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Name my Canoe

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by DaveL., Jun 26, 2007.

  1. DaveL.

    DaveL. Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi, my name is Dave and I am new to the canoe world. Recently I picked up a canoe at a local antique dealer and now I'm hooked. I was wondering if any of you could tell me more about my canoe as I know little or nothing about them. I have very little information to give at this point and some partial pictures of the canoe aswell. The canoe was bought in northern New hampshire and there is a brass plate on the inside lip of the canoe which contains four numbers. The canoe is approximately 17.5 ft long and is canvas covered. I was told the canoe may be a Williams Canoe but the person did not know for sure. Any information that any of you could provide as to the maker, location where it was made, age, etc. would be wonderful. Here are some pictures and thanks in advance!


  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Hi Dave,

    My guess is that you have a B. N. Morris canoe from Veazie, Maine based on the flared stem and deck shape. His factory burned in January of 1920 so it would be well over eighty years old. More information is available from and in the Morris sections. Please reply here if you have other questions.

  3. Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    I vote Morris also.

    There is a screw in every rib for the keel and the closed gunnel construction with shape of the top and outwale is exactly like a Morris.

    Looks to be in great shape.

  4. OP

    DaveL. Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for all your help, B.N. Morris does seem to fit. A few more questions, what is this canoe worth, I know nothing about these and paid 650 because i liked it. Did I get worked over or is that fair? The canoe seems to be in good shape, though the seats need to be recaned, it is missing the middle support and there is crackling in the exterior paint. She does float as seen in the pictures with no leaks and was a whole lot of fun to use. Finally, where is the best place to have something like this restored or freshened up as I would like to have this as a useable show piece (preferably in the RI, MA, NH area). Also, is there any way to find out the exact age of the canoe? Thanks for the prompt responses and all your help.

  5. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Dave - Welcome!
    My friend Kathy and I are doing research on B.N. Morrises. We are trying to establish a more accurate dating method.

    We'd like everyone who has a Morris to send us (1)serial number, if known-- noting the area on the canoe where the serial number is located.

    (2)The canoe's length, and model and type-- if this can be determined. Otherwise, wood types, deck type-- any information that would shed light on the canoe's model and type.

    (3) Pictures of the canoe-- at least one side view and one top view showing a deck or two.

    (4) Any information regarding the canoe's provinance-- especially paperwork. Scans of paperwork, pictures of livery tags, etc., are most welcome!

    There are theories regarding the connection between the serial number and the canoe's build-date which enough of the above information might verify. We also know the profile of the canoes built by Morris changed over time. It may help date those canoes with no serial number if we had a clear idea of the progressive changes in the profile of the Morris canoe.

    Of special interest are those canoes believed to be pre-1900 or post-1920.

    (Kathy is humming the theme of the PBS series "The History Detective.")


    Denis and Kathy :)
  6. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    I think you got a fair deal. The four that Kathy and I have ran from $200 to $1640 something. There are a number of restorers out your way that are very good. If you go to the WCHA website and the table of contents "Builders and Suppliers" you can find someone that will do you a great job.
    If you can swing it you might wish to attend the 2007 WCHA assembly in New York. Information can be found on the website. There are many canoes , builders, accessories and fun there. The dates are July 12 through 15.
    Best, Denis
  7. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    From the pix, I wouldn't narrow it down to a Morris just yet. Could be a Brodbeck, a Charles River area builder, circa 1910. Bill Conrad (the one in Mass) and Ed Howard have closed gunnel Brodbecks and the decks and gunnels in the pix on their canoes are much alike.

    The tag with the numbers could be a canoe livery tag from the days when Brodbecks were much used on the Charles River at the boathouses. Brodbecks and Morris's were very similiar in shape and contruction. What are the seats like?
  8. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Never say never...

    Gotta be Morris. The splayed stem, gunwale cap profile, keel fastened at every rib- all point to Morris. While Brodbeck (and Nutting and some Robertsons) do have some similarities in shape and construction, the Morris canoes are distinctly different from Charles River canoes in many ways. That stem is an immediate giveaway. Charles River canoe stems are generally square in cross section with the edges and amidships end of the stem chamfered.

    One more thing not apparent in your photos are the tapered ribs- narrowing significantly from keel to gunwale. Many of the Charles River canoes were made with un-tapered ribs, while Morris ribs were dramatically and elegantly tapered. Finally, the floor rack looks original- Morris used narrow parallel longitudinal members attached to each other with wider cross-pieces. Your photos don't show the ends of the floor rack, but each of the longitudinal members should be rounded to a circular profile when viewed from the top.

    All this said, there are always exceptions to the norm. Coincidentally, just today I brought home a "new" Morris canoe nearly identical to yours (Model A, Type 1, closed gunwales). This canoe is in near perfect original condition- no cracks, breaks or rot, original finish, original canvas, lightly used, etc. It is definitely Morris as evidenced by the intact and clear deck decal, but it defies one of the defining characteristics of Morris- the keel is attached at every other rib. The canoe has not been re-canvassed, and there are no screw holes in the alternate ribs, so this canoe was built with keel screws in every other rib.

    Regarding price, your canoe was a bargain! I am extremely happy to have paid a similar price. An original Morris in unrestored good condition is a rare find (no slight intended against other fine original canoes from other makers). Restoration- in whatever sense the word is used- means that one less original canoe exists. Thus, every day these nice original ones become rarer. A wonderful find indeed!

  9. OP

    DaveL. Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for all the comments and info. The more I look into Morris canoes the more I agree with most of you. I read that the brackets that hold down the floor rack that are on my canoe were exclusively used by B.N. Morris. I will try to get some more detailed pictures today for you Dennis and Kathy and hopefully someone here can help me establish an approximate age for it. Also, Michael could you post a picture of the deck decal on your canoe you just bought as clearly mine is no longer there. Thanks again.

