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Thompson Hiawatha

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by fred capenos, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year to all. We've been busy working on a 16' Thompson Hiawatha and need help in a few areas.
    This canoe has narrow (15x16") ribs. 27 full ribs and all of the 38 half ribs were cracked and it was badly hogged both ways. When we installed the new ribs, we pushed the keep out 1/4" so now it should have a bit of resistance to hogging. But I digress....
    The canoe came with a stern seat and one thwart. The thwart was located amid ship and was made of the long piece from a bow seat frame, but not from this canoe. Also, the stern seat isn't from this canoe either. It has two set of holes and none of them match up the holes that have been plugged in the inwales. To make a long story short, here's what I need: (sketches or patterns would be nice and I'll be more than glad to pay the postage)
    1. Dimensions and approximate locations of both seats
    2. Dimensions and a picture or sketch of the bow seat hanger
    3. Dimensions and a picture or sketch of the thwart or thwarts
    4. Approximate location of thwart or thwarts.

    Thanks..... Fred Capenos

    DSC07114.jpg DSC06711.jpg DSC06697-1.JPG
  2. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Hi Fred. I have a Hiawatha but it's in rough shape and I don't think I can come up with the numbers you need. I think I have photos of Thompson seats and I think I have some old seats but I don't know for sure which frames are what. But if you can't get what you need I can lower the Hiawatha from the ceiling and have a look. Mine is 17' I think and with a solid floor half ribs.
  3. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Oh boy! The narrow ribbed model. Not many like it, at least in the midwest.
    And a serial number to boot! Maybe it was built in the Cortland NY plant.
    The seat on a 16'Thompson Ranger (old style) is located 52" from the stem tip. Thompson typically did not use center thwarts. Check out the seat hangers in the bow. The yellow one is an old style Ranger and the green one is a 16' early Hiawatha built in Peshtigo, WI. I don't have any in the shop now these are photos from the archives. bowtape.jpg 100_0814.jpg 100_1305.jpg 100_1309.jpg
  4. OP
    fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    Dave W. Thanks Dave. Lets stand by for a few days to see if anyone else chimes in. Lots of folks are out of town this time of year.
    Dave O. Thanks also. The bow seat dim. of 52" is in the ball park for one set of plgged holes. I need to know the seat dimensions and dimensions of the hanger to confirm. This canoe has been molested a lot. ie: many holes open and plugged in the inwales. Things haved been added and moved around. Fred DSC07121.jpg
  5. martin ferwerda

    martin ferwerda LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Here is a picture of a bow seat from a Hiawatha, I no longer have the canoe so cannot get dimensions. The hangers for the seat were just a block of western red cedar with the outside edges rounded over. The blocks were square, no taper for the rising sheer,which is not much where the seat was, so not surprising they did not bother.
  6. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I may be able to help you recreate the original brass tag if it was a Thompson from Cortland. The one shown below was recently added to my collection. Let me know if you want to get it reproduced. Good luck with the restoration.


    Attached Files:

  7. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    It wouldn't surprise me if on this particularly light model there was a center thwart. I don't recall a center thwart on any other one of the typical models.....
    Davey O.
  8. OP
    fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    Thanks so much for your offer. If I knew it was from New York I would definitely be interested. Maybe someone will shed some light. Fred
  9. OP
    fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot


    If you look closely at the last image I posted, on the inwale on top, you will see two holes that are plugged with two more holes that are about 1 1/2" apart between them. My guess is the plugged holes are where the seat hangers were originally. My question is, how many fasteners did Thompson use for the thwarts? Fred
  10. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Typically just one per side, Fred. They are countersunk and plugged.
    Dave O.
  11. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes


    I have a much nicer brass tag "THOMPSON BROS. BOAT MFG. CO. CORTLAND, N.Y.". It's not all bent at the edges. Not sure if they built canvas covered canoes and boats at Cortland. I read two interview texts at the County Historical Society in Cortland of former workers. They claimed NO canvas covered boats/canoes were ever built at Cortland. They said these types of watercraft were built at Peshtigo and then shipped to Cortland for final finshing. I don't know if this is true.

    The hull ID would indicate a post 1946 canoe.

