Famous Canoes (& Owners)


I just noticed on a record search Benson did, that a canoe was delivered to Senator Reed, who once was a contender for a presidential nomination. I know of a canoe locally that was owned by Charles Steinmetz and was often mentioned in his writings. It got me thinking...

Are there other canoes of famous heritage that we collectively know of? Where are they now?

Might be an interesting piece for the Journal -
Good Suggestion

Denis and I have a 12 foot Morris that came from Alaska. Included with the boat were a couple pictures of a former owner and some scanty information about his work. By searching on line, I've determined who the fellow might be and eventually plan to contact family to verify this.

It appears that our canoe belonged to William Francis Thompson (1888-1965), a biologist who became a major figure in fisheries research in the United States, and particularly in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, during the first half of the 20th century. If I'm correct about this, it might be important to his family to learn the canoe he used for some of his research is alive and well in Upper Michigan. (In one of the pictures that came with the canoe, the former owner-- who looks like other pictures of Mr. Thompson-- is holding up a salmon.)

It's this connection to the past-- to where the boat as been and who paddled it-- that is at the root of my passion for old canoes.

I believe the Minnesota Historical Society has Sigurd Olson's Morris on display (right, Dan L.?) and the paddle Eric Severeid used in "Canoeing With the Cree".

And who won the eBay auction for the "Deliverance" canoe...?
MikeCav said:
Are there other canoes of famous heritage that we collectively know of? Where are they now?
Here is a tidbit I came across recently in the Newspaper Archive.

In September 1894 it was reported in the Daily Whig and Courier:

Mr E.H. Gerrish, the widely known canoe builder of Bangor, Maine has just sent one of his splendid canoes in response to an order from President Cleveland to the President's summer home "Gray Gables" in New Bedford, Massachusets.

Last edited:
Gray Gables

It seems unlikely that the canoe still exists, or if it does, that it could be located:

When Cleveland was elected in 1892, for a second term as president, Gray Gables became Cape Cod's first summer White House. The [nearby] depot had a direct telegraph line back to Washington. Two of the five Cleveland children were born at Gray Gables, and the family discontinued their residency in 1904, when his daughter Ruth died of diphtheria, age 13.

Cleveland died in 1908 and his son Richard sold the [Cape Cod] property in 1920. The building eventually became the Gray Gables Inn, a popular restaurant and watering hole overlooking the Cape Cod Canal. In 1973, a fire believed to have been set rendered the building a total loss. No charges were ever brought.

Son Richard died in 1974

And since Babe Ruth has been mentioned above, it may be worth stretching this thread completely beyond recognition by noting that Cleveland's daughter Ruth is the person the candy bar is named for, not "the Babe" of baseball fame.
Bill Mason's red Prospector is in the Canadian Canoe Museum. You can all see it when you come to Assembly next summer in Peterborough.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau's (former multi-term Prime Minister of Canada) buckskin jacket is also in the CCM.
Several canoes built in Canada have been given as gifts to the British Royal Family. I understand one has been or will be on display at the CCM.
The canoe currently being built by Walter Walker (Lakefield canoe builder who turned 100 years old on November 3rd, this year) is sponsored by one of the Princes (I can never keep them straight, so someone more royalist than I can chime in)

I don't know the current display status of Sig's old canoe, but last I heard, the MHS still has it. Being that the display it was part of was a temp display and a few years ago, I'd guess the canoe is back in storage.

BTW, Sig's other personal canoe, a White, is hanging in the cabin at Listening Point.

And here is where Dave O should speak up. :)

I have a canoe (1935 OT Yankee-16) that Sig Olson purchased for his outfitting business, Border Lakes Outfitters, Winton, MN.. While it is doubtful that it was Sig's personal canoe, there are photos that exist with he and similar canoes. Dan Lindberg explains that Sig's personal canoes are Morris' and in the care of the Minnesota Historical Society. As Manager and part owner of the business, it is very likely that Sig either used it or handled it many times. I also have the portage yoke. I imagine that there is some of Sig's sweat soaked into it. Sig's name is on the build record. It is somewhere in this forum....try searching Sig Olson. You'll probably find it.

