Morris Ship-Dates

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
Many thanks to MGC for help putting data from our Morris serial numbers into a table showing the possible year they were shipped. There are two canoes in the database with paperwork providing a definite ship-date, and the last of the canoes in the list are the ones finished at Old Town after the fire on December 15, 1919.

Using the word "circa" allows us to say a particular canoe is "circa 1915" and we aren't giving an exact date, but a presumed date—with “circa” meaning “around the time of”. The serial numbers close to the ends of the date-ranges could be bumped either way. Some might be unhappy, thinking their canoe was a couple years older than this table shows; for instance, canoe 11542 comes up as "circa 1915". The owner might have first thought it was a 1911 canoe... and then by "adding two" thought it was 1913... and now we are saying 1915. But, possibly 1914, because it's on the edge... I'd say "circa 1914" and smile... it's a Morris!

Here's the table (thanks MGC)

year S/N
1900 1-469
1901 470-985
1902 986-1556
1903 1557-2182
1904 2183-2873
1905 2874-3574
1906 3575-4325
1907 4326-5101
1908 5102-5902
1909 5903-6753
1910 6754-7629
1911 7630-8567
1912 8568-9523
1913 9524-10506
1914 10507-11541
1915 11542-12611
1916 12612-13725
1917 13726-14861
1918 14862-16047
1919 16048-17263

Nice to see but details please. How do you construct a whole detailed history from just two serial numbers? Do we know numbers started in 1900? How can you decide that rate of production varies the way it does in these numbers? Some years are listed with 10% increase in production over last year (like 1903), then the next might be 1% increase (1904), next 7% in 1905, then 3% in 1906. And rate of production is shown as always increasing. Do we have any way of knowing? Interesting, but... details?
We "know" what we know because of the 225+ canoes in the database, some of which have verbal data, some of which have other features. I've written about this in several articles in Wooden Canoe and will post the issue numbers tomorrow. The details regarding this table will be in an article in Wooden Canoe.

One canoe was shipped in 1903 and the other in 1912, which gives a nice spread (nicer than if they were closer together). Production rates are based on Old Town's (loosely).

We "know" the numbering is sequential... that, for instance, on the first of January they didn't start over with a new number... it begins with number one and ends with number 17263.

The Veazie canoes are in a separate serial number sequence but we can look at details of these canoes a fit them in with the BN Morris-- there are only seven Veazies in the database. Two have only two pairs of cants, so we know they are 1900-1905, because we know Morris added a third cant pair in approximately 1905, because ALL Morris canoes that never had a serial number have two pairs and All Morris canoes 3XXX have three pairs and ALL Morris canoes 1-2XXX have two pairs... this is one way we "date" the canoes... and yes, some 3XXX canoes are 1906 according to the table, but I tend to fit-in things like Bert and Charlie's mom dying in 1905 and a couple other things in their personal life which may be coincidence, but which people sometimes do-- mom dies and you put yourself a bit more into the job... "why not add a couple more cant ribs, just for fun?"

Interestingly, Benson did a graph a while back, and this table matches the graph pretty well.

Oh, we know the numbering began in 1900 because it makes sense. Yes, it could have begun in 1901 and they made a thousand canoes that year, but it makes more sense to have someone think the turn of the century would be a good starting point. Worse thing that happens is that you are a couple years off in knowing how old the canoe is.

I will post information from my notes:

1893 Morris Sp Indian sold commercially
1898 Special Indian, 2 pr cants, no s/n
1900 sequential s/n began (?) oval inwale; 2 pr cants
1903 canoe #1876 no. 94 first grade canoe, Special Indian, shipped 6/6/1903
1905 (?) canoe #2972, 2 pr cants
1904 magazine ad for Sp Indian
1905 (?) Veazie no number (two holes inwale), 2 pr cants Model A-D begins-- all are first grade
1906 (?) canoe #3889 mahogany, 3 pr cants

note: Coinciding with the beginning of the Veazie line is the establishment of the "single grade" Morris and the canoes in models A-D, and phasing out of the Special Indian. The numbers are consistent throughout Morris catalogs. S.I. 94 is a model D.

Serial Number Plates: change from oval on inwale to rectangle on stem happens between nos. 6586 and 6787, or c. 1909

1913-1915 some canoes have s/n plate oriented with short end parallel to the splay of the stem.

