rollin
    would know the dates.
    The story of Kennebec was in one of the early Wooden Canoe Jornals,
    I'm at work right now and cannot look it up for you.
    Later Dave
     
  11. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    I don't believe we have any information that indicates Grant worked for Morris. We do know that Grant was with Kennebec at the beginning in 1909. There are several familial relationships with Grant's family and E.M. White, but not with Morris.

    If Kennebec had duplicates of forms, as did several other companies, when Grant left to form Skowhegan, that would be one explanation for the ability of both to offer similar models.
     
  12. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    It doesn't seem likely that Kennebec would actively assist the establishment of Skowhegan as a direct competitor by providing Mr. Grant with forms. There is no indication that Old Town helped Alfred Wickett and Joseph Rancoe in any way when they left to start the Penobscot Canoe Company or Ralph Brown when he went to run Penn Yan. Old Town was always careful to make sure that all extra or old wooden canoe forms were burned so they could not be used by any competitors.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  13. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Could be, but by 1932, when Grant left, production was only 20% of what it was in 1930, and only 10% by 1933. We don't know really what the state of the company was (though apparently not good) or what were the circumstances of his leaving. So, it is possible that his departure was accompanied by some forms. On the other hand, forms aren't all that hard to make (heck, I've made a few myself...) so he may very well have pulled up his own bootstraps instead. All speculation at this point.

    Dan
     
  14. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    To add to Dan's post. The state of the Kennebec Boat & Canoe Co. at that time was precarious. Their production had steadily declined since the early 1920’s.
    The company was hit hard by the depression, but also by a devastating fire in 1931, the second fire to hit the company.

    Dick Persson
    Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
     
  15. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Agreed, there is a very interesting consultant's study of the Kennebec Canoe Company's financial condition of the at that time in the Maine State Museum Archives now. It indicates that they were actually losing money on several of their models and has several pages of suggested changes at the end. I read it quickly many years ago but don't recall any mention of canoe forms, Grant, or the Skowhegan Canoe company. The same box also has an interesting exchange of letters between Kennebec and Old Town concerning their supply shortages during the Second World War. Kennebec wanted to buy some brass tacks and Old Town responded that they were down to their last half keg of tacks but would only sell some after they could find more. Kennebec also complained about the difficulties of having Old Town send them other supplies C.O.D. and asked if they could establish a credit account. Old Town responded that they had a big problem with bad debt at that time and suggested that Kennebec could pre-pay and then they would simply settle up any differences later. There is no record of a response from Kennebec to this suggestion. The museum has quite a bit of interesting material like this which might make a great research project if anyone has the time. I don't have that much free time at the moment.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
  16. David McDaniel

    David McDaniel Canoe Dude

    Kennebec/Skowhegan

    Dan and Benson:

    In the book a real runabouts review of canoes by Bob Speltz. On page 66, paragraph 2, he states " that Walter D. Grant founded Skowhegan Boat & Canoe Company in 1930." Grant was born June 16, 1881 and as a youth opened the Morris Canoe Company in Veazie, ME. 1909 moved to Waterville, ME where for 20 years he was superintendent of Kennebec Canoe Company.

    Mr. Speltz refers to the Morris Canoe company in Feaze, ME and i'm guessing he is referring to the B.N. Morris Canoe Company.

    Dave
     
  17. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I appreciate knowing the source of this now but you will probably find that Bob Speltz did not appear to spend a lot of time verifing the information that he was given or told. For example, his secton about the Old Town Canoe Company states that this "firm traces its roots back to the year 1890 when G. A. Gray started a small shop." There is no documentary evidence to support this date and there are many other errors in the rest of his description of Old Town.

    His section describing the Skowhegan Canoe Company credits a "letter from Jon Capozza" dated February 1982 as the source of his information including the claim that "Grant was born on June 16th, 1881 and when just a youth opened the Morris Canoe Company in Veazie, Maine. The year was 1909." This also seems to unlikely based on the catalog history and other documentation.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    It almost seems like the information about Grant and the Morris factory contains typos or something... it just doesn't make sense. We know that the Morris brothers-- Bert and Charlie-- started the business. The obituary of Bert Morris from 1940 states Bert started the factory in 1892, which is consistent with catalogs and letters and such that have been discovered over the years.

    This is the part that seems, to me, to contain a typo in regard to the year, and the word "opened": "Grant was born on June 16th, 1881 and when just a youth opened the Morris Canoe Company in Veazie, Maine. The year was 1909."

    Grant wouldn't have been "a youth" in 1909; he'd have been 28 years of age. I'm thinking that "when just a youth" he joined the Morris Company... and that would possibly have been pre-1900... when he was a mere lad.

    The connections among the canoe builders fascinate me: looking at Bert Morris' obit again, I see he was survived (in addition to his wife) by his niece, Mrs. B.L. King, and two cousins, Mrs. George White and Mrs. O.J. Fuller. I believe the niece was the daughter of Charles Morris. One of these days-- when the snow is deep and I am stuck at home with my nice, warm computer at hand-- I plan to do some genealogical research... maybe see how some of these family trees intersect.

    Kathy
     
  19. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The recent discussions about Kennebec and Morris hybrids led me to go research Walter D. Grant as the likely connection between these two companies. The 1949 newspaper article at http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9HEgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NGcFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2135,1544741 describes Grant's Skowhegan Boat and Canoe Company and that "He has been in the boat and canoe building business for 49 years, holding part ownerships in two other concerns before starting his own business at Skowhegan in 1929.” I haven't found anything definite yet to confirm the name of the first "other concern" but the census record attached below indicates that he was a painter in Eddington, Maine in 1900. Eddington is just across the river from Veazie so it would not be unreasonable for him to have found work at the Morris Canoe Company and learned how to build canoes there before he started at the Kennebec Canoe Company in December of 1909. His son Clifford Walter Grant was born on May 24, 1905 in Veazie so that also implies that he was living there then.

    I have also left a voice mail message with Jon Capozza to see if he can offer any more details to support his 1982 claim that Grant worked at Morris. The great grandaughter of Walter Grant has also agreed to check with her elder relatives to see if anyone remembers and details about this. Please let me know if anyone else can offer more specific information. Thanks,

    Benson
     

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    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  20. OP
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    Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Great detective work, Benson.
     

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