  12. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I once saw a Thompson canoe with an aluminum Thompson tag that included a serial number. I've never seen a one with stem stamped. This canoe is out of the ordinary as a typical Thompson in that respect as well as with the super narrow ribs! Fun to see something a little different.
    I think Pete Thompson told me that no canoes were made in Cortland at the Thompson Rally last summer. You may be right about shipping there and finishing them. I owned an Indian model once with a Cortland tag. That canoe came from the Buffalo NY area.
  13. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  14. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Benson, I keep a database of Thompson stuff. Seperate databases for Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. of Peshtigo, WI; Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. of Cortland, NY; Thompson Boat Company of New York, Inc. of Cortland, NY; Cruisers, Inc. of ocotno, Wi; and T & T Boats, Inc. of Wausaukee, WI.

    I recently posted some information about this in the discission forum at in the Misc. section. By the way, I only have TWO canoes in the Thompson of Peshtigo database. I ahve 539 entries total.

    The only firm that had a consistent hull ID system was T & T for her 5 years of existence. Thompson of Peshtigo had a hull ID starting on craft built 1946 and later AND a serial number on craft built after the middle of the 1957 model year. The hull ID and serial number were different (and don't ask me why). And the hull ID was not consistent. Sometimes it started with a letter and ended with a letter with a series of number between. Sometimes no letters. Sometimes letter in the middle. No ryhme or reason. My 1957 Sea Lancer has a hull ID of D72906 and serial number 10436. The hull ID indicates the 2,906th boat of all models made in the model year ending in "7" and "D" was a code for the guy in the factory that was in charge of getting this boat out the door. The "7" could indicate 1947, 1957 or 1967. Dimensions, construction details, hull shape, etc.... are required to narrow down the year.

    Cortland had a completely different hull ID system from Peshtigo. And they changed it about 1958 and again about 1960 and again in 1963 after the purchase by Chris-Craft.

    Cruisers, Inc. changed their system circa 1961.

    It is very confusing.

  15. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    To my knowledge a Thompson canoe with a serial number is exceedingly rare, and probably doesn't add any value to the canoe (IMHO). Boats are a different story. I see more than my share of Thompson canoes here in the northwoods because of my proximity to Peshtigo, and probably more importantly, the Thompson Boat Mart, which was a Thompson Brothers retail facility, 12 miles to the south of me. It is unfortunate that the canoes never got into the serial number mix early on and wholeheartedly. The only ones I know of are one in Michigan that has a aluminum Thompson tag with a number and Fred's. Fred's is already pretty unusual because of how the ribs are scaled way down. Although certainly others exist.
    That leaves us canoe guys with only a couple of options for dating. The only reliable one would be a sales receipt, dated photo, or something. The other way to at least sorta narrow it down, is to view the catalog CD and compare year to year, building materials, slight design changes and length options.
    With that said,...who knows if the catalog materials description and artwork were updated at the same time a canoe was actually changed. I'm not convinced that that stuff was as important in those day as it is now.
  16. Steve Ambrose

    Steve Ambrose Nut in a Canoe

    Fred, I happen to have a 16' narrow rib Thompson in my shop. It's unmolested and in for refinishing from its original family so I should be able to get you any measurements you need. I need to do some swapping to get her down where I can measure and photograph for you though.

    Update: I haven't pulled it down yet but upon closer inspection it sports a tag on the bow deck, a serial number stamped into the stern stem, the same type slotted head machine screws used to mount your seat are on all seats and thwarts on this one (a center thwart and two quarter thwarts), bow seat is mounted with blocks, and it has a keel with outside stems. She's a tad hogged but not bad. One cracked rib amidships and a few broken cant ribs in the stern where she got holed. No rot and no extra drilled holes in the rails so we should be able to help you figure yours out!
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  17. OP
    fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    Fantastic Steve, Just what I needed to hear.

  18. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Should be noted that there was a SERIAL NUMBER and a HULL ID on Thompson of Peshtigo watercraft and they are DIFFERENT.

    Serial number is on the metal builder's tag and it says "Serial No."

    Hull ID is stamped into the wood of the transom, inside the boat. I suppose it is on the stem of a canoe.

    Cannot use the terms interchangably.

  19. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Good points, Andreas!!
    It IS confusing and in reality, a non-issue with the large majority of Thompson Bros. canoes.
  20. David McDaniel

    David McDaniel Canoe Dude

    I agree with Ossy, To many of us tend to get a little to hung up on documentation!
    It's a canoe, enjoy it!!!

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