Decks: concave curve apparently first seen on the Veazie... it is essentially the Veazie Canoe Co. "keyhole deck" without the keyhole cut out. 11413 (c.1914) has the first concave curved deck on a B.N. Morris. 15256 (c.1918) has the last heart deck. The curve is offered as a replacement deck (termed "brest hook") in the 1917 and 1919 Morris catalogs.

Fire December 15, 1919

(version #1-- appears to have been used on canoes that never had a serial number—possibly 1895-96, as this is when the decal was invented—canoes with this decal maybe date from 1895-1898)
B.N. Morris
Canvas Canoes Row Boats
and Equipments
Veazie, Maine

(version #2)(used on some canoes with no serial number, and then on serial numbers up to 10XXX)
B.N. Morris
Canvas, Paddling & Rowing
Veazie, Maine

(version #3)(used on canoes with serial numbers 10XXX and above)
B.N. Morris
Canvas, Paddling & Motor
Veazie, Maine

Metal nameplates possibly predate the decal—decal was cheaper and replaced them:

Earliest metal nameplate reads “Morris Canoe Factory/Veazie, Maine”
Second metal nameplate reads “B.N.Morris/builder/Veazie, ME”

Note that the original name of the BN Morris company may have been "Morris Canoe Factory". Not sure if this canoe pre-dates the 1893 "official start-date" of the company.

Not sure this answered all the questions, but it's late and I'll check in tomorrow.

H.E. We would love to provide details, however, we are giving our best shot at the circa of production with the information that we have been able to gather in four years of research. We do not claim that the dates are absolute only approximations. The more information we can gather the more accurate we can become. You're welcome to join the search to improve the information available. All help is welcome. So far it has been mostly Kathy and me that have been doing most of the work- so come join the party. To all the folks that have provided us with information or alerted us to the existence of another Morris or gave us the information about their canoe we are grateful, as are we to MGC for the work he has put into developing the above chart. Hopefully at some point we will be lucky enough to find more ephemera that will improve our understanding of any system the the Morrises used. This work is not Kathy's and my work alone. This is for all the WCHA.
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Thanks for the details! I do a lot of number crunching at work, so I think about things like this. Just wondered how to make a detailed table out of two bits of data. The effort is much appreciated. A lot of speculation but very interesting. Not sure if my mom died, I'd think "Hey- let's add a couple of ribs!. Still, fun to speculate. Here's a little added to the table:

YEAR Serial Nos. #/YR RATE of INCREASE/yr
1900 1-469 468
1901 470-985 515 1.100 (10%)
1902 986-1556 570 1.107 (10.7%)
1903 1557-2182 625 1.096 (9.6%)
1904 2183-2873 690 1.104 (10.4%)
1905 2874-3574 700 1.014 (1.4%) and so on
1906 3575-4325 750 1.071
1907 4326-5101 775 1.033
1908 5102-5902 800 1.032
1909 5903-6753 850 1.063
1910 6754-7629 875 1.029
1911 7630-8567 937 1.071
1912 8568-9523 955 1.019
1913 9524-10506 982 1.028
1914 10507-11541 1034 1.053
1915 11542-12611 1069 1.034
1916 12612-13725 1113 1.041
1917 13726-14861 1135 1.020
1918 14862-16047 1185 1.044
1919 16048-17263 1215 1.025

This is with hesitation- many assumptions go into this. About joining the search- I sure keep an eye out. If I find anything helpful, you'll be the first to know.
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Thanks, H.E. The more minds are involved in this, the more interesting-- and perhaps the more accurate-- things will be!

My interpretation of the cant-rib-addition being related to the loss of Mom Morris comes from knowing that people often cope with loss by putting their energies into something, and Bert and Charlie Morris made some big changes at the factory the same year their mother died-- not just the cant rib additions, but changing to the all-one-grade and developing the separate Veazie Company that essentially was their second-grade canoe, and eliminating the Special Indian-- going to Models A-D-- and placing ads in magazines to drum up dealers all around the world. There probably wasn't a conscious connection, and I'm sure there were other business-related reasons for these changes-- such as what was going on over at Old Town. I think it adds interest to a story to have these other details... also nice knowing the name of Charlie's horse (Gypsy).

