J. R. Robertson Canoe

Jeff Liebel

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Is there anyway to estimate the age and model of a Robertson Canoe. Found one in Central New York. Maker's name barely visable on thwart and the gunnels are closed. Is there a good source of Robertson canoe history? Thanks.
There is not a lot known about Robertson, especially where a specific canoe or even canoe style is concerned. Like all of the other Charles River-area builders, there is no known serial number registry available (but you might find the serial number stamped into the stems as in many other makers' canoes). There are canoes out there with metal Robertson name plates attached ("MANUFACTURED BY J.R.ROBERTSON AUBURNDALE MASS."), but then there are canoes with "J.R. Robertson" stamped into the thwarts but otherwise without a name plate. Because Robertson ran a large canoe livery, renting and perhaps even selling canoes from other makers, it is possible that a canoe labelled with his name was not actually made by his company. He also had an apparently brief intersection with Old Town, but I am unaware if the canoes from this marriage are in any way distinct.

All this said, photos of your canoe posted here may draw out responses from people who have or have seen similar canoe models. Details are all-important: deck style, close-ups of stem and serial number style, stamp on thwart, thwart shape...

hope this helps,
Thanks Michael. Earlier today in a conversation with Dan at Dragonfly we discussed many of the attributes you mentioned (thwart shape, stamp on thwart, deck etc.) and have a high degree of confidence it is a Robertson. I will try and post some of the pictures I took of it. But other than those identifying marks, there were no serial #'s or markings elsewhere, including the stems, which were clean of any marks that could even be indications of a stamped number. Thanks again.
Hi Jeff,

Bummer about the serial numbers, though they are of little help, at least as yet. Has the canoe been stripped yet? As you may already know, old finish can obliterate a delicate serial number stamp. It would be interesting to see the style of numbers if the do exist- the font may help place the canoe in a class. Also, some of these old Charles River canoes have serial numbers stamped in what looks like a double strike right in the center of one rib in each of the quarters. The ones I've seen stamped in ribs are 3-part, like "421 32 16", each number on a separate line, which may mean serial number followed by beam followed by length. I've seen two like this, one of which had the same series stamped into the stem (in linear series rather than 3 lines), and one in which I could not see the stems to check.

Looking forward to pics!

Some Robertson Details...

I have 2 Robertson canoes - a long and a short deck. I've also seen a Robertson catalogue with no date. I believe it is the same catalogue as the one on the canoe catalogue CD.

Here's a few details that I jotted down after looking at both canoes:

Robertson Long Deck: Oak outer and inner stems. The end of the stem is rounded off. Brass(?) stem band. The catalogue mentions a nickle plated stem band. Decks - 34 in. from the tip to the crown of the coming.
Robertson wave form stamp on each end of both thwarts - nearly
illegible in most cases. Robertson metal tag on the coming. 2-3/8's x
3/4 in. Untapered ribs - very consistent 2-1/8 x 5/16's Planking -
very consistent 2-7/8's in. wide. Quartersawn. Spruce inwale. Mahogany
outwale and cap. Beam approximately 33 in. outside plank to outside
plank Depth approximately 13 in. No serial no. confirmed yet.
Original color likely New Haven Green based on pieces of old canvas and
the tint of the paint on the keel.

"Robertson" Short Deck: Serial no. 3125 33 15 - 15 ft is the length. 33 does not appear to be the beam. The number is stamped on both stems. The stamp used is a "bold outlined" font. Oak Stem. Same shape as the long deck stem. Spruce Inwale, cap rail and outwales appear to be spruce. Tapered ribs. 2-1/4 in. wide. Beam approximately 31 in. and 12 in. deep. depending on where it is measured. Thwarts appear identical on both canoes. Robertson wave stamp is on each end of the short deck canoe thwart. Planking on this canoe is flatsawn with some knots and it is wide. 3-3/4's wide. Deck cutout appears the same as "The Robertson Model" catalogue illustration. Possible original color - red

Catalogue Details: "The Robertson Model"
- 15 footer 32 in. beam 11 in. depth 50 to 55 lbs. "The Robertson Long Deck Models" - 16 footer 32 in. beam 11 3/4 in. deep. 58 to 68
lbs. Decks 30 to 36 inches long. Stock Colors - Rich Tuscan Red, and
New Haven Greens. Bronze or gold leaf stripes. Birds Eye Maple, Birch,
Mahogany seats, thwarts and decks. Decks: Short 18 in., Med. 30 in.
Long 32 to 36 in. Extra Long 48 in. Grade A: Cedar/spruce, Birds eye or
mahog. trim copper fastenings Grade B: Maple seats, thwarts and decks.

The planking in the 15 footer short deck does not appear to be as high in quality as the long deck version. I think the planking in the 15 footer is flatsawn, and has some knots. It is wide though. I'm wondering if this indicates that this canoe is a later version Robertson - more mass produced. This also may be suggested by the high serial no. and the tapered ribs????

I have photos of both canoes in an on-line photo Album here:


I look forward to seeing some photos of your canoe!
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Thanks Fitz. I am hoping to get the pictures up tonight. This info is very helpful. It is a short decked canoe with the J R Robertson Aurburndale wave on both ends of the aft thwart. No sign of a serial # however. It measured out at 16'3", 35.5" beam (although you could see about a 1/4" of each end of the thwarts where the inwale had moved out from its original position), 13" of depth at the center.
Jeff had sent me some pics, so here is a sampling.

Jeff, I had to reduce the file size to get them to upload.



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16 footer?


Is that a 16 footer? From the photos, it looks pretty similar to my 15 footer. As far as I can tell, the 15 footer only had one thwart.

Although, I think my stem profile is different and the deck cut out is too.

How are the outwales attached? I think mine has small brass screws.

Looks to be in fine shape.


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Hi Fitz -- have been out of town so it took a while for me to respond. I actually measured the Robertson and it is 16'3" and has two thwarths. As for how the outwales are attached, it appears that there were small brass screws used. I have also reviewed the catalogs on the CD produced by Dan Miller and am not seeing this short deck with the shape in any of the renderings, but not all decks are shown. Interior is in good shape, but it does need to be recanvased.