Canoe Patents

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
I got a Penobscot Indian pack basket for Christmas that was made by Albert J. Nicola of Enfield, Maine as shown at http://i.ebayimg.com...3.JPG with "Pat. Pending" stamped on it. There didn't seem to be anything particularly unusual about this pack basket so I went searching at http://www.google.com/patents to see if a patent was ever actually issued for it. I didn't find one but did discover several interesting canoe patents as attached and described below.

The first one is the patent for the Penobscot Canoe Company's "NOTACRACK" model and unique deck from Old Town, Maine in 1916 as shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/pecaco/notacrac.jpg from their catalog.

The second one is for the Thompson Brother's Boat Manufacturing Company's canoe form improvements from Wisconsin in 1919.

The third one is for the Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation's veneer canoes from Michigan in 1919.

The fourth one is for an unusual canoe awning from Massachusetts near the Charles River area in 1907.

The fifth one is for an early canoe trailer for motor vehicles from Colorado in 1921.

The sixth one is for invisible sponsons from C. B. Thatcher of Bangor, Maine in 1908.

Benson
 

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Is Thatcher considered the inventor of the invisible sponson? I know Kennebec (and others) eventually offered them, but Kennebec's early sponsons were hardly invisible! I'm wondering if Thatcher invented them and they weren't offered by other builders until after Thatcher went out of business.

Am I correct that White invented sponsons?

Are there any known existing Thatcher canoes (with or without sponsons)?

Kathy
 
There are a lot of really neat patents related to wood canoes out there. There are those that are directly canoe related, like those posted by Benson and those like the John Stephenson and Dan Herald patents, the Haskell ad Linkanoe patents, and so on. It's pretty cool to dig deeper and find the Mullins patents, the Bowdish patents, the Ruggles patents, and Waters patent, all related to canoes, but somewhat more obscure - sometimes you need to know what you are looking at to make the connection.

Then the slope gets slipperier when you dig into the sailing canoe hardware and centerboard related patents (Rushton, Childs, Atwood, Baker, etc.)

There are a number of patents related to folding canoes and boats too...

I started writing an article about these patents some time ago, but got distracted...

Google has certainly made searching the patent database much easier than when I started looking for them, and now the early Canadian patents are on-line as well.
 
One problem with the canoe trailer design is that the boat is supported from the gunnels by bracket-shelves (#6), and there's no in-and-out adjustment provided for them. Unless the bracket were available in a variety of widths, the trailer would fit canoes of only a very limited range of widths. Not sure the gunnels would like this arrangement in any case.
Another problem appears to be the need to permanently mount a "trailer tongue" to the bow, adding weight, ugliness, and a spot of probable leakage and rot.
Not surprised that we never saw a lot of these on the road.
 
Not sure the gunnels would like this arrangement in any case.

I'm not too sure that the gunnels would enjoy the bolts that are run through them to secure the canoe to the wheels!
It's comical that he covers running bolts through the rails. Old patents are sometimes pretty entertaining.
This patent also suggests that you can load your gear in the canoe and haul it around.
It then builds a perfect cantilever using the trailer as a fulcrum.
I wonder how many canoes they split in half after hitting a big bump with the cargo shifted to the back?
 
Is Thatcher considered the inventor of the invisible sponson? I know Kennebec (and others) eventually offered them, but Kennebec's early sponsons were hardly invisible! I'm wondering if Thatcher invented them and they weren't offered by other builders until after Thatcher went out of business.

Am I correct that White invented sponsons?

Are there any known existing Thatcher canoes (with or without sponsons)?

Clearly Thatcher and the Patent Office thought that he was the inventor of the invisible sponson but very little other documentation exists to confirm or refute this. There is an undated Thatcher catalog from around 1901 that lists sponson canoes on page 6. The Indian Old Town Canoe Company catalog from 1901 also lists sponson canoes. The 1908 White Canoe Company catalog includes sponson canoes on pages six and seven along with a motor canoe on pages 12 to 16 which includes the following description. "An invisible air chamber is put on each side that conforms with the lines of the canoe..." The 1893 Morris catalog does not appear to mention sponsons but his undated catalog from around 1901 does. The 1905 Carleton catalog has them on page 10. The 1985 Gerrish catalog does not appear to have them. The first Kennebec catalog from 1910 lists sponsons as an option on page 25 but the "Invisible Sponson" model does not appear until the 1929 catalog. It is possible that White, Kennebec, and others may have made arrangements with Thatcher to use his patent but I'm not aware of any documentation for this.

The picture and caption below are from a history of Old Town, Maine that was published in 1965 claiming that White invented sponsons and Chapman built the motors for his canoes. No credit or source was cited so this can't be independently verified. It is interesting that all of the known early White catalogs identify Palmer as the supplier of their engines.

There are a few Thatcher canoes and boats that have shown up over the years.

This topic like many others has more questions than answers.

Benson
 

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Clearly Thatcher and the Patent Office thought that he was the inventor of the invisible sponson but very little other documentation exists to confirm or refute this.

It is the execution of the idea that can be patented (providing that it represents a bona fide advance), not the idea itself. It is possible that invisible sponsons existed prior to this patent, but that the applicant was able to demonstrate to the US Patent Office that his approach was a new one.
 
patents

Benson,
Very nice pack basket. I have seen a few Nicola pack baskets over the years and most have gone for big bucks! The most interesting ones that I have seen are the ones with the storage compartment built into the baskets. Myself being a fish creel collector, have also been offered two different style fish creels by him over the years for very steep fees that I have passed on but would love to have added to my collection. I would imagine being a Mainer that you have also seen a few examples by Nicola. I have never seen one of his baskets with a Pat # on it.

You also mentioned Thatcher canoes. DO you or any body else have any pictures to post of his canoes? The UFO that I posted pics of last year that resembles an old style Manie canoe has still not been identifed yet but Kathy thought the deck might resemble a Thatcher. This is the best theory I have seen yet.

thanks, Zack Smith
 
Rollin may have a Thatcher and might be able to help with some pictures or other details. The Penobscot Marine museum could have a Thatcher rowing boat. I have seen a few but the photographs of an invisible sponson model below are the only ones I have.

Nicola's baskets are interesting. One of his catalogs showed up on eBay within the last year. He purchased the Gilman cottage for his factory in Enfield. The buildings still stand as shown at http://www.coldstreaminn.com/ although they have been modernized and converted to an inn. Some of these images are attached below.

Benson
 

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The Thatcher certainly is a beautiful canoe. I find it interesting that early builders such as Gerrish and Thatcher placed trim-strips on the tops of the inwale and outwale of the open gunwale. It's a very artistic approach, because it makes your eye follow the length of the canoe, from stem to stem. Perhaps it helped ease a buying-public into something new (because the open wales aren't as noticeable), but my thought is that they needed to make them more pleasing to their own eye. Little things were done with a lot of finesse "in the olden days". Even the tools that were used back then were/are beautiful.

Kathy
 
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