Help Please S/N 116

Emerson Bornman

Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Found an old canoe today. Owner claims 1904 Old Town. Stems stamped 115 or 116. Actually it looks like 116 on the stern and 115 on the bow, no other numbers. It's about sixteen feet long with keel. The decks look like Kennebec and both have metal plates on them. I could only read a name on one of the metal plates. The gunwales are capped their entire length. Two thwarts look 2" x .75" boards & center thwart missing, bolts present. Stern seat only (with slats) and could see on evidence of a front seat.It is about 100 miles from my house. Maybe I'll return with a camera & tape measure. Any information will be appreciated.
This doesn't sound like an Old Town but there are no existing records for their three digit serial numbers. The Kennebec records show that their serial numbers 115 and 116 were put on boats. Slat seats were usually put on canoes during the Second World War when cane was not available or as a quick repair. Most of the canoes with three digit serial numbers appear to be from one of the Charles River area builders. Post some pictures when you get a chance.

I bought it.

I returned with a camera, flashlight, reading glasses, tape measure & check book. The seller claims the canoe was in the Eaton family since 1904 and is an Old Town. The stern stem is stamped "116" and the bow "16" (small numbers) & "115". I bought the canoe and think it's an Old town IF Model (measurement match the 1901 catalog). I'll upload some photos, comments please.


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more photos

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ok, I can do this and talk on the phone at the same time.


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I can't say that I've ever seen an Old Town with a heart shaped deck or a goring pattern like that...
Could it be an Old Ols Town?

Thwarts are straight. They measure 1.75" x 0.75". Perhaps the decks were modified or custom ordered.

The heart shaped decks are a dead ringer for a Rushton. Even the hole through the deck for a rope matches the photo on Dan's Dragonfly site. Maybe it's all wrong because of other reasons but it does look the same. Just my uneducated 2 cents worth.

Jim C.
Big Hearted Canoes

My take on this isn't worth a lot, but the decks on this boat appear original to me and the canoe may be "more interesting" than the sellers understood. You know how it is... any wood/canvas HAS to be an Old Town. And if you put an "e" on the end of town... well, that makes it older. Olde Towne Canoe.

The decks on this canoe appear to me to have a larger heart than the Indian Girl on the Dragonfly site... just my opinion. I pulled the picture of the Rushton Indian (attached below) that was at Assembly last year because I remembered it had a larger heart, but the sweep of the heart isn't the same. Granted, Emerson's canoe may have a deck like none-other... but I'll keep poking through the catalogs. I'd love to find a Thatcher, but his canoe had a much different heart *sigh*.... The U.F.O.'s are a great way to learn...

Wanted to add a comment re slat seats in older canoes: Morris had a slat seat on his second-grade Special Indian per the 1901 catalog. I'm not saying Emerson's canoe is a Morris, but that this sort of seat was used back at the turn of the 20th Century, and builders saw what others were using and applied the same to their own work.

Very interesting canoe, Emerson.



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Thank you all for the information.

I will post more photos after I bring the canoe home. The seat slats cover a "grooved" frame. If you look hard you can see the groove in some of the photos. I could not feel any holes through the frame.
It might very well be a Rushton. The planking looks a little narrow to me, but I can't see the sheer strake, which is a strong clue - every canvas Rushton I've looked at has a sheer strake that is 5" wide or more.

A Rushton would also never have splined- cane seats, they stopped building before that was used.

The deck on the Indian is a completely different critter and can't be used in comparison with the standard Rushton canvas canoes...

Was ist das? Das ist someone's well-intentioned repair. Looks like an additional "rib" has been added adjacent to the one under the seat, and held in place with wooden slats attached to original ribs. Surely this was not original- if it was, this canoe certainly wasn't made by a production factory.

Look carefully at the stembands- if Rushton, you might find his name and a serial number stamped into the stemband (see attached). While the quality of Rushton canoes may have changed over time, this really doesn't seem to rise to the Rushton level. The fact that the grain of the stern deck runs parallel to the rail is one example. But who knows? Things got complicated in the Rushton shop toward the end... In any case, it's certainly not an Old Town.



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More Stuff

Thank all of you that posted comments. I’m adding more information and photos. Hope I get some more comments. As the photos might show, the stems are stamped 16 (small txt) and 116 (large txt) on the stern and 16 (small txt) and 115 (large txt) on the bow stem. The canoe measures 16 feet long, 32 inches wide and 12 inches deep at center. It is about 21“ deep at the ends. Stembands are brass. Ribs are spaced 2” apart and are 2” wide tip to thwarts (both ends) then the ribs are 2.25” wide between the two existing thwarts. Bolts are present for a front seat and a center thwart. The rear seat appears to be a replacement. Thwarts are straight. They measure 1.75" x 0.75". The sheer strakes are about 5” wide at the ends and the center of the canoe. Details shown in photos. The inwale is 1” thick. There is “a thin strip of wood on the outside covering the canvas and another on top covering the otherwise exposed ends of the ribs and edge of planking and canvas”. The quote is from the 1903 Rushton catalog for a Grade B and matches this canoe. Final comment: previous owner claims canoe was purchased in 1904. Could this be a Rushton Indian Girl?


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