  10. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    The best information we have about dating Morris canoes is that they were numbered sequentially, and the last Morris canoes were numbered in the 17,200s in 1919/1920. The Morris factory burned down in January 1920. So, if you make some basic assumptions, such as a start date for when Morris started numbering canoes (the earliest catalog we have is from 1893) ,what number he started with, and that production was roughly equal every year, you can plot a simple serial number over time and extrapolate an estimated build year from that. It will only be an estimate, and that will only be as good as your initial assumptions.

    No records are known to survive from the Morris factory, so the only way you will put a certain date to a canoe is to have an accompanying sales receipt. A sales receipt surviving with its canoe is extremely rare for all makes of canoe.

    You may have to just be satisfied that your canoe pre-dates 1920, and that a four digit numbered canoe is older than one with 5 digits...

  11. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder


    Does this mean that the theory about the year being the 1st 2 digits is falling by the wayside?

  12. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Yes. It never was a very good theory. It was something the Deans proposed way back in the early days of the WCHA, and when they wrote about it they said it may not work and that more research was needed. Unfortunately, it was turned into gospel with no additional evidence. I believe we have enough information now to say it just doesn't work.
  13. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Dan and Dan,
    This is one of the prime questions that Kathy and I would like to get a definative answer for. We need the co-operation of as many Morris owners as we can get.
    As Kathy outlined in the first entry to this thread under my name. The more information we can gather the more things will fall into place. This Fall I will be going out to Maine and hope to get to Veazie for some research. I know that several WCHA folks like Rollin [and maybe you too Dan] have already done lots of research and if they would like to share their findings with us that would be really great. This is a project that Kathy and I are really interested in. There is also a connection between Morris and C.J. Molitor of Detroit that we are researching too. If any Wcha members have any info they'd like to contribute please contact either Kathy Klos me.
    Peace, Denis :)
  14. MikeCav

    MikeCav Restorer/Videographer

    Dennis & Kathy,

    I know 2 folks who have Morris canoes (that are not WCHA members) I'll look them up and do some measuring & photos for you.

    See you at Assembly.
  15. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Great Mike - thank you very much. Look forward to meeting you!
  16. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Serial Number Questions

    Sounds like the canoe that is the subject of this discussion has the oval plate on the inner gunwale... which seems to be the location of serial numbers on older Morris canoes. If we had information regarding enough Morrises, we might be more certain about this... and we might be able to say (for instance) that all 4-digit serial numbers were on the inwale and that by some approximate date they began affixing them to the stem. Sometimes with this (later?) more squared-off brass plate, the longer side ran parallel to the splay of the stem, and sometimes the shorter side did. But maybe that depended on who was nailing it down...

    **Watch for the fireworks, as I post for the one-hundredth time! (and thanks, Dave Wermuth, for pointing this out to me... sorry it couldn't be more profound!)**

  17. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    That's a Morris

    Your boat has all of the telltale signs. Count your blessings to own such a fine old canoe in such wonderfull condition. The price you paid is a bargain.
    Rollin Thurlow's shop is pretty darned good at restoring the Morris. You might give Rollin a call to see how busy he is (probably quite).
  18. OP

    DaveL. Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Well, I am now 100% sure that it is a B.N. Morris as I was able to just barely pick out parts of the words from what little is left of the decal and comparing it to a picture of another Morris decal. I now have some better pictures to show the whole canoe as well. Here they are:










    A little more information, the canoe measures 17 ft long at its longest and was 33 1/2 in. wide at its widest. As you can see from the picture the serial number is 4367.

    I am going to have the seats recaned at a local shop and have found someone to make and stain to match a new center support. Some other questions about restoring/cleaning up the canoe. Obviously someone left the canoe outside for a period of time leaving that white watermark on the inside. What is the best way to clean that off? Also, I have used the canoe and it does float with no leaks, however I am concerned that because the paint is severely cracked using the canoe could rott or deteriorate the canvas. I realize that I could have the canoe sanded and refinished but at this point I like it enough to just use as it does have some character. Should I be worried about using this canoe with the cracked finish? And if I should what are my alternatives for preserving the canvas?

    Thank you and sorry for the long post, Dave.
  19. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    I just wanted to chime in.
    the canoe is a treasure.
    the price? you did well.
    I might validate what you probably already suspect that Morris canoes in general are considered quite special as far as w/c canoes. they are very well made. In terms of an analogy with cars:
    Old towns have a large selection and are higly rated but thought of as regular cars. Loved and apreciated as such.
    Morris canoes are thought of as luxury cars. Approaching the gerrishes and Rushtons.
    Chestnuts are like the everyman's pick up. AND dearly loved.
    Disclaimer: -- this is my assessment only and other more knowlegable person could more clearly articulate the pecking order.
    but, i'll guess that everyone will agree
    you got a treasure.
    congrats, Dave.
  20. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    The questions you raise about canvas and interior finish have been raised (reasonably) many times in these forums. The short answer is that a canvas of this age and condition is really not water-worthy. The severely checked paint is only the beginning of the problem. Same for varnish- a very old finish isn't really capable of doing the job it was intented to do. The question then is whether you want to preserve the canoe or restore it.

    Restoration would inclue re-canvassing the exterior and re-varnishing the interior (and any woodwork of course). If you wish to preserve the canoe as is, you could just leave it all alone. I have a great technique for cleaning varnished surfaces- I learned from the curators of Jefferson's home Monticello while I lived in Charlottesville, VA. But preservation as is won't allow water use. Water will only exacerbate existing problems and hasten deterioration of the canoe.

    The stain you ask about looks like mud. Have you tried just cleaning it with a brush and water, or maybe some TSP?

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