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OldTown sn8886

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by sn8886, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. sn8886

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I purchased this 16' Charles River model, that was new in 1909, in Kittery Maine in ~1968.

    I would enjoy any information about its history.

    Thanks for your help
    Mark in Colorado
  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    The Old Town canoe with serial number 8887 is shown as 16 feet long, CS (common sense or standard) grade, CR (Charles River) model with western red cedar planking, spruce gunwales, Ash decks, seats, and thwarts, and spruce finish rails. The canoe was built in 1908-09. The original exterior paint color seems unreadable on the build record. It was shipped to Omaha, Nebraska on April 24, 1909. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link behind the thumbnail image attached below.

    This scan and several hundred thousand others 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 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 to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe.

    Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


    Attached Files:

  3. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    It may take more than a serial number to identify this canoe. The Old Town and the Carleton with this number are both 16 feet long (while the Kennebec is 17 feet). My guess is that you may have a canoe from another builder based on where you found it.

    The Old Town canoe with serial number 8886 is a 16 foot long, CS (common sense or middle) grade, Charles River model with red western cedar planking, closed spruce gunwales, spruce decks, spruce thwarts, spruce seats, and a keel. It was built between February, 1908 and March, 1909. The original exterior paint color was dark green. It shipped on March 30th, 1909 to St. Paul, Minn.

    The Carleton canoe with serial number 8886 is a 16 foot long, Carleton model with red western cedar planking, open spruce gunwales, ash decks, ash thwarts, ash seats, and a keel. It was built between January and March, 1912. The original exterior paint color was light green. It shipped on March 30th, 1912 to Rockford, Illinois.

    Scans of these build records can be found by following the links at the attached thumbnail images below. These scans and several hundred thousand others 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 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 to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is also possible that you could find another number or manufacturer if these descriptions don't match the canoe. The Kennebec canoe with this number was 17 feet long with sponsons and shipped to Evinrude in New York on December 2nd, 1915. Can you confirm the length of your canoe and post some pictures including the decks and serial numbers from each end? Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


    Attached Files:

  4. OP

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Reply to Benson

    Hello Greg,
    Thanks for your interest and help.

    Hi Benson,

    My canoe has the inside and outside gunwales that I assumed were a feature of the Old Town canoe. I don't know the difference between open and closed gunwales, but the ones on this canoe allow water to run right out between the tops of the ribs. It has mahogany decks, seats, and thwarts. The center thwart is oak. I can't identify the planking. There was an oak keel that I replaced with a new one. The canoe measures 18 feet in overall length but close to 16 feet from bow tip to stern tip of the gunwales. There were bits of brass straps that wrapped around the bow and stern but they are lost. There were parts that attached to the floor but they are lost as well. The only serial plate is a small plain brass plate on the floor in the bow. The numbers look stamped. When I bought it, the outside was painted silver and the inside was black. I figured it was an old summer-camp boat. I sent the sn to Old Town and they replied with the 1909 St. Paul record and a parts list in case I needed anything. None of the detailed records you describe seem to match my canoe so perhaps it was refitted with used parts at some time.

    The canoe was pretty much a wreck when I bought it but, like Mole in "The wind in the rivers", my heart went out to it. There were broken & missing parts of gunwales, cracked ribs, missing planking, plywood nailed over broken seats and a litany of other atrocities. I've made a lot of repairs... The canoe is serviceable but not a pristine beauty. I don't plan to sell it. I've become interested in where it went before I bought it in 1968. I will try to supply some pictures.

    Thanks for your help,

  5. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Sounds like you might have a B.N. Morris canoe.
  6. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

  7. OP

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Reply to "You may have a Morris"

    Hello Kathryn,

    Thanks for the links to the videos.
    It was a heady experience to see my (morris) canoe appear in the videos.

