I noticed that Greg Nolan’s link to a free online version of Bill Durham’s book didn’t seem to work, so here is some background info for anyone looking to find a copy. In past, this delightful little booklet with some seldom-found historical detail has proven difficult to come by, as I will shortly relate:
“Canoes and Kayaks of Western America”, by Bill Durham
First printing 1960
Copper Canoe Press, Seattle, WA
Reprinted by Shorey Book Store, 1974
Third printing 1999
Boat House Books
6744 SE 36th Avenue
Portland, OR, 97202
ISBN Number 1-57087-503-0
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-76199
Some years ago, while gathering an extensive collection of North American Native canoe and kayak models, and particularly while searching for Northwest Coast wooden dugout models, I had heard of and seen references to this informative booklet. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a copy anywhere. The book was “out of print”. I especially wanted to check some drawings and details that were unavailable elsewhere. Then, suddenly, a copy showed up in an eBay auction.
Several others were also interested, especially a native carver from Seattle, Jim Keefer, who was looking for much of the same background material as I was. We were each determined to get it, and soon chased all other bidders away, leaving us to pursue our own, private bidding war. He won, but it cost him $138 to acquire what otherwise was a $10 item. I felt rather badly afterward at having been responsible for pushing him to such an extreme; at the same time, I still wanted to have the information it contained. So, I contacted Jim, introduced myself, and offered to send him $70 (roughly half his winning bid) if he would make a photocopy and mail it to me. He did, and we struck up a friendship. I explained my need to see Durham’s text; he did likewise. I also learned that he carved native canoe models. I commissioned him to make me a ‘Head Canoe’, a very early form of northern NWC style that had become extinct about the time of the white man’s arrival in the area. Under the guidance of noted native art expert Steve Brown, Jim made the model for me – a wonderful cedar example complete with deeply incised as well as painted totemic designs along its sides, and steam-bent to spread the hull, just as a full-size canoe would have been made from an immense log.
I was able to pick up my prize, in person, while on a business trip to Vancouver, with a side-visit to Jim’s home in Seattle, where I was treated to a showing, not only of his own fabulous art work, but of the most wonderful collection of antique argillite pipes, totems, platters, etc. It was an incredible afternoon with a true gentleman; all made possible because of our mutual desire to own a copy of Bill Durham’s book. Having learned a little of the author’s sense of humor, I’m certain he would be chuckling to know of this.
Sadly, Jim Keefer passed on a few years ago. We had sporadic, but friendly contact over the intervening years. I never did quite have the heart to tell him that I found a $10 copy of the third printing a few years after our eBay battle. Instead, I gave my expensive photo-copied version to another collector, and smiled at the memory of how I came by one of the most favorite pieces in my core collection.
I attach a photo of the cover of Durham’s book, and one of Jim Keefer’s ‘Head Canoe’.