E.H Gerrish # 589, 17'4" canoe

1905Gerrish

Loves Old Maine canoes
I finished a restoration of this canoe yesterday. It was found on Lake Winnipesaukee here in NH years ago. It is similar in construction of the one shown in the January 2, 1895, Gerrish catalog, the earliest known catalog. I three cane wrappings at either end are visible in the catalog that mimic the local Penobscot and Passamaquoddy bark canoes of area. The canoe is numbered 589 which is the earliest recorded number I am aware of and stamped in either stem. The notable mention of the canoe is the upward facing lap jointed thwart just after the front seat. The decks are american chestnut. The seats and thwarts are a combination of american chestnut and white oak. The canoe appears to have gotten some use. 10 new ribs were installed. Luckily the rails were saved though as someone added 3/8" threaded rod carrying handles through them just behind the decks. The caps were unfortunately unsalvageable. The spray flam flotation under both decks was a nice feature, but I decided to remove it during the restoration. It has been restored to as close to original with a bit nicer paint than the dark green it was.
 

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Zack, what a fine canoe!
What is interesting to me is to see the similarities and the differences between 813 and this, 589. Only 224 hulls apart, there is an obvious and strong resemblance, but also numerous changes. I wonder how close you are getting to figuring out a rough number of annual builds Gerrish was doing before he sold out?
I am curious about the length and width of the decks?
Nice choice of paint....the world already has enough green canoes.
Mike
 
Hi Zack, The stem and stern profiles are just killer, WOW. And the paint job, simply refreshing, WOW. I see the chamfers on the caps and would bet the feature was picked up by the maker of two boats I have. They are Williams canoes and both use the design which adds an elegance to the finish. Both of my boats have a bamboo wrap of 13 at the deck ends adding another elegant Gerrish feature. If I am not mistaken, JR Wiliams grew up in the same town as Gerrish , later becoming a builder in Kennebunkport. I think J. Ranco was from the area as well. Maybe there is a " Bangor Group " that spanned a couple generations. Good fun .
Dave, lover of the Lakes Region.
 
JR Wiliams grew up in the same town as Gerrish , later becoming a builder in Kennebunkport. I think J. Ranco was from the area as well.

This is an interesting connection. John R. Williams was born in Brownville (like Gerrish) although he was 17 years younger as indicated in the information at the link below.


The 1877 Bangor Directory is the first one to list Evan Gerrrish as a fishing rod maker working at 18 Broad Street and John R. Williams is not listed. From 1884 to 1887 both Evan Gerrish and John R. Williams are listed as working and living at the same locations. John was listed as a boat builder and is likely to have been Evan's first employee. John was first listed in the 1896 Maine Register as a canoe builder in Kennebunk. I've not been able to find much other census or genelogical information about John R. Williams.

Joseph Ranco grew up near Old Town, Maine and spent his summers in the Kennebunkport area. The link below has more about him. Fun stuff,

Benson


 
Mike, you couldnt be more right! Nice choice of paint....the world already has enough green canoes.
This is the inspiration for the sponson Peterborough currently underway. white sponson tops. no such luck with small outboards however..
No love for the tri-5 Chevrolets, i love the '58s. End of thread drift

1706480841900.png
 
I believe I'm going with blues for the next couple restorations as well. I have a couple unopened gallons of Interlux Brightside that I'm guessing are 50 years old. I know one is Crysler blue. Can't remember the other off hand.

Zack
 
Hi Zack, The stem and stern profiles are just killer, WOW. And the paint job, simply refreshing, WOW. I see the chamfers on the caps and would bet the feature was picked up by the maker of two boats I have. They are Williams canoes and both use the design which adds an elegance to the finish. Both of my boats have a bamboo wrap of 13 at the deck ends adding another elegant Gerrish feature. If I am not mistaken, JR Wiliams grew up in the same town as Gerrish , later becoming a builder in Kennebunkport. I think J. Ranco was from the area as well. Maybe there is a " Bangor Group " that spanned a couple generations. Good fun .
Dave, lover of the Lakes Region.
Very interesting Dave and Benson about the Williams connection. I have photos of one of yours Dave that I took years ago. It is beautiful.
 
Beautiful job for sure, and I agree with the statements regarding colours of canoes. I'm especially interested in the seat weave. Is that unique to a Gerrish canoe? I'd love to try that out myself, any tips on where to find out how?
Thanks, Gary
 
Zack,

Like Gary, I am interested in the seat weaving.

In this post, and in two others (links below), you show canoes with three different seat caning patterns, all of which use no holes (at least in part) and involve some wrapping of the cane without spacing. I would appreciate it if you would comment on these patterns. There seem to be three:

the one shown above with continuous cane wrapping going side-to-side (but with some hole in the side-to-side rails),
zack 3.jpg


one with continuous cane wrapping going front to back,
zack 1.jpg


and one with continuous cane making a checker-board pattern.
zack 5.jpg


Are there any advantages/disadvantages for any pattern, either in construction (easier or harder, more or less complicated to do) or while using the canoe?

