Another New Old Maine Canoe

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
Greg Nolan very kindly picked up and tried out, on water, our new old-canoe-find. This one was posted on eBay as an Old Town, and we thought at the time it might be a Gerrish but knew it was something old and cool even if that wasn't the case.

Greg sent a lot of pictures, and the canoe is confusing. Looks E.M. White in some ways, but the one seat that appears original is like some Gerrish seats... although I don't know that White didn't build that style seat at some time too, and I don't know if that seat is original... only that the rear (and more defining-seat, when it comes to E.M. Whites) is a replacement.

The nose of the canoe has leather wraps.

Stem band appears original and has a cool splay at the end. Canoe has a shoe keel.

In the pictures, trim appears to be chestnut... maybe.

This canoe is a 15 footer.

Denis sent pictures to White-expert Jerry Stelmok, who says it isn't a Gerrish but may be an E.M. White. He'll be able to see the canoe in-person in January.

Wanted to share the news of this canoe with All, because I know others were watching that auction and maybe wonder where that canoe ended up and what it really was... which is open for thoughts and opinions.

Will post more pictures in a reply to this...



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This is probably the canoe we'll take to the Assembly.


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I'd bet this is an E.M. White from what I can see in photos. A couple of our very early E.M. Whites have no outside stem, and have the wrap-around "stemband". The keel is attached over the ends of those "bands" and a separate small metal trip overlies the keel-stemband junction. However, we have another early E.M. White with outside stems, and it has "regular" oval stembands that are splayed at each end (on deck and at the keel) just like the ones you show.

The decks look like one of E.M. White's several styles. The wrapping of the gunwale ends is also typical of early E.M. Whites in which the gunwales extend past the stem. Our earliest E.M. White is original- in great shape with original canvas and never restored- and it has the leather wrap.

The bow seat appears to be White in its simple, square-edge construction of fairly narrow stock, but the caning is odd. It looks like the cane is a newer addition, but it's odd that there appears to be a difference in patina underneath the canoe (suggests the cane has been there for a long time).

The rear seat is clearly a replacement- looks much like an Old Town frame. But the old dogma that "E.M. White's rear seat was D-shaped" just isn't true of all E.M. Whites. I don't know why. Of the three early ones here, only one was made with a D-shaped rear seat. If yours had one, you should be able to tell because of the metal straps that supported the rear edge of the seat. Their ends may still be there between the top cap and the gunwale, and even if they're not, you should be able to see an impression in the wood where they once were attached.

I'd post some photos, the two canoes that would be most appropriate for comparison are tucked far away behind stacks of others.

That curved thin thwart with the initials on it is much like the thwart in the 1870s Gerrish I wrote up years ago for the Journal. Only twice have I seen a thwart like that--on the 1870s Gerrish and on this canoe.
Cool! I remember that article and will read it again. We do have White's statement that he began making w/c canoes after seeing one made by Gerrish, so I've assumed the early builders may have borrowed ideas from each other and done a lot of experimentation.

I remember that article but can't recall the date. Please let us know what issue that is so I can find it. I have my issues all the way back to number 10.
Thanks, Denis
Here are some pictures of a Gerrish canoe that I restored in 2002. It had leather end caps, a wide fwd thwart, stem bands rivited where the bands ran past the stems, closed gunwale and heart shape decks. I estimated the age to be around the late 1880's.


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Thanks, Rollin. If our canoe had a heart-shaped deck, it sure would be less confusing. I love the thin forward thwart on these canoes (and on Steve's), which appears to be a nod to the canoe's birch bark origins.
Rollin, about the odd curved thin thwart on the Lapey Gerrish and the one you did, any idea where that came from? I haven't seen many birchbarks live or in pix, but I can't find it for sure coming from the birchbark construction tradition.
Attached is a picture Greg Nolan shared with us, of the canoe at the Roosevelt house on Campobello Island. The thwart isn't exactly the same shape, but in a similar location and mortised similarly.


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That's interesting. Campbello would make it malecite, the model for Gerrish's. And Vaillancourt's favorite.
Initials near stem

Adding a picture of the initials "EW" which are stamped into the rib that the stem touches, on either side of the stem.

Thank you, Rollin, for looking at the canoe and providing your opinion that it dates back to the 1890s and may be by some builder that went in and out of business... and that while it has some Gerrish-features, it has other aspects that don't read "Gerrish".

We still have it in our minds that the canoe may have belonged to E.B. White, the writer, which would be amazingly cool.


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Another picture of the Roosevelt canoe at Campobello is on the recent post "Tomah Joseph, Passamaquoddy" along with another picture of a younger FDR paddling a birchbark canoe that was built and decorated by Tomah Joseph. The canoe that is now on the Campobello porch is not the one FDR is paddling in the picture, and just judging by appearances (no decorations), it may not have been built by Joseph. But it is definitely Malecite in style. Here are a couple of other pics of the same canoe.


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Leather Gunnel Wraps?

I like the look of those leather gunnel wraps. Were they common way back when?

I can see that they would provide some level of protection whenever you manage to bounce the end of a boat off the ground.

Are they more likely to serve as a moisture & rot trap as opposed to provide real protection?
The leather wraps are seen on some of the "early" canoes... I think pre-1900, but don't know if that's exact. This canoe was on eBay-- and with the classic Malacite-type profile and the nose-wraps and other things about it-- in small pictures-- it appeared pre-1900, and possibly Gerrish or EM White. We didn't know the wraps were leather until Greg picked up the canoe for us.

In the case of this particular canoe, the leather doesn't seem to have contributed to any deterioration... it's water-worthy at 110+ years. We'll have it at this year's assembly.