My canoe's history?

Andrew H.

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi, all, from a new member--
About a year ago I bought what I'm pretty sure is a mid-1930's Old Town "HW"-"AA". It's a keeled 17 footer with all mahogany trim, and has regular pairs of old screw holes through every second or third rib which must be where the sponsons were once attached. I've been applying citrus based solvent and gently scraping to reveal the serial number, and though I need to do some more before I can be positive, I'm pretty sure that the number is "12731 17".
I hope I'm reading them correctly-- the numbers are fairly faint from many, many sandings and revarnishings, and I'm hoping that someone will have access to my boat's history based on those numbers?
Thanks, any help is much appreciated.

Hi Andrew,

The records skip 12731, unless it is mis-filed and one of the other volunteers who searches the records stumbles upon it. I did find two with 12736, one of which is a 17 foot AA grade-- model appears to be Indian Princess, which is a Carleton as far as I know but I may be reading this wrong. (If it is a Carleton with the same s/n as an Old Town, that may be why there are two with the same number-- and the Carleton card was filed in the wrong place.) I'm not indicating your canoe is this particular one, but pointing out an interesting thing I ran into while trying to find 12731.

If you are pretty sure your canoe is from the '30s, this section of the build records is way-off, as the canoes date from 1910. A sponson canoe would have little carry thwarts at each end, and that might help ID what we need to be looking for (along with the screw holes you found).

Sometimes posting a picture of the serial number and having many eyes look at it can help. Meanwhile, I'll keep poking through the records.

Thanks so much for the fast response, Kathy!
I'm not certain that the boat is from the 30's, it's what the previous owner thought. It does indeed have carry thwarts, and what looks like an unusual decorative detail at the fore and aft peaks of the decks-- an applied piece about 1/4" thick, the same shape as the decks but much smaller. I have a photo which I'll try to figure out how to post. I'll also try to get a good shot of the SN, though as I said, it's pretty thin.
Thanks again for helping me with the mystery!

I got the photo attached... I hope it helps


  • P1000124.jpg
    134.4 KB · Views: 270
That "deck cap," while nicely done, is a later addition, probably to cover up a case of the ever-so-common tip rot.
Hi, Dan--
I was curious about the "deck caps", since no photos of antique canoes that I found showed that detail.
I'm more interested in the particular history of the boat than in "collector value"-- she needs work, no doubt-- someone botched an outwale replacement, there are a couple of cracked ribs and patches in the planking, but she paddles well and doesn't leak. I don't expect that I've found a Lloyd Loar mandolin at a garage sale here...
I wonder if I should carefully remove the deck caps and inspect for rot?

If you feel adventurous, you can reach under the deck and feel for rotted wood at the tip. Be careful of potential spiders -- they love those little corners. Might be best to reach in with a scrap of wood first, to dig out the webs, at least. Maybe use an inspection mirror to view the inside, without reaching your hand in?

When you take a picture of the serial number, try using side lighting, to cast a shadow across the dents that are the numbers. That may or may not help...
Thanks, yeah, crawling nasties had occurred to me. I smashed my first Black Widow in Albuquerque, but I'm not sure about a brown recluse range!
Try 112731....I Think my Yankee's serial number is in the 112XXX range and its from the 30's. Just an idea.
112731 is a 16', CS grade HW-- but it makes sense that the true s/n begins "112"-- the canoe has diamond-head bolts, which came into use in the early 1920s. 112781 didn't work out either-- was a 50 pounder.
You may want to take a careful look at the other end of the serial number as well. The Old Town with serial number 127314 is a 17 foot long HW model in AA grade with sponsons that shipped in June of 1940 to Lowell, Mass. A note on the back side indicates that this build record was discussed after a phone call from Peter Southard in Amesbury, Mass. during the 1980s. Could this be your canoe?