How are the ends of the cane anchored?

I like the look of these seats and the absence of holes in the seat frames, and would appreciate knowing how the caning is done and how it performs.

Greg


https://forums.wcha.org/threads/circa-1890-e-h-gerrish.18731/#post-101149

https://forums.wcha.org/threads/e-h-gerrish-183-guide-model.18941/#post-98971
 
Gerrish 813 has the same cane pattern as we see used on 589. The cane on the 813 seats was original, albeit worn with some strands of cane broken.
Presumably it might be reasonable to conclude that sometime in the early to mid 1890's Gerrish had decided that there was some benefit to using holes to locate the caning in the seat frame.
This type of seat is extremely comfortable. I prefer it to woven and pressed cane for comfort.
Given that the cane in 813 remained useable even after 125 years of service, it is very tough.
 
Hi Greg,
To make easier reference I will use your photos you posted as top, middle and bottom. You mention 3 caning styles above. The pictures below are close to photo number one, but slightly different with the bolts securing the frame in the corners. I also have another Gerrish that is very different, not pictured, meaning I am aware of 5 different seat patterns. I will also state that when I restored these seats and the entire canoe, I try to duplicate the original construction as much as possible. The maker(s) used tiny steel tacks to secure ends and in most cases that I have seen there were not many knots to hold sections together. The steel tacks rot away leaving the heads crumbling as they get touched for removal. I personally use knots for securing. I tie a loop to start and use square knots to tie sections together. When dried the tighten nicely as Mike mentioned are comfortable leaving a great springy feel to them. This coupled with the builders modest sizing of seat frames gives a very lively feeling with plenty of flex. Certainly, the front seat in particular. All patterns are very easy to manufacture. I'd say an hour or so for per seat, start to finish. A much shorter build than a traditional canoe seat caning.

The first photo is the more refined pattern which I'd say was used the most throughout his years in business. The second photo I believe represents the earliest attempt at seat caning. It utilized a smaller cane (generally uses binder cane sizing, I believe that is 3.5mm) as well and I have two other references of this construction besides mine. The last photo is an oddball pattern. I have not seen it before. I used the pattern as it was very very visable, imprinted on the wood when I purchased it. I can only believe that it was original as the canoe was in fantastic shape for its age looking unmolested. If I had to call it something it would be a transitional weave. I guess someone could call all of them a transitional weave though. The included photos show another seat construction the Gerrish workers used. This was my first Gerrish. A late build around 1906 build if I had to date. Specifically after weaving, all of the seats have the underside securing wraps as shown. A nice and neat finishing touch. Also, holes were always covered with a section of so-called binder cane as well.

Take care,
Zack
 

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Mike -- thanks for your comments on comfort and durability.
Zack -- your information on building methods, and the photo of the underseat work will be most helpful. I have no need to duplicate any historical canoe -- I am building a new skin on frame canoe, and will likely use something based on these methods for the seats. I have re-caned a number of canoe seats -manufactured pressed-in on one canoe, and traditional weaving on a couple of others. I did creditable jobs on all, but I did not particularly enjoy the very fussy, time-consuming work, and beyond that, I just want to try someting a little different.

Greg
 
Love the detail provided by the photos and descriptions.
Very interesting to see the underside view. In particular, I noticed the seat is not mortised, but rather apparently rabbeted and lapped with fasteners rather than mortised. In Greg's second picture, the stern seat cross-member ends are "over-under", with a rivet and rove attaching the pieces. That protruding copper rivet end would be irritating to sit on, especially moving around while paddling.
 
Greg, thanks for zeroing in on this particular construction detail. Seats seem like a trivial detail in the overall build of such a boat and yet they are one of the most important details for the paddler. All of us have encountered damaged cane, broken or missing seat frames, uncomfortable positioning and fit.
Here we see a progression of variations provided by one very continuously innovative builder, Evan Gerrish. In one short sequence we see how he has iteratively altered the framing, the weave and also the mounting of the seats in his canoes. If ever there is a simple summary of the creative talents of Gerrish, here it is for all to see.

And, further, here is a brilliant example of what a canoe restorer deals with when they take on these old canoes. On a checklist you might see, strip and repair seats, varnish frames, cane/weave seats. Somewhere on the timeline of the job and near the end (if they are not mortised into the rails) you might see, install seats and thwarts.
What is lost in that is the extent of creative effort that someone like Zack expends in order to deal with so much variation between these canoes. Bravo Zack for highlighting what I have always tried to explain to the casual admirer about how each canoe we work on requires adaptive creativity. They all look pretty much the same to the casual eye. But in real terms, they are all just a bit different. For me, that is what makes working on these old boats so interesting. The tasks are never exactly the same. There is never repetitiveness to overcome the challenges.
 
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