Help with identification

Pierre

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Below are some photos of an 18ft canoe, decorated with ducks & deers at each end and geometrical motif on both sides. Inside is a brass plaque with the number 514. Etched in the wood is the word TOSH (original owner's name?). Does anybody have any idea who made this canoe and when? Could it have been a kit? Any help is welcome. Thank you. Pierre
 

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I would guess that you might have a B. N. Morris from the early 1900s but there are no serial number records to verify this.

Benson
 
Hi Pierre,

Your canoe was made by B.N. Morris in Veazie, Maine. Morris was in business from the late 1800s to 1920.

Cheers,
Dan
 
Will stick my neck out...

Okay, I will open another door...

Your canoe was probably made at the BN Morris factory but appears to be one of his "factory direct" Veazie Canoes. In order to compete with other canoe builders who sold directly from a factory and didn't have to deal with a middleman, Morris offered his canoes at a lower price if they were sold directly from the factory... under the name Veazie Canoe Company.

A Veazie is a BN Morris canoe. The standard Veazie was trimmed in maple or ash, was less expensive to build, and the company made more money by eliminating the middleman... all without having to build a canoe of lesser quality.

Your canoe appears to be trimmed in mahogany and has the short deck with the gentle concave curve. So, yours is a higher grade canoe than the usual Veazie...this was a higher-end option.

I'd date your canoe around 1915 or so, give or take a couple years, for a couple reasons. First, the deck on your canoe is seen as an option in the later Morris catalogs and is the standard deck on the Tuscarora model in the 1917 and 1919 catalogs. And (this is profoundly interesting to those of us who are Morris nuts) in examining the less-than-huge-sampling of Morris boats in my research project, this deck (the concave one) appears more often than the heart shaped short deck on Morris canoes that are approximately 1915-1920--- perhaps a tad earlier.

Now I will yak for a bit about the serial number plate-- this is the second reason I date your canoe "around 1915 give or take..." .

3-digit serial number on rectangular brass plate on the stem says "Veazie" to me... BN Morris used an oval for 4-digit serial numbers, which may have begun with the change in canoe design we see in the 1902 catalog (where he began calling them "Type A, model 1" and such)... and went to the rectangle as the serial numbers approached five digits (in the 9XXXs)... which I believe was 1911 or later. The oval, with rare exceptions that could be explained by repair work, is seen on the inwale and the rectangle on the stem.

All known Veazie canoes have a rectangular serial number plate, located on the stem... so it's my feeling that these canoes fit into the same time-frame as BN Morris canoes of 9XXX on. And, with this canoe, if you factor in the mahogany short deck of the late-Morris period, it seems more likely to me that this canoe is around 1915, give or take a couple of years.

This is information that will appear in the December issue of Wooden Canoe, complete with pictures... so if you are a member of WCHA, you will see this information again... but in a more official-appearing format.

I believe 514 is a record-low serial number... thank you very much for contributing to the BN Morris/Veazie Canoe Project of WCHA! Look for the exciting article in the *next issue* of our favorite journal, Wooden Canoe. And please, anyone, if you have contradictory information please argue with me. This is how we dig out the answers.

Kathy
 
Picture

For comparison, here is BN Morris number 15883 (Dave McDaniel's Virginia)... same deck, mahogany trim with outside stems... both canoes probably have the same degree of recurve to the stems. Early Morris boats are less dramatic; later boats have more of a courting canoe presentation.
 

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Original Artwork

Hello again Pierre--

To sum up (before we leave for Thanksgiving adventures):

Your canoe was built in the flourishing factory of one of the pioneer wood/canvas canoe builders. As with all wood/canvas canoes, it was entirely hand-built. At the time it was destroyed by fire in 1920, the Morris factory had approximately 75 employees. One person didn't build the canoe from beginning to end, but specialized in a particular area (ribs, planking, finishing, etc.)

The designs on your canoe are likely the original artwork of a previous owner. The original records exist for only three of the old canoe companies-- so, for Old Town, Carleton, and Kennebec boats we can connect the serial number with a record that states the original colors and designs. Records of the BN Morris factory have been lost.

The standard Veazie was painted much as other standard Morris canoes-- various shades of green, or red. But because your canoe has the special-order trim, it may have been painted two colors, with designs-- sometimes a pinstripe, sometimes something art nouveau. If you poke around the web you may get some ideas... check out the WCHA video, which can be viewed on-line (look at the website headings). Pictures from the 2007 Assembly should show some fine examples, as well as back issues of the journal.

For more information on BN Morris, you can start with clicking on "search" above and putting in "Morris". Google "Dragonfly Canoe Works" and click on canoe identification and look for Morris on the left.

Got to go... we are leaving the UP now!
 
Kathern,

This is very interesting.

As most folks now, Joe Seliga got his start using and fixing the family canoes, which to date have been referenced as Morris canoes, but Joe, as least to me, always referred to them as "Veazie" canoes. I wonder if the canoes they had were the factory direct versions rather then the Morris versions?

