3-digit Serial #, Long Decks, Torpedo Ends??


New Member
Hi Folks,

Here's a stumper (for this novice, at least).

I recently came into possession of a 17' wood and canvas canoe with torpedo ends, very long decks with coaming, closed gunwales, and a mysterious serial number format stamped on both stems: 466 17. The 7 is rather ornate, looking a little like an upside-down 2. I'm nearly certain there are no additional obscured digits - the wood is still fairly bright, without too much varnish buildup, and no evidence of something having been scraped off. There are brass eye rings screwed into both stems just amidships of the numbers.

I'm told it was purchased used around 1920, possibly in the New Bedford, MA area. From the little I know, the lines suggest an Otca, but the serial number makes me think pre-1910 Carleton? It's a beauty, in any case, though it needs new canvas, some keel work, and a new bow seat (thanks to my father-in-law, though I shouldn't complain, as he bought it for us in order to keep it in the family).

Any help is appreciated. I've attached a few quick photos, but I can take more.

Ryan Owens


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Hi Ryan,

Your decks are not unusually long, (48" for usual Courting canoe), but it appears you have canoe built by one of the Charles River Builders.

I have been trying to determine the maker by the font of the serial number and need some help myself.

I have attached a picture of my canoe I thought to be an H.B. Arnold, but then I have seen the serial number from a known Arnold and the font is very different, (pic attached also), I have also attached pictures of two know Robertson canoe serial numbers and they appear to be different.

Anyone with picture of a serial number from a know Charles River builder would be helpful.




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Thanks, Paul - very helpful. Your mystery serial number looks remarkably like mine - especially the 7s. And I agree, the others look rather different.

Jeez, this is fun. If I'm not careful, I may end up tackling the restoration myself. I have the shop, tools, and canoe, but unfortunately neither the skills nor time!

I just posted another HB Arnold serial number from a known Arnold canoe. The picture is up with the others to compare. The base of the 7 on the Arnold #2 looks to curl under more than the 7 on my unknown canoe. I wonder if Arnold change the font somewhere around canoe 900 or so.

Yes Ryan, this can be addictive. The restoration itself is the most fun. Follow the forums and ask for help and you will develop the skills you need.

Good luck,

That's it! The 7 was so odd I had to twist my head all around to make sense of it, which was made difficult by my being about 6 feet up on a ladder, with my head wedged under the deck. I'll poke around to learn a bit more about early Arnolds. Thanks, Paul - hope someone can help with yours.

I guess I have my winter project picked out, and it's no longer the bed my wife and I have gone without since buying our house...

That is a great canoe, just take it slow and ask questions, and if you don't like something, redo it.
On my 1st canoe, I put 3-4 ribs in 3 times before I got it right.

Paul, Nice work on the ID, I knew it wasn't an OT, but know little to nothing about the CR builders so I'm no help.

This is fun.
Nice canoe. Please post more photos so we can see the ribs and your serial numbers. Your decks look like an early Detroit I once owned...is the deck wood the same as the trim on yours? On my Detroit the decks were cherry with mahogany trim - very pretty - and I think unique.
You deck style and ends also look like the badged Arnold courting canoe Bill Clements recently sold and had at the Assembly.
Your first serial number photo looks to be the same style as my Kingsbury (below). One of my badged Arnolds is the last photo. My Waltham's (middle two photos) list the length first and I think that is more unique and a good clue. Though I suggest we be a little cautious reading too much into serial number styles as the makers could have changed this over time. We know they all copied each other's canoe designs as soon as anything new became popular. We think the employees moved to which ever builder had business and it means styles and types of serial numbers could have changed over time...like your last serial number photo - from a known Robertson - has the profile at the end of the stem that David Kingsbury says identifies their canoes...I'm sure yours is a Robertson, but this is a good example for how some 'characteristics' were adapted by multiple builders and confuse our detective work. The good news is they are all the Charles River are great canoes regardless of pedigree or vintage.


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Hi Ken,

Thanks for adding to the discussion, I think you are our resident expert on Courting canoes.

The next question is deck trim on which model of canoe. I have pictures of a tagged Arnold with an oval tag, torpedo stems, 48" decks and the canoe did not have a rail cap that went over the deck.

The canoe I just received from Bill has a rectangle tag, round stems, 48" decks but has the rail cap going over the deck.

Most of the torpedo stemmed courting canoes I've seen have not had the rail cap on top, so I wonder if only the round stemmed canoes had it, or it was a different grade of canoe. Although both canoes have Mahogany trim.

I have attached some pictures first of the oval tagged canoe and then the other. (pics of the oval canoe courtesy of an earlier Robert Ross post)

May the fun of learning continue,



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Thanks Paul,
I think your two canoes from Arnold are great to compare and see what we can learn. Let's see what your serial numbers suggest, but the rectangle tag Arnold from Bill C. has characteristics of earlier model courting canoes. The flat style decks, with rail cap on top and rails that extend beyond the stem were features used by other builders when longer deck canoes first started to be made. I've seen comparable from other builders and find these in earlier photos. Later - like your oval tagged Arnold, they became more refined and dropped the rail cap over the deck, while they raised the deck center at the king-plank for even more curvaceous 'style'.
Congratulations on owning these two great Arnolds - I like the different deck lengths on the black one and the early elements of the one you just received. Look forward to seeing them when finished.
Interesting, I have an unknown and have always looked at others serial numbers hoping for a clue. Did Waltham make a straight torpedo with 3 ft decks? I know they made the super big re-curve. Just have my length listed first and the stamps 1 and 6 look similar.