    I'll try to attach some photos and a brief history of my time with the canoe:

    I purchased the canoe in 1968 when I was a highschool freshman. I was
    visiting my sister in Elliott Maine with my grandfather. While at the
    local grocery with my sister, I saw an advertisment for a canoe on the
    bulletin board. My grandfather and I drove to Kittery, to see the canoe,
    which was for sale for $25. When we first saw the canoe it was leaning
    against the side of a barn with its side in the dirt. The whole canoe
    was soft and a little damp. The center thwart was oak, the other two
    were mahogany. The mahogany seats were covered by plywood that had been
    nailed on. The gunwales were broken on both sides in the stern. There
    were some broken ribs and planks. The outside was thickly painted silver
    and the inside was black. My grandfather wasn't sure I could get it home
    in one piece. My grandfather didn't think the canoe was a keeper, but I
    bought it anyway and lashed it to the top of my car. It wasn't a pretty
    sight but the price was right and I knew it was an Old Town Canoe from
    the construction. Later that day my brother-in-law Jeff commented that
    it was "an ugly flat bottomed scow". Ok!

    I should explain that I love fixing things, so an old canoe, down on its
    luck, was irresistible for me. I drove home to Lexington with the canoe
    on top of the car. I set up some saw horses in the back yard and placed
    the canoe on them bottom side up. I unscrewed the outer gunnels and
    removed the canvas. I fitted in some sections of new rib and reattached
    them to the planking with clinched tacks. The whole canoe was allowed to
    dry. I hand sanded the planking, making it all smooth. Some of the wood
    coloration came back. I bought a long wide piece of fiberglass cloth and
    some resin and hardener. I replaced the canvas with a single layer of
    fiberglass composite, with extra layers on the bow and stern where the
    cloth had to be cut and wrapped anyway. I used paint remover and scraped
    the black paint out of the inside. I sanded the inside ribs and
    planking. I sawed white pine 3 quarter board, making curved gunwales to
    replace the broken, missing sections. I removed the plywood from the
    mahogany seats and cleaned them and sanded and finished them with spar
    varnish. My mother took the seats to a handicapped workshop for the
    blind and had them re-caned. I painted a couple of coats of new varnish
    on the inside and gunwales. I bought a long piece of oak and made a new
    keel. A couple of decent paddles finished the project and the canoe was
    ready to use. With its new fiberglass hull, the old canoe weighed 65
    lbs, about 20 lbs less than the canvas covering configuration. I could
    easily pick up the canoe by the center thwart and place it on the roof
    racks of the car. I took the canoe out on the Concord river, Walden Pond.
    We did a white water stretch of the Assabett River. I took the canoe on
    a boy scout trip on the Saco River. I carried the canoe on my shoulders
    up the trail to Mountain Pond and took my uncle Bill fly fishing
    there. I paddled up the Concord to where it met the Assabett and on up the
    Assabet to where a power line crossed the river. I tied up the canoe and
    picked concord grapes until I had the bottom of the canoe filled with
    grapes a couple of inches deep. My beagle dog was nosing about and he came
    swimming to the canoe when I started downstream. In the parking lot I
    got a couple of helpers to lift the canoe, right side up onto the car.
    My grandmother made a lot of concord grape jam that year. There
    are a lot of opportunities to use a canoe in New England.

    During the restoration of the canoe I uncovered the brass plate with the
    serial number of the canoe. I wrote a letter to OldTown Canoe with the
    serial number asking for any information about the canoe. They wrote
    back that it was a 16 foot Charles River Model, originally shipped in
    1909 by rail to St. Paul, MN. The canoe measures 18 feet from tip to tip
    but more like 16 feet from the tips of the gunwales.

    I went to college in Boulder Colorado in September of 1973 and the canoe
    was placed on saw horses outdoors at my parent's house and covered with
    a tarp. The canoe was moved in 1998 to my sister's garage in Portsmouth,
    NH and stored there until 1980 when Lisa and I bought our house in
    Boulder. We drove my Fiat 128 home for xmas and we collected the canoe
    and drove home to Colorado after the new year in 1981 with the canoe
    lashed to the roof. There was an ice storm when we left New England and
    the canoe collected over an inch of ice from freezing rain as we drove
    west on I-90 through New York. When we arrived in Colorado I put the
    canoe in the garage and our cat found a bat that had been in hibernation
    in the canoe in the garage in NH.