It would be quite a trick to build a table from two numbers. Fortunately several of us have put together a few more pieces.
Until now, the way that we have dated Morris build’s has relied purely on anecdotal references to assign build dates.

With the wealth of information that Kathy has collected along with data that I was able to collect, we are trying to offer a more logical approach, one that can be used and understood by anyone with an interest in this.

In short, this table captures known and verified information and assigns a build pattern. It assumes a certain amount of revenue growth per year while tying the growth to the few milestone dates that we have been able to confirm.
There are assumptions that I made that may or may not be correct, but they are based upon the best available information we currently have.
For example, I accepted the assumption that the first serialization occurred in 1900. That is a commonly accepted opinion. Most other anecdotal dating has already accepted this as a serialization starting point. I also accepted certain key SN's assigned to known dates pre-1910 and then later in the 1910's. Those dates shaped the trend line that the serial numbers are fit to. These dates are solid so except for an error of several canoes within each of the surrounding years, the likelihood of gross error is small. I calculate about a 10% (less actually) error depending upon the method that you believe is correct

Here are several facts that we know:
1. Morris serialized 17,263 canoes. If we assume that the first serial numbers were assigned in 1900, then that amounts to a build of about 908/909 canoes per year.
2. Morris serialized 3,502 canoes through 1905 and 4,101 through 1906.
3. Morris built 4,922 canoes from 1906 through 1912
4. He serialized 9,023 through June of 1912.
5. He serialized 8,240 canoes from 1912 until the fire in December 1919.

Here are assumptions that I made:
1. Serial number 1 was assigned in 1900 (canoe SN 77 is from 1900)
2. Production grew gradually until the fire and followed the Old Town growth trend from 1900 on.
3. There were no dramatic production surges from one year to the next.
4. There was minimal revenue affect from WW1, an assumption drawn from the performance of Old Town during those years.
5. Old Town data is the benchmark for tracking the growth in canoe revenue from 1900 forward.

I generalized as follows:
• All Serial numbers pre-4,101 were built before 1906
• All Serial numbers between 4,101 and 9,023 were built during the years 1906 through 1912
• Most all serial numbers between 9,023 and 17263 were built between 1912 and 1919.

The following graph depicts the table that Kathy published yesterday. It appears to offer a reasonable view of a small canoe shop gradually increasing revenues over a 19 year period.
Morris Build Trend.GIF
Table A.JPG

If you do not want to subscribe to that table you could simply assign the dates from the noted generalizations and plot production to look like this:
Morris graph  B.JPG

Quite obviously that is not a representative revenue model.

Giving benefit of the doubt, all current date assignments for Morris build have been fairly arbitrary. Until now, most assume that if there were 17,263 canoes built that you can simply divide the number of canoes by the number years and arrive at a serial number. For my amusement I plotted what that would look like and saw that (if you can ignore the milestone dates we know) that the table that I originally plotted is within 62 to 100 canoes per year from what you might expect.
Here is that table:
Table C.JPG

As you can see, this approach to the table tends make canoes that were built later look older. The flaw in this dating method is that it ignores the canoes with adequate provenance to help us assign more accurate dates.

So, back to Kathy’s point, this is an attempt to provide a simple tool that may be used to roughly date Morris canoes.
I believe that it represents a step towards more accurate dating than we have had until now. For whatever shortcomings there may be it’s certainly more visible and accessible.
Of course we will continue to refine this as canoes with provenance are located.
I am quite sure that some folks will take issue with the idea that their 1907 canoe was actually built at a later date….so it goes.
I thought mine was a 1912 or so but I am now quite certain that it was built in 1917. It still seems to paddle the same so I think I am going to learn to live with that.

As a final note, I really appreciate that Kathy shared her data with me. I learned a lot from it.
What she does not know (until now) is that I was able to verify some of her materials by through my own contact with some of her data sources.

A while ago I noted that dating Morris canoes required a real cryptic process. I don't think that is the case anymore.
This table will land you within (worst case) several hundred canoes from your actual build date.
I also don't think that this is the final word.
If we keep digging we'll eventually get a few more data points to work with and get this even closer.
For those of you that can't accept the assumption that SN's started in 1900....start the table earlier and assume what you think he was building during those years and work from there.
What a great piece of work! Can't wait to see the full article in WC!

