That style of gunwale was used throughout Morris's time, and even in 1917, just three years before the factory burned, were described as the most common type. Open gunwales would have been available concurrently. It is not clear when Morris started building open gunwale canoes, but Old Town first offered open gunwale canoes in 1908 and Kennebec in 1911.
The undated Morris catalog on CD that is/was designated 1902 has an open gunwale option... I think this catalog is more likely 1905 or 06-- it is the first catalog with models A-D instead of the Special Indian, which appears to have happened around 1905... this date makes sense with the open gunwales being offered, rather than 1902, as other historical information suggests the open gunwale happened about 1905.
There are only a few open gunwale canoes in the database of approximately 210 Morris canoes... I'd provide the exact number but my "real computer" died during an upgrade to Windows 7, and I have to access the external hard drive to get to the database. A couple of the open gunwale Morrises in the database are conversions from an original closed system.
Was E.H. Gerrish the first to use the open gunwale? I believe Stelmok and Thurlow's "Wood and Canvas Canoe" suggests this, but maybe information has come to light since it was published. This is something I've been wanting to ask and it seems to fit this thread.
I poked through the Morris database and found 16 open gunwale canoes (out of 210), three of which were fire-survivors that were finished at Old Town, so we don't know if they are still around.
The earliest canoe with open gunwales in our Morris database appears to be the one Denis and I bought, which just arrived from Maine. This canoe has no serial number but has two tackholes in the inwale, indicating it possibly had a s/n plate there. This would place it in the pre-1908 category (according to current theory), and because it has three pairs of cants and open wales I place it post-1905.
The next-earliest Morris with open gunwales is #8622, which dates from around 1910.
It has been my impression that Bert Morris liked his pocketed-rib solution to canoe-building, so he didn't push the open gunwale. Old Town got right in there, with the Ideal model having open gunwales... suggesting to the public that, for a canoe to be "ideal", this is the way to go.
The "standard Morris" has closed spruce gunwales--- inwale, outwale, and cap are all spruce, stained mahogany-color. This was standard on a canoe that had mahogany decks/thwarts/seat frames. Upgrades were offered, with mahogany outwales that are D-shaped and mahogany cap, and either spruce inwale or mahogany inwale, depending on how much the customer wanted to pay. You got a lot for your money back then.
It seems that people were more cautious about accepting new technology a hundred years ago... so we see Gerrish and others putting lashings on the early wood-canvas, for those who paddled bark canoes who might expect that... and we see closed gunwales offered by the old companies into the 1920s.
Now, we jump in with upgrades to Windows 7, even though the computer sorta works in Vista...