E.H. Gerrish

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
[H=1]E.H. Gerrish[/H]
Evan H. Gerrish may have been the first person to sell wood and canvas canoes commercially. From 1882-1909, he built and sold canoes from a shop in Bangor, Maine. Some of his canoes contain elements of the birch bark canoes upon which they were based. If studied from earliest-to-latest, Gerrish canoes appear to show the morphing of the wood-canvas from its roots in the birch bark to the modern open gunwale canoe.

In 1909 Gerrish sold the company to his foreman, Herbert Walton. Walton moved the company to his hometown of Costigan Me. Walton continued to use the Gerrish name on his canoes but change the name tag to reflect the new location of Costigan. Production of the canoes slowly declined until the shop finally closed around 1930.

The following is a YouTube video showing two Gerrish canoes, with focus on the unusual reed seat:


[H=2]Identification Features[/H]
Gerrish canoes appear to vary, one from the other, as though the builder was continually refining his product. Typical of his earlier canoes, the rails extend beyond the stems and are wrapped with cane to simulate the spruce-root of a bark canoe. Likewise, seats and/or thwarts may be mortised into the rails, as is typical of a native-built birch bark canoe. Seat frames and reed-weaving are distinctive and seen on early as well as post-1900 Gerrish canoes-- which tend to have a more "modern" appearance. An open gunwale Gerrish may include the addition of a decorative half-round on top of the inwale and outwale. Wood species used on decks, thwarts, and seat frames may be American chestnut.

Deck-- Commonly a narrow heart-shape, but seen on canoes assumed to be later is a concave curve with or without coaming.

Name Plate-- metal plate affixed to bow deck stating E.H. Gerrish/builder/Bangor ME
(Also seen is the above wording stenciled on the canoe's planking)

Serial Number-- Some Gerrish canoes have serial numbers and some do not. No records are known to exist.

The Gerrish nailing pattern of the canoe tacks is different form almost every other manufacturer. The most common pattern for the tacks was to alternated the tacks, (right,left, right left, etc). The Gerrish nailing pattern was to have the tacks in a diagonal row that would be repeated on each plank.

The hardwood stem is splayed similar to the Morris stems however the bottom of the stem is 1.125" to 1.25" wide tapered to .875". The taper starts at the first full rib and extends to the end of the stem at the fourth or fifth full rib.

The bottom edge of the inside edge of the inside rails have a 3/16" wide, 45 degree bevel.

The bottom of the ends of the thwarts are tapered to one half of the thickness of the full thwart. The taper extends from the end of the thwart for about three inches to the full thickness of the thwart. the ends of most seats are not tapered but in some cases they are tapered similar to the thwarts.

Most double ended canoes would have hand thwarts just behind both decks.
Checking out the Discussion panel...

Kathy, what reference or evidence do you have that Gerrish was building canoes as early as 1882? The earliest I have been able to positively confirm he was building canoes is 1885.
I can't recall where I found that... I was copy/pasting from information I saved in a file. Feel free to change anything I put up that doesn't seem right.
The 1882 Bangor Business Directory list the Gerrish Canoe Company as having one full time employee and building 25 canoes a yea, which was published in the Wood and Canvas Canoe book.
Hi Rollin,

I have gone through Greenough's Directory for the City of Bangor for 1882, and the only listing for Gerrish is as a maker of "Fishing Rods, etc.". There is no entry for Gerrish Canoe Company in the business section of this directory.

Any chance you can provide me with a copy of your source?