Old Morris Canoe and Old Town Canoe

GHMM

Museum
Hello,
I am a curator at a museum in Northeast Harbor. We own an Old Town Canoe and were loaned an old Morris Canoe for our exhibit this summer. Does anybody have any idea how to figure out the history of these boats? The Morris is number 158, and the Old Town's numbers are difficult to read, but appear to be 42827 (could be 12827) and it is an 18 footer. Any help you could provide would be wonderful. Willie Granston
 
Morris ID

Hi,

I know someone else will step in, but the 158 on the Morris would seem to be a livery tag or one of the earliest Morris's with a Tag. Where is the tag located on the boat and how would you discribe it, better yet can you post a picture?

The accurate serial number on the Old Town will give you the build record, but the difference between a 12,000 and a 42,000 is quite a few years but would still make it a very early canoe. Check both stems to see if you can get a better ID on the first digit.

Good luck,

Paul
 
It appears you may have a couple of canoes that honestly deserve to be in a museum.

Old Town 42827 is a 15 foot fifty pounder, so that wouldn't be your canoe... Old Town 12827 is a 17 foot AA grade HW (heavy water) model, with red Western cedar planking, spruce gunwales (unusual for AA grade, I think) and mahogany decks/seats/thwarts. It was fitted with a keel and painted dark green before shipment to Macy's in NYC. This may also be the wrong canoe record. Check both stems for possibilities and we can try again!

Meanwhile, I will attach the scan for the canoe most likely to be the right one. Scans of approximately 210,000 records were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. Additional information about the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details.

Please join WCHA or make a tax deductible contribution so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA, http://www.wcha.org/wcha_video.php to watch a 10 minute video about WCHA and our programs and http://www.wcha.org/join.php to join. If you are already a WCHA member, THANK YOU!

Now to your Morris... I am the keeper of the Morris database, and we don't have a serial number that low (yet). There is actually a great deal of Morris information and speculation. Canoes built by B.N. Morris inspired a boatload (pun intended) of canoes by other names, from Chestnut to the modern Kevlar Seliga.

You might look first at the wood canoe identification site: http://dragonflycanoe.com/id/index.html
and scroll down to Morris on the left and click on it. We have a dated receipt for Morris #1876, stating it was shipped in June of 1903. So, if your canoe is a B.N. Morris, it would predate that canoe with a higher number.

Can you post a picture of the canoe... or at least describe the deck? Morris canoes in our database with numbers under 1000 are actually Veazie canoes... which are canoes built by Morris as a factory-direct business scheme and their numbering was different. The only way we can date the Veazie canoes at this time is to compare the style to B.N. Morris-- i.e. if it has a concave curve deck, it probably dates to the second decade of the century.

The Morris factory burned the first week of 1920, so all Morris and Veazie canoes are pre-1920. Records connecting the serial numbers to the canoes have not been found. Bert Morris died in 1940, long before the current renewed interest in his work. Those who worked beside him in the factory are gone now too. So... what we know of Morris canoes has come from the canoes themselves and little bits of information that have filtered in over the years.

The earlier Veazie canoes have a "keyhole" deck, whereas the B.N. Morris has a heart. The earliest Morris canoes (either B.N. or Veazie) have only two pairs of cant ribs (these are the ribs that are at the very ends of the canoe, which aren't actually full, bent ribs, but are half-ribs canted into the stem.) Our database is showing that canoes with serial numbers 3XXX and higher have three pairs of cant ribs.

So... please give us more information on your canoe. Deck shape--- cant rib count-- serial number plate shape and location-- pictures, if possible.

If you give me a snail mail address (you may email me at arms_akimbo@earthlink.net), I'll send you a couple articles from our journal Wooden Canoe, that might help explain the current Morris theories. You may try using the "search" function at the top of the page and log in "Morris"... you'll get a bunch of interesting old discussions... and please ask questions. I'll hunt up some pictures and post in a bit.

Kathy
 

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forgot to mention...

The Old Town numbered 12827 was shipped May 4, 1910.

Now, back to the Morris question(s):

I'm posting examples of Morris deck styles and serial number plate styles. As Paul said, the plate on your canoe may be a livery tag. But I just uploaded only one image and will continue below... and will try to attach a bunch at a time...

This image is of the standard Morris heart shaped short deck.
 

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Here, I have attached the following:

1. Veazie keyhole deck... the standard short deck for early Veazies (roughly the first decade of the 20th Century)

2. Long decked Morris. The long decks in our database range from 24" to 48". This one (pictured) is a 36/24. The Veazie could also have long decks... but we haven't seen one in-person.

3. Veazie or Morris concave curve short deck. This one pictured is on a Veazie, but it was used on both canoe lines during the second decade of the 20th Century... possibly beginning in 1913.