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Hi jchu,
Waltham, and most the other Charles River builders made 3 ft deck models. So that supports you could have a Waltham, but the deck length and recurve design wasn't unique.

Know this isn't what this thread started to be about, but considering recurve..my two Walthams have a nice recurve, common on the Charles River - that extends forward in a different design than most canoes were style wasn't as important as in Boston at that time. It is about 12" from the stem peak, same as one of my Robertsons. I have a 1918ish Morris with the same design, so it wasn't unique to CR boats. I only consider it a 'Torpedo' if it has the extreme extension, like my yellow Kingsbury, about 19-20" from the stem peak. The Old Town 1960s Molitor profile is about 16" length from the stem peak to the end of the canoe. Photos below


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Hi all,

Thanks for all the great replies. I've attached a bunch more photos below, including the serial number, under the decks, and ribs. Still Arnold?

Ken, the trim appears to be all mahogany, though I don't work with it much and might be wrong. It has a more open grain, in any case.

Question - what is the difference between badged and tagged? I tried to find any evidence of past placement of any kind of tag on mine but found none. It also looks like everything is original, which makes me doubt that the coaming that once held a tag has been replaced.

Does anyone have a sense of the year on this? Are there any other resources or threads about Arnolds specifically?

Many thanks again,
Hello again Ken,

First, the oval tagged Arnold is not mine, I just stole the pictures from the website (I did give credit to Robert Ross).

My other long decked courting canoe has the serial number stamp 370 17 in the style very similar to your Kingsbury. Too bad the only similar number was the "1". I notice the end of the stem has the same chamfer which is different than most stems. New picture after stripping is attached. This canoe has moderate re-curved stems as shown in picture of white canoe.

Also note the joint of the outside stem to the keel. It is on a 45% angle sloping back.

One of the interesting things I discovered about my new Arnold was the joint of the outside stem and keel. The joint is just like the joint on the Willits Bros. Canoe and I have not seen it on any other canoe. picture attached. You will notice Arnold even chiseled out a small spot in the keel and bent the end of the stem band down into it, just like on the Willits.

I wonder if the Brothers stole that idea too.

I have posted a picture of the serial number on my new Arnold and it appears to be in the font of other known Arnold with a number of 17 24? It is difficult reaching that far under the deck to clean it off.

I do think the keel/outside stem joint could be an important feature.

Thanks for any and all input,



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Decks do look mahogany. Straight, non-taper ribs and other features indicate a Charles River builder, possibly Arnold, but I don't think there is a way to be conclusive. Hope you're not disappointed, that how it goes with CR builders. It is a great canoe regardless of builder or vintage details.
Sorry for inconsistency - I meant no difference between tagged and badged.
The numeral fonts, number sequence and stem end shapes seem to be inconsistent on our 'identified' canoes - so supports not reading too much into that detail.
The combing in the photo does seem original, so this canoe probably never had a tag if you don't find evidence of holes or a shadow...many other CR canoes have the same issue. Like mentioned about Paul's new Arnold - flat decks with rails on top and rail caps that extend beyond the stem are earlier features in courting canoe evolution - so I'd estimate circa 1905. This is a nice canoe and I look forward to seeing her after your restoration.
How does your stem/keel joint compare to the overlapping joint on Paul's new Arnold and did they chisel out a channel for the end of the stem band?

Thanks for posting more photos and discussing comparison to Willits. You could be right about the stem/keel connection joint and chiseled stem band slot. So now I need to double check some of mine to see what they have. I'd still caution, that these details could also have moved among the different builders as the workers changed employers. Seems like the builders would not require a specific joint type in a painted area under the canoe that few would ever notice. They'd probably let the employee joining those together do it how ever he wanted. But it could be an important feature and it is fun to consider it.
My unknown had a keel stem joint, and stem band knotch very close to your 17 24? Paul, but the font on the 2 is not anything the same. It seems maybe just an evolution in building. I would like to see the boats deck construction and if they penciled in the serial number on the first deck span member. My coamings are busted up and have yet decided how to shape them. Also my coamings and king plank seem to have been dyed darker to get them to stand out.

Actually I think it would be the second deck span member.


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Hi Ryan,

The deck support system in my known Arnold is exactly like your canoe(first picture) and It is different than the deck support on my unknown canoe (possibly Kingsbury) (second picture).

I think the deck support system could be one of those characteristics that would not have changed much within the canoes built by the same builder.

I have also attached a few pictures of a Willits keel/stem joint and the spot where the keel is notched for the end of the stem band. I would repeat that I have not seen any other builder join the keel and stem that way nor notch the keel for the stem band, yet both canoes have both features.

These are the kinds of things this forum does best; logging details of identification. If we can get enough known canoes with enough unique features this could be good.




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Paul I commend you for your desire to sort out construction technique and unique features of these charles river boats. It helps with the need to know. But as Ken has stated the workers moved up and down the street and took the knowledge with them. I think my boat was a later build compared to some of the earlier ones. I am leaning towards Waltham on mine due to the similar serial numbers of Kens posting and also if you look at his second known Waltham # pic they attached the ribs across the straight part of the stem with longer nails that almost look galvanized. I don't see that on known arnolds numbers but maybe just blind. And mine has the knotched stem keel attachment. We need a data base of all the quirks.