Alfred Wickett model

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
The interesting old model canoe shown below has recently found a good new home. I could not afford it but have enjoyed seeing the pictures. It occurred to me that others here might like to see them as well. The story is that this model was passed down from Alfred Wickett to his son Chester Wickett and then outside of their family. There are two other known models built in this style which is consistent with the two identified full size Old Town canoes from before 1906.

Benson
 

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What a beautiful little canoe! Perfect little details... including the little paddles.

The seats remind me of the one that's original on our new old canoe that came from Maine.

Would love to see the pictures of the two pre-1906 Old Towns too.
Kathy
 

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What is really fascinating about the little canoe shown in the photos posted by Benson, is the history which goes along with it.

According to family legend, this model was made in the winter of 1891/92 by Alfred Wickett, and intended for display at the World's Columbian Exposition later that year. The Fair actually opened in 1893, following construction delays. Wickett would have been 18 going on 19 at the time; its expert construction is perhaps not totally surprising in an era when boys were often apprenticed at age 14. Alfred Wickett was a man of great accomplishment, as his subsequent canoe-building career demonstrated. Around the time the model was made, Alfred worked for E M White, and shortly afterward was hired to become builder/manager at Old Town. If the information is true, and it seems quite reliable, this could well be one of the earliest American 'salesman's samples' known.

This model descended to Alfred's son, Chester, a school teacher and principal, in Somerset, MA. Chester never married and disliked driving. He was befriended by a former student who, along with his wife, helped Chester get around, go shopping, visit his summer camp in Maine, etc. Their relationship was akin to 'family', and much time was spent together. Chester made a present of the canoe to the couple, likely as a 'house warming' gift.

The model subsequently passed to the couple's son, who was named after Chester. This man, now in his 70's, is a Master Maine Guide, and has spent much of his life canoeing the rivers and back woods. He claims to have been over 40,000 miles in a canoe. The model remained within that close circle, not far from its place of origin, for almost 120 years.

Another example illustrating that the stories of the people are just as interesting as the canoes themselves. It's not just what we find, but also who we meet along the way.
 
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Is Alfred Wickett the originator of the Old Town short deck?

Alfred may not be the originator of the Old Town short deck. There was an Indian Old Town deck on eBay this year that was heart shaped like a Carleton, Morris, and many other early Maine builders. This indicates that the traditional Old Town style deck may have started when J. R. Robertson got involved since the Charles River area builders are generally known for more fancy deck styles. If this is correct than this model would have been built between 1902 when the Robertson and Old Town Canoe Company was started and 1905 when the Old Town Canoe Company stopped building canoes with rails that extended beyond the stems. This is newer than the family legend but still may be older than any other wood and canvas model canoe.

It also seemed odd that this canoe should end up with Alfred's second son who was a teacher and did not appear to have any interest in canoes. His first son took over the family boat business and would seem a more logical candidate to inherit an heirloom like this. However, he died first and the model may have passed to Albert's second son then. Alfred E. Wickett was born on August 19th, 1873 in Granville, Prince Edward Island, Canada and died on September 14th, 1943 in Kirkwood, Missouri. His first son Laurence C. Wickett was born on April 24th, 1896 in Old Town, Maine and died on September 1st, 1955 in Saint Louis, Missouri. Alfred's second son Chester G. Wickett was born on January 6th, 1904 in Old Town, Maine and died on March 21st, 1975 in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Benson
 
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What it interesting to me is the construction of the canoe. I would have thought at this time Working for E.M White, there would have been mortised seats/gunnels and lashings around the ends if it dated early 1890"s Why would he make a model of a canoe that is anything different then what he is making as a full size canoe? The 1902-05 dating of the canoe would seem to make much more sense of then the family legend. The caning of the seats would also be correct with this time period.

Is there only one twart or is one missing?

Anyways, what a beautiful model and thanks to Benson and Roger for sharing with us!
 
Would love to see the pictures of the two pre-1906 Old Towns too.

One of them is shown and discussed at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=2780 here. The other one is shown at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=12354&d=1284082536 and in the images below. The owner of this one often posts messages here and may add additional pictures.

Is there only one thwart or is one missing?

There is evidence that it originally had two thwarts so one appears to be missing.

Benson
 

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Thanks, Benson... I figured one of them was that particular one you have-- such a cool canoe. Whenever I see that someone on eBay or craigslist is calling their Old Town "rare", I think of this canoe and a few others, which are the truly rare Old Towns.

Kathy
 
It's mine

I am the owner of the two tone canoe above refered to in post #8. It is a 17 ft. long, 34" wide and 12" deep, AA Grade, mahogany seat frames, thwarts and decks. Inwales, sidecaps & topcap are spruce. Planking is white cedar. Serial #1483. I aquired the canoe in 1990 from a former WCHA member only two miles from my house. He has since moved to PA and as I sit here can not recall his name. It was my second restoration. The former owner removed the canvas, seats and thwarts, stripped the varnish and then let it sit outside for several years. Without the thwarts the canoe spread wide open. It was a challenge to pull it back together. I was lucky the inwales did not break when it spread apart. The decal, a photo of which Benson linked to in his post, suffered from being outside. It literally was falling apart at the slightest touch. The photo is all that remains. The canoe was in rather remarkable good shape. No broken ribs, no rot. The stems were split/broke in several places so I elected to replace both. I kept the originals. The gunwale caps & side caps are the original. I replaced a few feet of planking, canvas etc. etc. I expect the hull shape is a little more rounded than it was originally because it was spread out wide and then pulled back together so the 12" depth may be a more than it was when it left Old Town.

I could take additional pictures but it will have to wait until I get help to get the canoe out of the loft.

I brought this canoe to to 2009 Assembly in Keuka. Maybe I'll bring it to Paul Smith's next July.

It is a delight to paddle. Sharp entry, narrow width and the primary stability is just right to be comfortable.

I seem to recall Robert Ross saying that he used to own or knew of a marked Robertson Old Town that lives in the mid-west now. Maybe he will see this thread and chime in.

Peace,
Jim C.
 
Pictures

Here are a few new pictures of my old Old Town. The serial number is actually 1473 not 1483 as I listed in my earlier post. I guess it really doesn't make much difference but it should be correct.

Peace,
Jim C.
 

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