I'll also add that creating an extrapolated data table like this is not unusual in the worlds of science & engineering. Sometimes we take what we do know, and conceptualize the remainder, based on things that we think we know, or that make sense in a relevant context (i.e. the business/revenue model described here), and call it a current best guess. The willingness to adapt as new information becomes available is a critical component; the crew is willing to accept that, and I think they've created a great tool for Morris dating. So we can tell people that, as best we can tell, their canoe dates to 19XX +/-1 year.

Excellent job, all! Thank you for sharing this!
So..... mine is a 1919? I am just glad to have a real Morris. Thanks for the encouragement Kathy. And thanks for putting this all together. This has obviously taken a lot of time and much careful consideration. Amazing what can be accomplished when people work together. Thanks again, Macky
For those who may be somewhat disappointed that their Morris isn't as old as once was thought: a "newer" Morris would be an "older" Old Town... or Thompson, or... they are all at least 92!
This is very interesting. Many years ago I made a similar effort to estimate Old Town's annual production from the database sample using two different techniques as shown in the green and blue bars on the chart attached below. They each generated dramatically different results and neither correlated well with the actual sales numbers that I occasionally found later buried in some the company records as shown in the chart's red bars. It is also not clear if the references to these actual sales totals included the Carleton production on a consistent basis.

The annual sales and production totals for a wooden canoe manufacturer were often quite different since the canoes frequently spent several years in inventory before being shipped. The wide horizontal spread in the charts at and confirms this.

Old Town's documented sales totals for the years before 1918 are shown below if this will help refine your estimates.

1907 2101
1908 2000
1909 2450
1910 3100
1911 3800
1912 4131
1913 5200
1914 6295
1915 5919
1916 7225
1917 5491

These totals make me question your assumption that "There was minimal revenue affect from WW1" since Old Town's sales in 1917 were well below what they were in 1916. The impact of this on revenue is huge, especially when you consider the high levels of fixed costs. It would not be surprising if Bert Morris was in a deep financial hole due to WW1 and this may have been part of the reason why he wasn't able to rebuild his factory after the fire.

A portion of the Old Town company records from January 16th, 1919 are attached below to illustrate this. They say "The year closing Dec. 31, 1918 has been one of keen disappointment for our business due as we well understand to conditions beyond our control and unparalleled in the memory of our years. A steady falling demand for our goods accompanied by steadily rising costs for manufacture produced the inevitable end of doing business without any profit."

There was a substantial production dip in 1961 when Sam died but George died in 1928 which seems to have been an unusually good year. Alfred Wickett left Old Town Canoe in 1915 and this doesn't appear to have had a dramatic effect on production. George's mother Mary died an 1886 and Alfred's mother Mary died in 1896 but the company hadn't started yet. Sam's mother Mary died in 1926 which was not an unusual year. However, if Bert Morris's mother's first name was Mary then there may be another pattern emerging here.

I have just found out that you tried to contact me previously about this so I'm sorry for not responding sooner.



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These totals make me question your assumption that "There was minimal revenue affect from WW1" since Old Town's sales in 1919 were less than half what they were in 1916. The impact of this on revenue is huge, especially when you consider the high levels of fixed costs.


Benson, This is exactly the data that I needed to align to the OT revenue. Thanks for providing it.

New revision to follow....probably after bow season is over.
probably after bow season is over
Lousy start to the season here, been raining for over a week. Pardon my thread drift, do you shoot wheels or traditional? Seems to be a bunch of archers on here, a natural cross-over with canoeing.

probably after bow season is over
been raining for over a week. do you shoot wheels or traditional?

Pouring here....pretty wet to get up into the trees so today is about stacking wood...a least favorite job.
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The annual sales and production totals for a wooden canoe manufacturer were often quite different since the canoes frequently spent several years in inventory before being shipped.
Old Town's documented sales totals for the years before 1920 are shown below if this will help refine your estimates. My guess is that the unit totals in 1914, 1917, and 1918 were not recorded because they were all significantly lower than the previous year.

