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Tariffs and their impact on canoe distribution

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by Benson Gray, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The Old Town Canoe Company's original factory on Middle Street in Old Town, Maine is about 155 miles or 250 kilometers from the Chestnut Canoe Company's factory on York Street in Fredericton, New Brunswick. That sort of close proximity would usually create a lot of competition for customers but not in this case. (There was a brief dispute over employees but that has already been well documented in Roger MacGregor's fine book "When the Chestnut was in Flower: Inside the Chestnut Canoe.") The international boundary which separates the two and related tariffs caused relatively few canoes to cross the border. The tariff rates fluctuated with the political changes but it appears that the prices of new canoes imported to Canada had a 25% duty in 1915 and 1922 while canoes imported to the U. S. A. had a 22.5% duty in 1916 and a 30% duty in 1922. We can only speculate about what the distribution of canoes might have been if international free trade agreements had been negotiated sooner between Canada and the U. S. A.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
    Andy Hutyera and MGC like this.
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    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Additional research indicates that Chestnut Canoe and other Canadian canoe builders may have derived the most benefit from these tariffs. Page 21 of "A History of the Canadian Dollar" at http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/FB2-14-1999E.pdf has a chart that indicates the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the U.S. dollar was nearly even for most mid-teens and the mid-1920s. This means that the $46 list price for an 18 foot long Guide model shown in the circa 1916 Chestnut catalog should have been more profitable than the similar model shown in the 1916 Old Town catalog for $30 (assuming that all of the other cost factors were equal). The disparity had grown by 1922 when the same canoe had a $100 list price shown on page 13 of the Chestnut catalog versus the $64 shown in the Old Town catalog (although the relative difference is similar on a percentage basis).

    It appears that these pricing patterns weren't unique to Chestnut and Old Town. A similar Kennebec canoe listed for $35 in 1916 and $65 in 1922. A similar Peterborough listed for $48 in 1914 and $116 in 1921 (which were the closest years available in the catalog collection). This implies that a U. S. canoe including the tariff was still less than the cost of a local canoe for a Canadian. A Canadian canoe including the tariff was about double the cost of a local canoe in the U. S.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  3. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Interesting analysis, Benson. So this would suggest, excluding of the effects of national brand loyalties, U.S. canoes might have been significantly more common in Canada than Canadian canoes were in the U.S. (I suppose this assumes equal production by the major builders on each side of the border). Are there any data to support this? In fact, it might expected that U.S. canoes would be very common in Canada unless some other factor kept their numbers down. Michael
     
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    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I agree that Old Town's share of the Canadian canoe market would probably have been higher if the tariffs hadn't been in place. There aren't any available Canadian canoe production numbers or serial number information that I know about.

    There was a project many years ago to create a database listing all of the WCHA's members' canoes. The chart at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=29887&d=1412107592 shows the distribution of the manufacturers in that collection of 1744 canoes. If we assume that this is a representative sample of the entire universe of wood canoes then it offers a chance to make some very rough estimates of the totals for the major builders. It shows a 35% share for Old Town versus 5% for Chestnut, 3% for Peterborough, and 2% for Kennebec. This information was the basis of an analysis at http://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?threads/13053/ which concludes with an estimate that slightly less than half a million wood canoes were produced and that nearly ten thousand of them may still exist today. This should be plenty for the more than 1000 members of the WCHA.

    Benson
     
  5. Blott

    Blott Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    This is interesting. There was also a high tariff (tax) on Canadian goods imported into France around the end of the nineteenth century. To such an extent that the identity of imported canoes was concealed to eveade paying tax etc. On my Peterborough Cedar Rib the name /thwart tags had been reversed to show blank. The deck plate had been removed When I removed them I found the makers name neatly over stamped with Fleur de Lys on the reverse. I recounted the story to another P' Rib owner who was astonished to find that his was exactly the same. Both canoes came to the UK via France. Vive la difference !

    Nick
     
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    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The Canadian government started keeping canoe production statistics in 1920 as I found at https://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?threads/16206/ recently. I was able to locate comparable numbers for Old Town and the Canadian builders from 1920 to 1933 as shown below. (They skipped 1923 for some reason and stopped listing canoes separately in 1934.) It is interesting how closely the sales of canoes in these two markets aligned even though they didn't really compete with each other very much. The Great Depression was not an easy time to be in the canoe business as I mentioned before.

    Benson



    Old-Town-Canadian.jpg
     

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