Dan
 
Joe's Veazies

Hi, Dan-- I thought the same as you: wondered if Joe had Veazies... but the letter he wrote Bert Morris wouldn't make sense if what Joe had were Veazie canoes and not BN Morris of Veazie, Maine, canoes.

The Veazie Catalog is deliberately vague about the exact location of the Veazie Canoe Company factory... unless you already had the notion in your head that they were referring to the BN Morris factory in Veazie, you'd assume it was a separate company, located in Bangor, Maine. Not once is it mentioned that Veazie is a little town a few miles from Bangor, or that there is any connection between the BN Morris factory and Veazie Canoe.

The Veazie Canoe catalog does state, however, that these canoes are sold factory-direct, and that Veazie Canoe has no other sources of distribution. Joe Seliga wrote Burt Morris, asking if he could sell Morris's canoes. So, he must have known the canoes he liked so well were built by Morris, and how to find him. The Veazie Catalog states that the factory is in Bangor. My guess is that orders for Veazie canoes went to a PO box in Bangor.

I'm not at home, at my own computer, but I think we have the serial number for one of the Seliga Morrises and it was a four-digit number. I'll have to double-check that. I do intend to descend on Camp Widgiwagan eventually, to look at the canoes and the Morris serial numbers. Haven't been able to flag anyone down, out there, to check that out for me.

But I had that same "ah-ha moment", remembering that Joe called his canoe a Veazie!

The standard short-deck Veazie has a "keyhole" deck of maple or ash, not the familiar heart-shaped one. That's the biggest clue. The canoe that is the source of this thread had the upgraded mahogany one. My guess is that the Morris factory got so few orders for the upgraded trim that they didn't bother to make a "keyhole" deck in mahogany, but used their stock mahogany short deck. There is another Veazie we know of with this same mahogany upgrade, and it has a Veazie decal on each deck.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!
Kathy
 
Kathryn,

You're probably right, as Joe certainly knew Morris built them, and at times also referred to them as Morris canoes.

BTW, the 15 ft Morris Joe used as a form is at Widji, and last I talked to them, they planned to restore it. I don't know/can't remember if the 18 ft'er is there also. They do have the 2 forms (the 17 ft and squareback) and the mold for the all fiberglass canoes.

If you do get to Ely, give me a holler, maybe we'll also be up.

Dan
 
You know, as I look at that image of the tag, it sure looks like it could be 15143... I see nothing about this canoe that leads me to believe it is not a standard Morris offering...
 
You are probably right...

I don't have great resolution (eyes and computer), and a serial number of 15143 would certainly put this canoe in the same serial number sequence as Morris canoes which appear the same. The Veazie which looks like this one has decals on both decks, but without those decals would look just like a Morris with this deck option.

I think Pierre was happy to hear his canoe was a Morris anyway.
 
I'm not convinced about tag shape. I've seen livery canoes with oval tags mounted to the gunwale- with numbers that do NOT math the numbers on the stems. In fact, I have an H.B. Arnold here that has such a tag, and the number is different from that stamped into each stem. I believe these tags can be livery tags. Perhaps some builders also used such tags, but at least some of them likely were used to identify canoes for liveries.

And Kathryn, can you clarify what you mean by "oval" vs. "rectangular"? In your initial post in this thread, you called the tag on this Morris "rectangular"- this one certainly isn't rectangular (nor is it oval).

Finally- I may have mentioned this before- two of our Morris canoes have no sign of a tag ever having been there. Both are all-original. One is near-mint original, and the other had its original canvas when we began restoration (only one set of canvas tack holes in the wales). Both are labeled "Morris" as opposed to "Veazie", and both have fairly plumb stems. There are no tags, and neither are there any holes where a tag would have once been attached- not in the stems, not in the gunwales. Thoughts?

Michael
 
Hi Michael--

What you've brought up is exactly what I want to hear from folks who have Morris canoes... the odd things and differences in addition to everything that is similar to what I've seen. I've based what I say here re the sn plates and the numbers on only about thirty canoes (where numbers exist)-- the ones people have sent me information on and the ones I have seen in person.

By "rectangular" I mean a sn plate like the one in this thread-- it has rounded courners but is longer on one side than on the other. The oval is an oval. I should get the exact measurements so that it can be sorted out from any other oval-shaped tags. (Am at a Thanksgiving dinner 8 hours from our canoes, so that will have to wait).

The oval tags on the inwale of the earlier Morris canoes (and by "earlier" I mean post-1901 or so but pre 1910 or so) are serial number plates and not livery tags. If such a boat was in a livery, it would probably have two tags. I only "know" this because it makes sense, given the data--- the tags are alike and the numbers are of the same type and are on canoes with the same "look" to them, age-wise.

I've been told there are other serial number plate types on Morris canoes, but I haven't received any information on those boats other than vague description. When and if I do get pictures, they'll be factored in.

The Morris boats used in CJ Molitor's canoe livery all had the "recangular" serial number plate on the stem and a livery tag as well. I have a picture of the livery tag somewhere in my computer at home and will eventually post that. My research so far has Molitor establishing his livery business in 1914. He may have used some older boats, but those he ordered to his specifications from BN Morris would have five-digit serial numbers and would have required the larger "rectangular" plate (the oval is only large enough for four numbers)(When I get home, I can attach examples... maybe I can do that later, when people aren't chomping at the bit to use this computer).

