15 foot Indian Girl


We are posting a few pics of our new Indian Girl, we picked her up this week at a local auction. We couldn't believe her condition. It appears to be all original wood and canvas, only surface scratches and rubs, no rot, cracked or broken ribs, and solid. Only damage is a three inch crack in one plank under the front stem, and a porcupine had some of the rear stem for dessert, just enough to give it character (unfortunately it chewed the 'J H Rushton, Canton NY'). Pieces of the stem bands are missing, but both decks have enough of the stem band that is stamped 'Rushton'. The thwart has 'Indian Girl, Trade Mark' stamped in the center. It has a coat of shellac or something covering inside and out and paint on the outwale. The caning of the seats seem to be poorly redone, or maybe not ( the binding is secured at every other hole). Both stems clearly show a serial #1281, and the front stem is clearly stamped, 'J H Rushton, Canton NY', no 'Inc.', so we are assuming it is 1906 or prior.

Some questions;
Now what do we do, or not do with it?
What would you do?
Re-canvas or not?
Strip it and re-varnish, or not?
Is it's completely original, excellent, solid condition as unusual as we think it is?
We are assuming it is between 1902-1906, can the serial # pin point the year?

Dave & Peggy Davidson


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It is consistent with a 1902-1905 canoe. There is no way to date based on the serial number, though the numbers were assigned sequentially. The only references we have are that he built 200 in 1902 and 400 in 1903. We don't know if he started numbering at 1, 100, or something else.

Is the center thwart a bar or is it shaped?

The oarlocks are original Rushton hardware too.
Peggy and Dave--

Congratulations on your wonderful find! Not only great condition, but a nice size.

I tend to go along with Chris on the restoration-part... but if you want to paddle her, maybe do minimal things to accomplish that. It would be nice to have a usable 15 foot canoe-- and there's something very cool about getting an old boat back into the water.

More pictures?

Congratulations, Can I ask what you paid and if it’s for sale. I do like to track auction sales on canoes for appraisal purposes. I would suggest giving it a nice bath in soap and water. That's a great way to do a survey of what you have. Then just take some time to decide what you want to do with it. Keeping, selling, or how you are going to enjoy it best should all be considered before doing anything. I won’t be worth any more or less restored if you count your time. It will be worth considerably less as soon as you commit to taking the canvas off.

Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062

Thanks, I meant to say when the canvas comes off the value is diminished until the restoration is complete.

Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062
Thanks everyone for your interest and comments.

Dan, thanks for the reply, the thwart is shaped. We were so full of anticipation we didn't go through the dollar boxes to find the rest of the oarlocks, (we're trying to laugh about that blunder).

Robert, your comment about removing the canvas doesn't surprize us, having watched our share of Antique Road Show. Any suggestions on what to use to bathe it? (you would think this is our firstborn infant with diaper rash)

Enclosed are more pics. One shows the cracked plank, another shows the caning of the rear seat. Notice the binding is held down every other hole. Could that be original?

The paint on the outwales tempts me to get out my Stripeze. We're not crazy about the sloppy paint job, and that the wood was stained/painted.

We're finishing a challenging 1909 OT Charles River, double gunnel for a neighbor. I have been coveting it lately now that the project is winding down. Though at times it has been frustrating, it's been a privilege to work on. This Indian Girl has come into our lives at a nice time, a real blessing.


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You've stumbled onto a vintage canoe in incredible shape... I have my neighbor telling me his mother-in-law is looking to unload her canoe, and it turns out to be a coleman...

I'm doing something horribly wrong! :(
Peggy & I know the feeling, we have ou share of leads onto Colemans. And actually that's what we thought we were going to find this time. 'Indian Girl Canoe' was the item listed in the auctioneers ad. We thought 'Indian Girl' was probably going to end up generic for an old indian looking canoe, or fear on someone's part of misspelling 'Coleman Sacajawea' in the ad, (hope I spelled it correctly).
ou... That's just a typo-gaffical eror...

There used to be (maybe still is?) an outfit that built aluminum canoes, called "Indian Canoe Company" or something like that. I suspect somebody (probably me) is going to wander into an auction/estate sale expecting to find a Rushton, only to find an aluminum boat with a decal of a girl on the side... or has this happened to someone already?
The name problem is significant. There was an Indian Brand Canoe Company as shown in the attached image but they only made plastic boats. Another problem is when a company like Old Town re-uses a model name. Their Guide, Ojibway, Carleton, and other names can apply to either wooden or plastic canoes. Caveat Emptor or let the buyer beware...



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Indian Brand - a personal favorite.
Did they have a model with rubber gunwale bumpers (say that quickly 5 times)?
Right up there with Grumman.
You can hear Grummans coming for miles..

Indian brand (as your picture highlights) was the company that offered a realistic copy of the birchbark canoe.
They got real close except for one minor detail, they put the rough side of the bark pattern on the outside.

Another personal favorite of mine, the Coleman RAM-X..
Who came up with that name?
Was it the designer that put the bark on the Indian Brand inside out?

Sorry, off topic.........
Reminds me of a favorite personal rant. If you're familiar with Bill Mason's books and videos, you know that in order to paddle your wood/canvas canoe in some places, you need to learn to "read the river". Not so, if you're paddling a Ram-X.... or so the name implies. You can avoid learning to hone your paddling abilities, in a canoe that can't be damaged and will live forever in a landfill some day.
Nowadays, some tupperware boats actually have recycle marks on them, so they can be re-used forever... though I'm not sure how they'd get the boat into the recycle truck.
Thank you all for your opinions, & evaluations, both on the forum and privately, what a great group of folks. We have learned quite a bit about our Indian Girl during the last couple of months.

We are going to move slowly and adopt, as Chris suggested, the "less is more" approach. We would like to attempt to preserve as opposed to restore it at this time.

First, the outwales have been painted, we'll need suggestions on how to remove the paint without stripping to bare wood if possible. Our goal is to revarnish all wood w/ matte finish.

Second, the canvas has a 3 inch split, and small abrasion/ hole. Any suggestions on how to inconspicuously make these repairs? We'll try to uncover it's original color, and repaint it.

Third, repair stem bands, and locate or reproduce a painters ring.

Fourth, recane both seats, or just the seat w/broken cane??

Lastly, we'd like to add a personal touch. Suggestions on how to attach it's new rubber bumpers/sponsons?

Dave & Peggy


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