BTW....This canoe has had many repairs, as you might imagine from an outfitting or livery business. It is well known to some Minnesotians that Joe Seliga did many repairs for Border Lakes. Again, no real proof, but highly likely.
I plan to restore it back to the original build record. Since I am now "in the business"( yes, I've hung the shingle, Dan!), I haven't had too much time to work on my own canoes. My shop is now complete and functional and I have some canoes promised by spring.
Regards to all!!
Dave Osborn
Boulder Jct. WI
I could be dreaming, but I think I remember seeing a Morris that was supposed to be his hanging on the wall at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland WI. It's been a while since I was there, but that's what sticks in my mind.
Abraham Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln (Garfield's Secretary of War, Harrison's Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and longtime president of the Pullman Company), owned a 17' Morris Tuscarora canoe. The tender boat, often used for racing at the time, was purchased in 1915 and seems an unusual choice for someone in his 70s (Lincoln died in 1926 at the age of 83). The canoe languished in the stables at Lincoln's summer home ("Hildene") in Manchester, Vermont for eighty years before being restored by Rollin Thurlow in the late 1990s.

If you're in the Manchester area, it's worth a trip to Hilene for a tour. Ask to see the Morris in the outshed - it's a beautiful, sleek canoe.


  • Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 1.jpg
    Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 1.jpg
    383.2 KB · Views: 424
  • Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 2.jpg
    Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 2.jpg
    618.1 KB · Views: 418
  • Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 3.jpg
    Lincoln 1915 Morris Tuscarora 3.jpg
    493.5 KB · Views: 411
Last edited:
Yes, I have also heard the Northland has a Morris, I haven't heard where it came from or any history about it. A few years ago they were talking to a guy I know about finding/repairing a canoe, maybe a Morris, for display. I don't know/think that (at least my friend) ever did anything about it.

Joe kept fairly complete records of both his canoe building and repair work, and yes, Border Lakes is listed a number of times, unfortanately he never records the S/N of the canoes he repaired, just a list of the repairs and (usually) cost for each repair and a total.
And bottomline, yes, I think there's a very good chance that Joe worked on your canoe, as it's right in that time frame when the repairs were made.

Rockefeller Canoe

Vintage Canoeworks, Inc., Buffalo, NY has pictures on their website of a 1916 Old Town Otca that was owned by Percy A. Rockefeller who had a camp on Upper Saranac Lake, New York. A real beauty. www.vintagecanoeworks.com

Jim Clearwater
i remember seeing a couple of canoes at Campobello, owned by the roosevelt's, but not sure what they were. seems like there were a few pictures of FDR canoeing also.
154524 Old Town

154524 13' Is owned by Emory Clark. Gold Medalist. 1964 Olympics. Given to him by his folks when he was a boy. He's sorta famous.
Canoes with Provenance


I purchased two Rushton canoes from Susan Pruyn King in January of 2005. At the time I did not know that much about the Adirondack Great Camps. After I made the purchase, Mrs. King gave me the attached letter and copies of the attached photos.

Mrs. King's grandfather was Robert C. Pruyn a successful Albany banker who built Santanoni, a 12,500 acre Great Came, near Newcome, NY. between 1892 and 1893.

The two canoes are a 15' canvas Indian without a serial number and the second is a 17' Indian Girl ser# 132. I believe this canoe could have been built in the first year of production in 1901. Mrs. King's letter states she thought the canoe was purchased when the camp was first built, but we know the Indian Girl was not made until 1901. I'm not as sure about the canvas Indian.

When I arrived home I purchased the book "Santanoni, From Japanese Temple to Life at an Adirondack Great Camp". The book contains over 200 pages of wonderful pictures and information about the family, the camp, and camp life in the Adirondacks. You discover the Japanese influence on the camp comes from the fact that Robert C. Pruyn served as secretary to his father Robert H. Pruyn, when his father was appointed Minister to Japan by President Lincoln in 1861. Theodore Roosevelt and James Fennimore Cooper, Jr. were among the many distinguished visitors who regularly visited Santanoni.

The daily logs and registers are at the Adirondack Museum and do show that Gov. Roosevelt made visits, but it does not show the Teddy visited after becoming president.

The picture attached show the Cooper family members canoeing in the two canoe I now have. Mrs. King's letter mentions the twin masted cedar sailing canoe that does appear on one of the pictures. That also went to the Museum.

I like to think that it is possible that Teddy may have paddled one of those two canoes.




  • IM001968.jpg
    419.5 KB · Views: 425
  • IM001993.jpg
    568.5 KB · Views: 399
  • img019.jpg
    360 KB · Views: 398
  • img021.jpg
    776.8 KB · Views: 416
  • img020.jpg
    780.7 KB · Views: 381
  • img017.jpg
    370.7 KB · Views: 436

Here are three photographs from 1907 at Campobello. FDR is in the stern. It appears that birchbark was his canoe of choice at the time.


  • FDR 1.jpg
    FDR 1.jpg
    100.1 KB · Views: 396
  • FDR 2.jpg
    FDR 2.jpg
    99.9 KB · Views: 409
  • FDR 3.jpg
    FDR 3.jpg
    108.5 KB · Views: 435