Old Old Town

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
Wanted to share images of an interesting Old Old Town, from a book Denis is reading titled Canoeing the Charles by Ralph Frederick Perry. The canoe was a special order, shipped in 1902. To me, it looks more EM White or Gerrish than Old Town.



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It's difficult to tell much about the canoe from these photos (I can almost see White's reverse-heart-shaped deck in the left photo), but some of the early Old Town canoes had the same kind of lines, sharp entry and exit that E.M. White (and other makers) used. The I.F. model exhibits these characteristics. So does the early Guide's Special; it had the same dimensions and shape as the 18' and 19' I.F., but was built in a no-frills manner (decks, thwarts, etc. of ash instead of mahogany, maple, etc., and finish was not as nice... utilitarian, as guide canoes were).

There are some unusual features on this canoe for an Old Town, so either this was factory custom, modified after the factory, or mis-identified somewhere between the time the photos were made and Canoeing the Charles: Images and Field Notes From 1902-1912was published in 1996.

My apologies for sounding like I'm lecturing here, but speaking of publishing, it might be wise (and certainly ethical) not to publish other people's work- including photos and captions- to the web. Every time I publish in any book or serious journal, I sign copyright transfer documents stating that the work in question will not be duplicated without permission of the publisher. They're tough on authors; copyright law also protects publishers from the general public.
First of all, most authors would be grateful for any public plugs they get for their books.......such publicity is of great value.

Second.....are those two pictures supposed to be of the same canoe? Where's the P in the first picture?

Third of all, I thought it was only Lake Woebegone Minnesota where "the women are strong and the men are good-looking," but no.....here we have another fine specimen of robust womanhood ready to render those wheels irrelevant on the portage.

Last, journalists do get things wrong and the fame of the Old Town name may have led the reporter to call the canoe an "Old Town" after he either forgot to ask or forgot the name.
These do not appear to be pictures of the same canoe. Although it is very hard to tell it looks like they have totally different lines. The decks do not appear to be the same either. And yes, "Mr. Perry's P" is missing.
As for the "lady of the marsh," did she pull that canoe through that entire swamp or back paddle into that little pocket?
Guess I was a bit ambiguous in my post... I wasn't arguing that the canoe isn't an Old Town... it says right under the picture that it is a special order ("factory custom") Old Town, shipped in 1902. The lovely lady in the other picture is Mrs. Perry ("Bertha Perry, Ralph's wife and companion, explores the backwater.") Bertha holds her paddle with a mighty grip!

It's been a while since I graduated law school and I can't recall how large a part "intent" might play in defending my action in regard to posting those pictures. When I first saw the pictures, I thought of showing them to Benson, because I know he's interested in interesting old Old Towns. But in a moment of excitement over actually having the scans turn out fairly well (my scanner hadn't worked for four years), I decided to share with the group. It was never my intent to do more than show the pictures... I wasn't arguing anything... the caption says it's an Old Town, and I thought it interesting that it appears (to me) to be similar to some of the canoes of that era by other builders.

Although I could be wrong, I doubt if anyone involved in the production of that book would be upset if two canoe pictures were posted on the website of a non-profit organization "... devoted to preserving, studying, building, restoring, and using wooden and bark canoes, and to disseminating information about canoeing heritage throughout the world."

Then theres the fact that one canoe looks like a 14 footer and one looks like an 18 footer. Unless the guy is four foot, nine inches and Bertha is seven feet tall (somehow this does not seem as unlikely as it should).

I believe there's a story behind the picture of Bertha. She has clearly abandoned her paddling grip and shifted to the "Repel Boarders" grip.....and her grim expression seems to indicate that attack was imminent.

A lovely and delicate flower like Bertha must be ever ready to deal with unruly suitors when in the backwoods in her canoe.

Also......captions are often wrong. Just because something is written under a picture does not mean that it's true. In fact, captions contain more mistakes, I think, than any other part of a magazine or newspaper......because pictures are often taken in a rush and the information for the captions is too often either verified later or gathered later or just plain created later just before deadline.

You have to remember that women wore about twenty pounds of corsets in those days, to hold things in and up... and those long skirts, with yards and yards of material dragged through the brush. Probably stockings on her legs and high-topped and buttoned leather Wicked-Witch-of-the-West shoes... and no Tylenol. Gripping the paddle maybe helped discharge stress.

But you do have to give the lady credit for venturing out with her husband-- wearing a white blouse and no sunblock-- and obviously staging that picture. I don't see her in a later picture, where the guys are enjoying a picnic.