My new old canoe


Unrepentant Canoeist
I'm not certain if the serial number is entirely correct, as it's under some battleship grey paint, but as best I can tell, it's an Old Town, 5272X - 17. The X may be another digit, or just a wrinkle in the paint. Will get a better look at it the next sunny day... and scrape some paint.

If someone's feeling adventurous, please post a best guess as to its age, and I'll work on clarifying the Serial Number & taking some pictures. Looking at previous posts, if this is a serial number in the 52XXX series, this boat is approaching its 100th birthday!

It has closed spruce gunnels, no carry thwarts, and the wood is in very good condition -- this was stored hanging in a garage since it was purchased as a used canoe in 1946. There are two cracked ribs, one cracked plank, no rot at the tips that I can see. The canvas is almost all gone, but was green. The gunnels were painted red. The decks are like the OT decks shown on the Dragonfly site.

The seats in the boat have splined cane, but I have what appears to be the original seats. Most of the cane is gone, and the dowel joints are loose, but that's easy to rehab.

Many thanks in advance! :):):)
Hi Paul-- I'll attach the two 17 footers with closed gunwales that are in the serial number range you suggest, and you can compare to what you have... also, digital pictures sometimes show numbers better than the naked eye can see them.

I don't believe closed gunwales and sheet-cane happened at the same time on Old Town canoes-- closed gunwales were phased out by the early 1920s, and OT continued to use hand-caned seats until the late 1930s... so your seats may be a replacement, albeit an early one.

52722 is a CS (common sense, or middle grade) Otca model canoe, completed from November 1918 to March 1919. It has red Western cedar planking, closed gunwales (changed from open), 16" birch decks (rather than the 20" Otca decks, I assume), thwarts and seat frames also birch. It has a "reinforced floor" (whatever that means)-- stated in the floor rack column. Original color was black. It was shipped to Philadelphia, PA, on March 17, 1919---- should have been shamrock green, hey.

52727 is a 17 foot CS grade HW model canoe, completed November 1918 to June 1919. It has red Western cedar planking, closed spruce gunwales, maple decks, thwarts, and seat frames and a keel. It was originally dark green and was shipped to Chicago, IL, on June 17, 1919.

So--- if you can't see the last digit well enough, you may have to rely on your wood-species-identification-skills to determine if the winner is 22 or 27-- or neither one. If the Otca had a typical Otca deck, the choice would be easier.

I'm posting two other build records for their educational value. Both records are for 52726. I hadn't seen this happen in the records, until now.

The scans of these records are attached below-- click on each to get a larger image. This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you and anyone else reading this will join or renew membership in the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to renew.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.



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Many thanks, Kathy! I've printed these out & will have them handy while I try to clarify the serial number. Weather's holding up well for looking at it this afternoon.

When we see "16 in. decks", for the Otca style decks with the little cutout, is it measured from the stem to the cutout (centerline), or stem to the edge along the inwale? There's probably more than an inch of difference between the two.

Thanks again!
Regarding the Old Town decks, it's easier to think in terms of the style of the deck rather than precise measuring. The 16" deck is the standard Old Town style that is recognized as Old Town (even if it's actually a similar one on a Thompson or Detroit). Prior to 1957, the Otca had a 20" one-piece deck with coaming... since that time, it's had the standard deck. This makes the older Otcas easy to identify, even in a bad craigslist picture.

I'll post images of these deck styles, which I found at The one on the left is a standard OT deck--- this one is circa 1920--- the standard deck had less finesse in later years, and looks like the image on the right, which is on a post-'57 Otca. The middle image is on a circa 1920 Otca. This info is on the site.

So, canoe 22 would have the deck on the left, rather than the deck in the middle, even though it's an Otca. The HW would have the deck on the left too.


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Yes, I saw these on the Dragonfly site -- I even looked there before I posted, but I think I was too excited to think it out clearly. It has the deck on the left, and the Chicago destination makes a whole lot of sense, so my money's on 52727, though I'll get the heat gun & scraper to the stems before I get my head stuck in something. Will post pictures, too...

Now, focus on the day job... :rolleyes:
Confirmed SN 52727 17! See attached pics.

The two stems agree on the numbers.
There's a pic of the deck
both tips (one has a little bit of an issue, but doesn't look too bad from outside)
The cracked plank from the outside.
The cracked plank & two ribs from the inside.


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FIVE coats of environmentally safer stripper on one area of this canoe, and most of the paint layers are gone... There were at least two different shades of light brown between the original varnish and the battleship grey. I'm using up the rest of the safer stuff, but I'm giving up... the can of MEK-based slop is waiting in the wings.

I talked with Ralph Frese about this, and he pointed out that, as old as this canoe is, the paint has lead in it, and thus the used stripper is hazardous waste... may as well use the good stuff...
Just confirmed what I had been suspecting: there are two distinct layers of light brown paint... on the floor area, at least, they are separated by a layer of orange. So far, I have what's left of the original varnish, light brown, maybe some off-white, orange, more light brown, and then the final battleship grey. Anybody know what the record is? Or is this "normal" for a 92-year-old canoe?