Canoe Identification Help

Lew's Canoes

Canoe Builder
Sure could use some help identifying this interesting looking canoe. Number on stems is 826 17. Canoe is in fact 17 feet long, width approx. 31" out/out. Slotted screws in keel. Ribs are 2 and 3/8" wide, spaced 4 and 1/4" o/c. Distinctive deck and thwarts, as visible in photo. The other distinctive feature is the covering - when I first saw it all I could think of was "naughahide". It looks and feels like a piece of furniture from the 60's, complete with an embossed pattern in the 'fabric'. Upon closer inspection, the covering has a canvas-like backing, with a vinyl or PVC coating. Many tears and abrasions, so recovereing will be in order. Any thoughts on what this is, and if it is original? Hope the pictures come through...... Thanks, LEW


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Hi Lew,

This is surely from the Charles River area near Boston. The un-tapered ribs, wide thwarts, and deck style all point to Charles River. The thwarts look very much like J.R. Robertson (Auburndale, MA) and Waltham Boat & Canoe Co. (Waltham, MA) thwarts. Can you measure thickness? The thwarts I'm thinking of are thinner than those on other styles of Charles River canoes (different builders?).

The deck profile is what has been ascribed to Kingsbury in the past, though I'm not sure if there is any good foundation for that.

Finally, some Charles River-area canoes have very fine entries, while others have very full ends. This is the fuller type (though this doesn't pin down builder). The fullness of the ends and the high degree of recurve in these canoes are what generate the great width of the decks.

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Kingsbury canoe?

I suspect what you have is a Kingsbury canoe, made in the Charles River area. Somewhere in the forums is a photo of deck shapes of some of the Charles River builders, but I couldn't find it. If the canoe was acquired on the west coast, it likely is a Monohon Boat/Canoe Company model. Both businesses were run by Alden Kingsbury. Monohon operated from 1908-1913 in Monohon, Washington. He then moved back to Weston, Massachusetts where he operated Kingsbury canoes until around 1947. You can get more detail of Monohon Boat/Canoe Company on pages 31-32 of "The Willits Brothers and Their Canoes", where there is a photo of the Monohon Boat/Canoe Company and their canoes. One of them shows a similar deck and thwart shape.

Can't think of the name of the vinyl-covered canvas used on your canoe, but Chestnuts sometimes had it. I don't know if Kingsbury would have used it in his original construction - it could be a "new" covering put on as a repair.

Kevin Martin builds canoes off the original Kingsbury molds. See his site at:
Monohon Canoe deck shape

For those of you who don't have a copy of "The Willits Brothers and Their Canoes", here is a detail from the photo on page 31 showing Alden Kingsbury and the stern deck of one of his canoes. The deck shape looks very similar to Lew's canoe.


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Monohon Canoe thwart shape

Here's another detail from the photo in my book showing the thwart shape of a Monohon canoe.


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Hi Pat- Looks like foundation to me! The images you may be remembering from the web site were a compilation of photos. They included (supposedly) Waltham, Robertson, Stephenson, Kingsbury. If memory serves, it may have been Dick Persson who made that post. In any case, I have a hard copy that I printed. If still needed, I will scan and attach within a couple of days.

For a deck style ascribed to Robertson (one of at least two), see:

This style or very similar has also been ascribed to Waltham.
Michael - I was thinking you had posted that collection of deck shapes, but couldn't find it when I searched your postings. Also couldn't find it when searching "Kingsbury", so I gave up. Maybe Dick will respond when time allows.

By the way, Alden Kingsbury worked for JR Robertson prior to moving to Washington and starting Monohon Boat/Canoe Company, so it would make sense his canoes looked very similar to Robertson's. According to Kingsbury's son David, he quit Robertson at noon one day because Robertson wouldn't give him a pay raise, threw his tools in his canoe and paddled downriver to Emerson's boat house and had a new job by 1pm!