    In Colorado, I managed to bring the canoe in the side
    door and get it down the stairs into the basement. I had started a wood
    working shop and one of my first projects, was to properly repair the
    gunwales of the canoe. A friend's parents lived in Seattle and he
    brought me a chunk of Sitka Spruce that I cut up and used for the
    gunwale repairs. I was working in a machine shop and a friend at the
    shop welded a plate over the end of a steel pipe to form a steamer. I
    set up the steamer over our camp stove in the basement to bend the mended
    gunwales to the proper shape. After a lot of trial and error I had forms
    and could bend the mended gunwales and re-attach them to the canoe. I
    also replaced the stern mahogany end plates with a new one fabricated
    out of rock maple. The gunwale repair didn't have much of an effect on
    the canoe except to make it really whole again. Colorado doesn't have
    much water for a canoe but there are places where a boat can be used.

    Since the move to Colorado we have paddled Ruby and Horse thief Canyons
    on the Colorado River. Jenny Lake, String Lake, and Leigh lake in
    Teton Park. We brought the canoe to Yellowstone Lake, and to Flat Head
    Lake on the east side of Glacier Nat'l park. In Colorado we have had the
    canoe out on Sylvan Lake, Steamboat Lake, and Pearl Lake. We have
    paddled on some little lakes up in the Flat Tops. Since 2001 the canoe
    has been kept at our ski cabin in Grand Lake. It is nice to take the
    canoe out on the lakes. We have paddled Shadow Mtn Lake often, a little
    on Grand Lake and once on Monarch Lake.

    Thanks for your help,


    Attached Files:

  8. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Wow Mark-- what a wonderful story! Your Morris looks beautiful-- you did a wonderful job bringing her back to life. And this story is a great example of how a canoe holds memories and experiences... and a wooden one can go for generations, if cared for.

    I've logged your canoe into the Morris database. 8886 puts this canoe's birthday in about 1912. Open gunwales are less common with Morris canoes. This is likely an 18 footer, as the 17 and 18 foot Morris canoes have three thwarts, with the middle one on wing-nuts for easy removal... the middle thwart is often missing and has to be replaced.

    The 2015 Assembly of the WCHA will be featuring the Morris canoe, and I hope you can come to that, and show your Morris off. The national assembly is held in the East-- in 2014 it will be at Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks, and it's likely to be there in 2015 as well. A chance for you to bring the canoe East again, perhaps...

    Congratulations on your Morris!
  9. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    The grapes are ripe in Concord. Get them while they last.

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.
  10. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I agree, great story and nice work keeping her in the water.

  11. OP

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks to you all for your help

    Hello to the WCHA forum responders. I was pretty overwhelmed with this turn of events and all your encouraging enthusiastic sentiments. I could not sleep last Thursday night. I thought I might be excommunicated for resorting to fiberglass for the covering.

    I would like to identify the model and so forth of the canoe if that is possible. It will be a few weeks before we visit the cabin (the ski touring center will open around thanksgiving) and I can make some measurements of the old canoe. I googled the words "Tumble Home" and now know what they mean. Any suggestions about what measurements are useful would be welcome.


  12. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Mark-- Don't worry about the fiberglass-- you saved the canoe and have used it and that's the important thing. There is "restoration" and there is "reconditioning", and there are "levels" in each of those, I suppose... so if you read posts here, you'll know that some folks choose to get the canoe back to exactly what it was originally and others only need to get the canoe into the water... and somewhere in-between is a pretty boat that paddles nicely, that the owner finds perfectly satisfactory... and it's a nice, useable canoe that looks pretty. For my own purposes, I like a canoe that I don't have to worry if the dogs-- with their little toe-nails-- are climbing around in!

    "Model" with a Morris can be a difficult thing to figure out. Originally, all Morris models were similar... and over time, I think they've gotten more similar and harder to tell apart. Originally, they differed only in measurements, and measurements change over time. Most existing Morrises are either Model A or B, and my guess is yours is and A, but it could be a B. The B is wider than the A... and I only know for certain a Morris is a B if it is 12 or 13 feet long, because none of the other models were small like that.

    There is one Morris model called the Ticonderoga, and it may be easier to determine because the trim was all spruce, and all other BN Morris canoes are mahogany.