4. Serial number plate, rectangle with rounded corners, on canoe stem.

5. Serial number plate, oval on inwale on the left side, bow end.

The oval plate is earlier than the rectangle, and these are the places we have found them (so far) with minor variation. That was not a plural ("variation" I mean). One canoe in the database has the s/n plate on the side of the bow seat.

Kathy
 

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Morris Canoe

I've taken some pictures of the tag and the canoe itself, and I think I should do some more description of the canoe itself. The tag, very clearly visible on the port bow inwhale, says 158. It's a rectangle with rounded edges. The BN Morris label is also still quite legible at the bow. I can't tell from my pictures the shape of the deck, but I think it's a gentle curve. The boat itself is roughly 14'10" x 44". The owner actually refers to it as a peapod, not a canoe. It has oarlocks, thwarts like a rowboat, and floorboards. All of which appear to be original. Personally, I agree it's not a canoe, but I also don't think of it as being a peapod... there are definite canoe features (ribs, stems, etc). I think if a canoe and a peapod had a baby, it would be what we have. I will try to post some pictures, and get a good picture of the ribs and deck.

As for the Old Town Canoe I mentioned, I took a flashlight, and using the shadows, I now think the numbers are 42927, and it is 18' long.

Thanks again.
 
Hope these pictures explain things. There are some of both the Old Town Canoe and the Morris. I'd be interested in hearing your opinions.
 

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Old Town goes first...

I'll give you the Old Town build record first, because I want to check a couple things in old Morris catalogs before replying on your Morris.

This build record appears to fit your canoe, but if you don't think so we can try again (I'm not using "the royal 'we' " here, but am referring to the fact that many here provide input.

Old Town 42927 is an 18 foot AA grade (the top grade) HW model (a canoe designed for heavy water, or lakes and such). Planking is of red Western cedar, and the open gunwales are mahogany-- as are the seats, thwarts, and decks. The canoe was fitted with a keel and painted dark green. It was shipped June 6, 1916 to A.J. Boyer, Uncas on Lake George, Westchester County, New York.

A copy of the scan is attached below. Scans of approximately 210,000 records were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. Additional information about the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details.

Please join WCHA or make a tax deductible contribution so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA, http://www.wcha.org/wcha_video.php to watch a 10 minute video about WCHA and our programs and http://www.wcha.org/join.php to join. If you are already a WCHA member, THANK YOU!

I'll say what I think about the Morris in a separate post.

Kathy
 

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Morris Double End Canvas Covered Rowing Boat

That's what I believe you have: The Morris Double End Canvas Covered Rowing Boat. It shows up for the first time, that I can determine, in the 1917 Morris catalog. I'll attach an image, courtesy of The Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Catalog Collection, version 2, edited by Dan Miller and Benson Gray, published by Dragonfly Canoe Works and available at www.dragonflycanoe.com.

Although others here who restore canoes may have run into this model before, it is the first to enter the Morris database we began about a year ago. Can't tell you how exciting it is to have this information... for one thing, it now seems even more clear that Morris didn't put all his canoes/boats into the same serial number system. The B.N. Morris canoe line, the Veazie line, and now the Morris double ended boat line, appear to have separate s/n series.

It's also interesting to see the construction differences... the stem on the double ended boat is different from that of the canoes. And the A-D Morris canoes are most-often trimmed in mahogany.

As for dating your boat, it appears first in the 1917 Morris catalog... and since the factory burned the first week of 1920, you have those parameters.

There may be more I can add later, but I want to send this now. Hopefully, some who have worked on boats like this can share what they've seen.

Thanks again for sharing this very interesting canoe!

Kathy
 

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That's it! The only thing that's missing is one section of the floorboard. The owner mentioned that he had two large brass oarlocks that go with it as well. The advertisement mentions galvanized. The only other thing is the weight, which the ad says is 110 lbs, and unless the canvas adds a great deal, I think this must be off. Are there many other examples of this known to still be "alive?"
 
This is the only double ended Morris rowboat that's come into the Morris database. Perhaps some of the folks who've been restoring for a while will chime in with memories of canoes like this one... but my guess is that it's uncommon.

It seems Morris only made this model for three years. The boat doesn't have the details that "say Morris" to those who search for Morris canoes: no widely-splayed cedar stem, no thwarts and cane seats with that "Morris shape". If your boat didn't have a Morris decal on the deck, the only other detail that "says Morris" is the serial number plate-type. So, a boat like this one with a worn-off decal and missing s/n plate might be a "mystery boat"... unless someone had the canoe catalog CD and recognized it.

It appears to have been very well cared-for.

Ask more questions if anything I've said or you've read needs further explanation.

Kathy
 
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