Canoe Identification


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Last September, I came to the Forum looking to research the Old Town serial number on my dad's canoe. I immediately learned that a) the serial number I was stating was in fact NOT a serial number; b) the canoe is likely NOT an Old Town and c) I needed to collect much more information and supply more photos to present to the WCHA members if I had any chance of learning anything about the canoe.

To refresh those readers (and maybe new ones), the canoe has been in our family for a little more than 50 years. My dad bought it in NJ from someone who had used it for many years and that person acquired it from someone in upstate New York who also had the canoe for many years. We do not know if that person was the original owner or not.

My dad is a "tinkerer" so the canoe has had many repairs. My dad can "cane" so the seats were recanned by him in the 1960s as well as other repairs. While his repairs are not truly professional, they made the canoe servicable.

The canoe measures 17' and 2". While my dad carved a hull ID number in the boat (and heck only knows why), there is a faintly stamped serial number. I think it reads 1009, but it could read 1067 or even 1909 or 1967.

To help in (hopefully) identifying a maker, etc., I've created a video of the canoe including photos and video. It's not great, but perhaps it will offer up clues to our mystery.

Here's the link to the video although you might have to cut and paste:

And finally, thanks in advance to all of you. As some point, I will have to sell or rehome the canoe. While it has been in our family for such a long time, my parents are in their 80s with serious health issues and are in the process of moving.

I would keep the canoe myself and have it restored, but sadly I have neither the time or the space to keep it.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to comments.

Hi Calleen,

Your canoe was built by the Carleton Canoe Company. The single carry thwart at the bow, the heart shaped decks, and the shadow of the builder's plate are the clues that identify it.

My guess is that you have the Carleton canoe with serial number 11967 for the reasons that Dan cited and since this is the best match that I can find between the canoe in your video and a quick search of the records. This is a 17 foot long, CS (Common Sense) grade, Carleton model with western red cedar planking, closed spruce gunwales, ash decks, ash thwarts, ash seats, a keel, outside stems, and nickel bangplates. It was built between February and March, 1916. The original exterior paint color was brown to match a sample that was provided. It shipped on April 12th, 1916 to Springfield, Mass. A scan showing this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.

This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. There appear to have been some extensive repairs so it may be difficult to know what is new and what is original. The information at may help you value and sell it. The tag on the bottom of the image at is the type which was probably on the deck originally. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.



  • c-11967.gif
    26.5 KB · Views: 311
Last edited:
I'm just speculating here, so please correct me as needed...

The New Jersey registration number probably wouldn't have been issued to a boat with no serial number. If the serial number was unknown, the NJ authorities may have issued a serial number for the boat, and required that it be permanently affixed to the boat. This may be why the serial number that doesn't make much sense is carved by hand into the one stem? Illinois' registration process works it this way for home built boats, such as strip & glass canoes. So I'm just specualting that a similar process may have been used here.

Also, I'm interested in the fact that this has open gunnel construction. As I understand it, open gunnels was a construction method that came around later than the closed gunnels, though some overlap undoubtedly occurred. My 1919 Old Town has closed gunnels, and was built later than the suspected 1916 build date for this canoe. Any thoughts?
Paul is correct. The other number is a USCG Hull Identification Number. The NJZ prefix indicates it was issued in NJ to a homebuilt boat. This is a common occurrence when a state requires a HIN to register the boat. Even if it is a vintage boat.

Open gunwales date to the 190Xs... The Old Town Ideal, which featured open gunwales, was first offered in the 1906 catalog. Most companies offered open and closed gunwales concurrently for a period of time.
Thanks, Dan! History was never my strong suit... I could always figure out that the War of 1812 happened before the War of 1898, but once the math part is exhausted, I'm toast! :):(:confused:
Another potential point of confusion is that occasionally a closed gunwale canoe will be cut down slightly during a repair and have open gunwales installed. This canoe also has diamond headed bolts which don't usually appear on canoes before about 1920.

Hi Callen--

The video was a good idea. Others may run into it, and it may help them figure out what they have in their shed. I posted this link there, so that people who stumble upon your video can come here to learn more about the canoe.