    The basic, no-frills, out-of-the-factory Morris was trimmed in mahogany with closed gunwales of spruce and it was a Model A.

    I'm thinking that if we get a lot of Morris canoes at the 2015 Assembly, we can line 'em up and see what makes sense... I sometimes thing I can "eyeball" a Model B, but don't know for certain.

    Anyway-- nobody gets judgmental here, unless you say you plan to turn a canoe into a couple bookcases...
  13. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    When you 'glassed it, do you remember if it was polyester resin, or epoxy? Polyester is supposed to be much easier to remove than epoxy, so when it comes time to replace the 'glass, canvas is an option...
  14. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Canvas is always an option, but with one 'glassing-process the 'glass comes off easily and with the other... well, it comes off... slowly but surely.

    I did see one wooden canoe that had been encased in plastic, the way an M&M is encased in a candy shell... only this wasn't candy and I don't think it was going anyplace without taking the rest of the canoe with it. So, in that case, the fiberglass was best left on.
  15. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    "Ticonderoga"... do you mean "Tuscarora"?
  16. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Yeah, H.E. Where was my brain? I have been reading a lot of history lately. Glad you kept me honest...
  17. OP

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    epoxy or Polyester

    Hi folks,

    I'm moderately sure the fiberglass resin I used was polyester. I think the commercial use of epoxy began way after 1968 and I would recall if the ratio of resin to hardener was ~2:1. I'm sure it was a little bottle of hardener, maybe 10 drops per gallon of resin. Elsa&Sam.jpg WinterStorage.jpg ShadowMtnLake.jpg BottomSide.jpg ElsaPaddling1.jpg FeatherIsland.jpg I think if I live long enough to recover the old canoe again, I might use Kevlar cloth with impact resin. I don't think the ancient ribs and planking of this old canoe would survive with a canvas covering.

    I've attached a few more images: these are mostly scenes from Shadow Mountain Lake, and the old canoe basking in the winter comfort of our ski cabin living room.

  18. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    "I don't think the ancient ribs and planking of this old canoe would survive with a canvas covering."

    Dem's fightin' words, for some... Please don't think I'm being critical of your decision-- we always say, "it's your canoe", and you're enjoying it and will continue to do so (great pictures, by the way!)

    Many of us have canoes a hundred years old and more that either have always had canvas coverings (replaced every few decades) or canvas put on the canoe after removal of fiberglass. My oldest canoe is circa 1895. My youngest canoe is possibly circa 1900 but may well be as old as the other. I also have one pre-1895 that needs canvas.

    I'd have said more about the dangers of fiberglass but assumed you'd done some research here and knew the facts, and that your plan was to canvas at some point. I'd like to steer you toward canvas, should you need to re-cover the canoe.

    If you use the "search" function to the right, above, and put "fiberglass" in there, you'll find some past discussions. I hope you'll get together with other WCHA members-- go to a chapter meeting perhaps-- and look at their canoes. Check out the pictures on his website... these are many old canoes wearing canvas-- and they are paddled and enjoyed. Dogs ride in them, kids jump around in them. I hope your family can paddle with a group-- great fun!

  19. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    The canvas on canoes is filled with canoe filler which creates a very durable, paintable, and waterproof covering. Your old canoe would fair well in a canvas skin.
  20. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    As Kathy notes, fighting words. Folks posting here will find that we are inclined to remove glass from old boats to restore canvas on them. Like Kathy I have a number of old canoes that are canvased. We use them hard....they are not occasionally dipped in a pond or lake, they are loaded with gear, taken on trips, run through rapids, carried on long carry's and they hold up. We do not baby our boats and as Fitz notes, there is no need to. The filler and paint (or shellac) make a very tough exterior. Putting glass on a boat is(IMHO) unnecessary when the canoe is in nice restorable condition (ever really). This Morris looks pretty sound and except for an out of place thwart and damaged seat appears to have "good bones". Putting glass on it once made it serviceable. At the time it was probably the right thing to do.
    Whatever the decision, Kevlar is not a good choice for a skin over a wood boat...not only will it be more difficult to apply well but it will also be more prone to cracking and damage.
    Leaving it the way it is now or restoring it properly seem like the logical choices.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

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