New, old, B. N. Morris canoe that I found at a local auction.


Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Here is a nice canoe that I stumbled on at an antique auction in Brookfield, Massachusetts. I was there to bid on an Eli Terry wood movement tall case clock, and there under the tent was this canoe, which I couldn't immediately identify. I knew it had very distinctive features that I had read about somewhere, but being over fifty, I couldn't place it. When I got it home and did some poking around on the internet, I realized I had purchased an absolutely wonderful B. N. Morris, in excellent original condition, although in need of the usual recanvasing, re-seatification, etc. It was a wonderful surprise.


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It cost more than the gas to get to the auction, but not much more. The Eli Terry tall case clock I went up to buy was much more expensive! It was also older, circa 1805.
Date of this canoe???

The brass tag on the stem carries the serial number 13490... according to information found elsewhere on this wonderful site, that places the build date right around 1913. Has more recent research turned up any more Morris serial number details that would make it possible to narrow it down further?
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It looks to me

like a Morris that was finished at the Kennebeck factory. The open gunwales and the short gunwale caps are Kennebeck, the splayed stem is Morris. If I remember correctly after the Morris factory burned down a bunch of canoes that survived the fire were finished by Kennebeck. After the Assembly I'm sure someone smarter than me can fill in the blanks. It looks like a nice canoe and a great find.

Jim C.
open gunwales

I don't know which canoes were finished at the Kennebeck factory, but Morris built them with open gunwales and short gunwale caps much earlier -- that construction is shown and offered as early as in the 1911 catalogue, and continued in the 1917 and 1919 catalogues.


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Maybe Kathy will step in but.....

I recently got Morris S/N 13060, which looks a lot like yours, and she thought it was built in 1915, something about Morris starting to build in 1902 and there being a 2 year offset to the numbers.

So, they are practically siblings...

Thanks, Dan. I think that with something this old, with no real provenance (the auctioneer couldn't recall where he got it), knowing a manufacturing date within five years or so is satisfactory.
Morris nomenclature, measurements, etc.

Well, this canoe is just about 17'4" long. It is missing one thwart, but the bolts are still present, and the thwart placement confirms that this is a "17'" canoe, according to the reprinted catalog I have. It has outside oak (I think) stems, as well as the usual metal stem protectors (are these nickel plated?). It is just about 34.5" wide to the outside of the outwales, if that is how canoe width is measured. Thwarts, seats, inwales, and outwales are all mahogany. It features short decks, each sporting a flag holder. It looks to me like a Model A Morris, but I'm not sure about the second designation (type 1, type 2, etc.) Can someone clarify that for me? I think it has to do with type of wood trim, but also maybe the deck type.

Further reading indicates that maybe this is a type 3... outside oak stem-bands. Is that correct?

My floor rack is missing, unfortunately, but two of the three turn "buttons" to retain the grate are still present and in good condition. Anyone out there have an old one they'd like to sell?
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The width of your canoe suggests that it is a model B.

Morris could, and would, build canoes almost anyway a customer wanted. The catalogues suggest many variations that were, apparently, done with some regularity.

An outside stem could be added to any model (for $2.00 in the 1917 catalogue, $2.20 in 1919). Open wales, rather than the usual pocketed ribs covered by a topwale, were an additional $5.00 in 1917, and $5.50 in 1919.

Types 1, 2, and three had to do with the style and material of the decks -- Type 1 being a short deck, and types 2 & 3 longer decks. Type 1 usually had spruce gunwales, but open gunwales were usually made of mahogany. So it looks like you have a Type 1 with open gunwales

It looks like you have the center thwart -- of three thwarts, it is usually the one that is missing, because it was fastened with a wing nut, allowing it to more readily be removed.

The flagstaff sockets, standard on a type 2 seems to be a regular option, though not listed on the "extras" price list -- I have them on the short decks of Morris 6466.
Just a few quick points. The Morris in question is a true Morris; Kennebec Morrises have details that are different in varying degrees, but most have a Kennebec tag or decal on them. Kennebec Morrises turn up well before the Morris fire, so there was some other relationship between Morris and Kennebec. We know that Old Town finished a number of canoes after the 1920 Morris fire, we don't know if any were finished elsewhere.