David Kingsbury worked with his dad after the war building the last of the Kingsbury canoes and he still lives in Weston, MA. He could probably confirm whether Lew's is a Kingsbury.
The problem with these Charles River-area builders is that so many features of their canoes are so similar. And many of these canoes were apparently not tagged at the factory. Re thwarts, the Monohan thwart in Pat's post looks very much like some Robertson/Waltham thwarts. The photo below shows a pair of these thwarts- from a canoe that is surely either Robertson or Waltham. But this canoe (a 17' model) has circular stem recurve- not the strong recurve of Lew's canoe. But the very shallow, wide roundover is much like that in Lew's photo and in the Monohan photo.

The second photo below is from a different kind of canoe- also from Charles River but of a very different style. Note the steep roundover here. Also, this thwart if 3/4" think. The Robertson/Waltham thwart is just a hair over 1/2" thick.

The mystery is what makes these Charles River canoes so much fun (plus as Mr. Cavanaugh said, they're very pretty!)



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Hey, Pat (please excuse my Southern... at least I didn't say "Hey ya'll!")- I forgot Kingsbury working for Robertson. That would certainly explain a lot. Good info, and fascinating story!
Many thanks to Pat and Michael for your responses and historical insights into this canoe's roots. In response to one of the first responses, I measured the thickness of the thwarts. Both are 5/8" thick, at least at the square section near the rails. Interestingly, the stern thwart is shaped on both edges ( this is the one I photographed and attached to my original post), while the bow thwart is sculpted only on the leading edge and nearly straight on the trailing edge, Any significance to this? Finally, I followed the link to the website of Kevin Martin, as suggested, and the photo of his 17' Courting Canoe is a dead ringer for my boat, except mine has short decks instead of the very long ones shown in Kevin's - same stem profile, width, and thwart shape. So, I am pretty sure I have a Kingsbury - does anyone know if any build records are still available for Kingsbury Canoes? Perhaps I will contact Kevin, as he apparently has the original Kingsbury Forms. Thanks again for all of your help with this! LEW
David Kingsbury told me that his sister was cleaning out their father's effects after he died... You guessed it, she tossed out all the build records for the Kingsbury canoes. He was some ticked off when he found out about it! So they're long gone, unfortunately. Kevin Martin might know something, though, so don't hesitate to contact him.
the bow thwart is sculpted only on the leading edge and nearly straight on the trailing edge, Any significance to this?

That would probably be to give the back rest a nice landing.
I was looking for photo for a different purpose and ran across some old material that made me recall this thread. The deck cutout of the canoe that started this discussion appears identical to a deck shape made by F.W. Young of Auburndale, MA. See attached photos. Sorry about the poor quality of the deck photo, but it is a crop from a larger pic.



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Finished restoration

Over a year ago, several of you were kind enough to help with the ID of this canoe as a Kingsbury. At Assembly this year, I spoke with Dave Kingsbury and am now quite certain that this is a late model Kingsbury. Thought you might like to see how she turned out. You will notice, I am sure, that the decks are not original - the owner insisted on new semi-long decks that were to be made from exotic mahogany veneer. That turned out to be quite a project in itself, but the results are pretty wild!. I buried the old original decks under the new ones so perhaps some day they will once again see the light of day - nice surprise for a future restorer! Hope the photo attachment works.......... LEW


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Very nice result- beautiful! The owner must be pleased. Glad to hear that you left the original decks in place. So, did you do the gold leaf and pinstriping yourself? Looks like a very nice job.

Auburndale Canoe

Michael, does that tag from the Young canoe have CSA on it or am I reading it wrong? I appologize for my limited knowledge of U.S. history and dates...
No, it is "USA". The "U" is tough to read. As for dates- CSA, as in Confederate States of America, would slightly :rolleyes: pre-date the wood-canvas canoe industry, and Boston is just a tad outside of what was once Confederate territory! :eek:


Here are serial numbers to go with those thwarts:

Top (single): 1218 16 Extreme recurve (torpedo), decks with sharp peak

Bottom (pair): 518 17 Circular (not oval or torpedo) stem recurve; matches exactly the cut from Robertson catalogs