The serial number tag is an important aspect of our WCHA Morris project. I'd like those with Morris canoes to send a picture of the serial number plate, a picture of where it is on the canoe (or a description which includes the orientation of the plate to the stem, if it's on the stem, because sometimes the long end is at a right angle to the flare of the stem-- most of the time it is not)... I'd like a picture of the deck, especially if it is a short one, and a profile-shot. Putting the serial numbers I've already received in order has already provided some clues... such as the possibility that the heart shaped short deck was being phased out.

The Veazie canoes never had a heart-shaped short deck.... although I suppose anyone could special order anything. I'm thinking of the beautiful birdseye maple heart-shaped decks on a Morris at the Assembly this year... must have been a special order. The maple deck on a Veazie has the "keyhole" design and (as far as I know at this point) was clear maple. In those days, figured maple wasn't as prized as it later came to be... at least in floors, and I am thinking perhaps canoes as well... so, I've wondered about that boat.

As for your two Morrises with no sign of a serial number, Michael, do you think they could date back to 1901 or earlier? I have a theory that Morris may have begun using the numbered tags (beginning with the oval) when he began the canoe lines he labelled with models and types (Model A, type 3 etc). The canoes made right before that time look similar to the later boats (in the 1901 catalog) but are given names rather than model and type designations. I am wondering if your canoes could be from that era. Looking at all the information in back issues of Wooden Canoe, I haven't seen where anyone found an canoe they knew was a pre-1900 Morris.

I've just been told my time at the computer is up, so will followup later....

Happy Thanksgiving!
Kathy
 
Kathy,

Several things-

1. Most important, I hope you had (and everyone else in the US, and those in Canada not too long ago) a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! As part of our crew, we had one person visiting from Venezuela for the holiday festivities today- her first Thanksgiving, and she thoroughly enjoyed it!

2. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to trace either of the two un-tagged Morris canoes back beyond about 1920 or so. Certainly not to the purchase point or even original owners. Bummer...

3. About the two canoes with oval gunwale tags- the facts that these two canoes have serial numbers "of the same type" and that the two canoes "look similar" could equally support either (1) the hypothesis that the two canoes were built at or near the same time or (2) the hypothesis that both canoes were part of the same livery, and perhaps purchased from Morris at about the same time. Please don't think I'm being argumentative- I'm not. Just (like you) searching for reasonable answers.

4. You mentioned the Morris canoe with birdseye maple decks; one of ours has heart-shaped birdseye maple decks along with other interesting features- thwarts are also birdseye maple, seats are maple frames with spruce (I think) slats, and the thwarts have a sort of raised panel design. The thwarts are very pretty and I haven't seen others like them anywhere. Sure would like to know if others exist. About the seats- though they are clearly not the norm, I believe they are original because the canoe had no apparent work done on it when we received it, because the seats are very well made, and because the chamfers on seat frame edges matches the chamfer of the gunwale caps in angle and size. The features of this canoe are very pretty.

"More Morris Potpourri" to use an old Wooden Canoe title...

Sincerely,
Michael
 
Hi again Michael--

I have to make this quick because I am a guest and we are leaving the house... so here goes:

The oval tags on inner gunwales of Morris canoes appear on MANY-- I don't have my list, but I'd guess about twelve or so, plus hearsay feedback from those who have restored Morrises with similar tags for customers. Sorrry if I gave the impression that I was referring to only two boats. There are four Veazie boats alone (in the database of specific canoes), which I didn't count among the Morrises, that have this feature.

Will discuss your birdseye trimmed boat more in detail later... I want to think about it more and find some pictures I have. The birdseye boat at Assembly also had birdseye thwarts.

GTG
 
Back again, after more turkey et cetera and adopting a puppy...

Want to correct a fascinating factoid re CJ Molitor:

His canoe livery business (The Canoe House) existed from 1910 to 1922. After that, he was into screen doors. It looks like he may have been selling canoes out of his father's store from about 1907.

Will follow-up with More Morris Mysteries when I am home... and have introduced the new baby to his big sister and other household buddies.
 
Sorry for my delayed follow-up. I looked again at the serial number plaque, and once cleaned up it revealed 2 other digits, the number is 15143, just as Dan had figured out. The length of the canoe is approximately 17” 4” and it is 33” wide at widest. The distance between high points front & back (end of recurves) is 15’ 9”. It probably is a BN Morris similar to the Virginia shown by Kathryn. I sincerely want to thank everybody who participated in this thread. I am impressed by the work you do documenting such a neat piece of Americana that are wooden canoes. Below are some more photos. I have to sell this canoe, but I will never look at old canoes without remembering your combined efforts to uncover and document their past. Thank you, Pierre
 

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eBay 260188598305

Usual disclaimers -- no personal or financial interest, etc., but thought people might like to check out eBay listing 260188598305
 
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