I really wish we could, once and for all, get away from this notion that Morris serial numbers are in any way linked to the year, either directly or through some sort of formula. The only things we know for a fact are the sn's of the canoes finished by Old Town in 1921 (in the 17,000s), and the one for which there was an invoice with a date and serial number (recently sold on Ebay). We have no idea when they started numbering canoes, or what number they may have started with. The 1902 date suggested in another thread is a guess. I know, because I put that date on that catalog, and it was a(n educated) guess. As are the other undated catalogs found on the CD. The numbers were most likely assigned sequentially, and like all the other manufacturers of the time, production probably fluctuated quite a bit from year to year.

Curmudgeonly Yours,

Denis and I aren't home from Assembly yet, so I am at a computer in the lobby of a motel--- I snatched the spot whilst a motel employee was getting a refreshment, so I can't be long as I'm sure she needs to return to her video games.

What folks are saying here jibes with current things we are seeing re the Morris database... there'll be an update in the August issue of Wooden canoe.

The major earthshaking news is that the older Morris canoes appear to have only two pairs of cant ribs and somewhere in the 3000 series went to three pairs without changing the canoe's profile.

As we continue to get information on Morris canoes, we may be able to determine the points at which the boat's profile changes--- but this may mostly help those who have a canoe that only has holes where the serial number plate once was.

Another cool thing the database canoes are showing is that the change from the oval plate on the inwale (left side, just above the first full rib, which is the rib that touches the splay of the stem) to the rectangle on the stem happens in the 6000 series of canoes.

*There's a Morris on eBay which the seller says is s/n 4XXX but which is more probably 14XXX. Our database canoes show that particular deck style (the curve) appearing for the first time on a 11,000 series canoe and becoming ever-more-popular as the second decade of the 20th Century marched on... and the s/n plate isn't "right" for a 4000 series Morris--- the plate would have been an oval on the inwale, and the short deck would have been a heart... according to the canoes in the database. So, the eBay canoe (according to what the database canoes are saying) isn't a 4XXX canoe. There's possibly a "one" that goes from one tack hole to the other and the rest of the numbers are "in the clear", so the seller missed the initial "one".*

Anyway... the Morris that's the subject of this thread looks wonderful and congratulations to the lucky owner!

Thanks much to those who jumped in to answer while Denis and I were lolling about among great canoes and great people. Also, thanks to those who alerted me regarding this post while the Assembly was still going on--- it's great to get another entry into the database--- I think we're near 140 now, not counting a few potentials we learned about at the Assembly.

Model B?

Well, that's a relief, as I am now assured of "unquestionable safety" by the catalog, p. 10. Model B makes sense with the width measurements in the chart. Thanks for the clarification regarding the oak outside stems, Greg. I have a lot to learn, and this is a wonderful place to do it.

Dan, please see my entry # 10, where I ruminate about imprecise dates being just fine with me. I have read through all the Morris entries on the board, and in doing so quickly came to that conclusion. Still, just knowing that it was made in the teens is satisfying.

Thank you for your courtly curmudgitute, and even more so for your wonderful job as webmaster.

Kathy, thanks for your kind and informative comments. Let me know if you need any more pictures or data for the database.

EBay is certainly good for bringing these sorts of things out of the "woodwork", although this one came to me through pure serendipity.

Regards to all,

Hi Peter,

Ah yes, serendipity--- you may notice that canoes will simply come into your life...

Regarding "dating" the Morris (I don't mean taking her out to dinner, although nobody here is judgmental and one person's arm-candy may be another's great paddle): our one piece of paper documentation linking a serial number to a shipping-date happens in 1903 with a 1000-series canoe, and we know the fire-survivors (built in 1919) that were finished by Old Town were 17,000-series.... so "adding two" to the first number of a 4-digit s/n or first two numbers of a 5-digit appears to put the canoe within the ballpark (and not just if you were taking her to a baseball game).

The canoes appear to be numbered sequentially, so it isn't exact... and something could come up that throws this theory in the wastebasket. I know you're okay with this less-than-precise dating system, but unless we discuss how we're arriving at a speculative date, it may be harder to refine this in the future as more data clarifies things.

Kathy (still at the motel)