It's pouring outside and the wood has not been delivered yet so I'm taking a quick look at your note and the data you provided.
This is really great stuff. Old Town company was the benchmark for canoe production.
It's truly interesting to speculate about the revenue trends, the affect of the war and economy and correlation to other builders.
It's also interesting to see that you tired to use a similar analysis.
Cracking this nut has been quite entertaining.
The absence of build numbers for 14,17 and 18 is really an unexpected twist and provides yet another opportunity for speculation to fill the gaps.
I wonder what you think about the possibility that OT pre-built such a sizable inventory that they ended up with minimal production in those years?
Is it possible that the sales dropped to the point that production came to a virtual standstill?
Have you found any records that suggest layoffs or downsizing in those years?
One thing that distinguished Old Town was the size of the operation. Old Town had more storage capacity and seemingly was not shy about holding scads of inventory.
Is it possible that they simply lived off of (almost) finished goods during these years?
The war began in earnest in June of 1914. Most canoe shipments for that year would have been completed by then and with the cycle time through the factory filled with canoes built in 1913 and early 1914 is it possible that there simply was not significant production?
Then for the 1917, 1918 gap....look at how many canoes were produced in 1915 and 1916!
Of the 21,900 canoes produced from 1912 to 1919, 10,895 were built in those two years! Wow.
That's more than half of the 8 year production in that short period.
I would assume that they spread those shipments out through 17 and 18 and looking at the relatively low units in 1919, still had some remaining.

Tying this back to Morris, for those folks that were unhappy with the age of their post 1912 Morris, sit tight.....some 12,000 plus SN canoes are going to get a bit older soon. My 1917 might even become a 15 or 16. And Macky's 1919....well, that's still probably a 1919...:)
Stay tuned.
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Is this what really happened in the Old Town factory between 1912 and 1919?

No, I have just gone through the records again and found that some of my original transcriptions were not correct. I have corrected the numbers in my original message here and the numbers and chart attached below show what really happened. Let me know if this is not clear or you need anything else. Thanks,



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No, I have just gone through the records again and found that some of my original transcriptions were not correct. I have corrected the numbers in my original message here and the numbers and chart attached below show what really happened. Let me know if this is not clear or you need anything else. Thanks Benson

Thanks Benson. That's great. To be clear, we are still talking about revenue numbers here?
Also, given the sizable numbers in 1917 I am going to assume that the OT/Carlton did not drop to zero in the following years so I'll pull 1918 and 1919 down to smooth the transition to the 1920 number that you provided earlier. Do you agree?
To me that makes sense.
I'm still surprised that OT pushed so many boats out in those years.

To be clear, we are still talking about revenue numbers here?

These numbers are canoes. That total is proportional to gross revenue which includes paddles and other accessories. I found no canoe totals listed for 1915 through 1920 but there were some gross revenue numbers for 1914 to 1916. This enabled me to make a reasonably accurate estimate the canoe totals for 1915 and 1916 by using the average revenue per canoe number of $34.38 from 1914.

I know that canoe shipments from Old Town and Carleton did not drop to zero in 1918 but I don't have an easy way to estimate what they were. I just counted the Carletons that shipped in 1918 from the first half of the 12600 box of records and found 205 out of 500 canoes that were built in late 1917 and early 1918. My estimate is that total sales were about half of the prior year or roughly 2750 canoes but this is really just a wild guess.

The total for 1919 appears to have been between 5200 and 5919 due to the comment that "In number of articles sold at least three other years prior to our war period surpass it." I would estimate that it was in the middle at 5560 but this is another wild guess.

The next documented total is 5621 canoes from 1921 so I have no easy way to estimate the sales in 1920 either. It appears to be human nature to write a lot about the record breaking years and very little about the bad ones so we may never have a complete picture of what really happened during the depths of the first world war.

Old Town did build a significant inventory during down times but it appears that they never ceased production completely. The records do occasionally mention layoffs but the focus was usually on attempting to retain people so the company would be ready to take full advantage of the economy's next rebound. The quote from January, 1919 attached previously goes on over the next page to say "Looking at the situation from the most favorable view point, we were fortunate in having even sufficient business to keep our organization nearly intact and in retaining nearly all of our older employees. We aimed to be ready for a normal year for canoes following the end of the war but we find even more formidable conditions ahead of us for 1919."

Let me know if this doesn't answer your questions.