Old Town (?) 9246... Sailer?

John Donohoe

Curious about Wooden Canoes
My father-in-law has had this canoe in his barn for 20 yrs, says the old guy he got it from, Vern Moulton, may have been the original buyer, and used to sail it... Is it Old Town and is the 4 digit serial number any clue?

I'm definitely looking to restore it properly as I just love wooded boats!

John D.


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It is not an Old Town.
It is something much better than that.
It is a very nice old Morris canoe.
You can search here on this site for the various discussions about these and you will find that Morris canoes are arguably considered to be one of the best old models.
Kathy will weigh in on the estimated build date (there are no exact records) but it looks like you are in the 1909/1910 (?) time frame. That's a guess.
Nice canoe and very worth restoring properly.
Thanks! I look forward to learning more. I'm in no hurry and am quite particular about keeping patina where appropriate. I would like to use it when done however!

That said, I'd love for my 85 year old father-in-law to see it restored.

Now I'm off to search up info on Morris!

John D.
You have a really good looking boat in readily restorable condition.

Kathy Klos will be along shortly to direct you to some reading material on Morris canoes, but she will probably want a few more pictures and some additional information for her Morris data base.

Do you have the oarlock horns that go with the oarlock bases on your boat? They well may be original. I'm attaching a few pages from the 1910 Morris catalog that deal with rowing.

There is no reason at all why you cannot restore this canoe to be useable while keeping most original material, and maybe even some original finish -- but removing paint is called for if the original look is to be restored, and old varnish may well need removal to provide optimum protection for the canoe's wood. But that being said, there is probably no need to replace the cracked deck -- it looks repairable, and similarly, missing bits of wood at the ends of gunwales and elsewhere do not, alone, call for replacement of the whole piece of wood; there are various ways of patching and scarfing in new wood while keeping most of the original.

If you haven't got it already, most people here recommend highly the "bible" of repair and restoration -- "The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A complete guide to the wood and canvas canoe" by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow. Gives all you need to know about canvasing, and about repair of all the wooden parts of a canoe. Available from, among many other places, the WCHA online store. Rollin is very knowledgeable about Morris restorations, having done many, and building replicas of some of them as part of his business.

This canoe should be a beauty when done.


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One other point -- your first photo of the oarlock pad shows a bolt and wing nut below the inwale -- this is likely original, and would have been for attaching the removable center thwart. Do you have that thwart? Most of us with old Morris canoes are missing that thwart.
Thanks for the additional info. I thought the oarlock pads were where the leeboards attached... lots to lear. I'll ask if there's a chance any other pieces like the third thwart survive, but I'm afraid they are all lost.

Time to go look up the book you mention. I'll surely buy if from WCHA to begin my support. I'm sure i'll have lots of questions as I go :)

Thanks again,
John D.

I'm glad you came to this place to find out about your canoe-- not just because your canoe adds information to our Morris database-- mostly because you will know what a treasure you have... it's very cool to have a canoe that's been in the family, and more-so if it's a special kind of canoe.

Before I look closely at your pictures and add to the feedback you've already received (thanks soooo much to those who jumped in; I just now got to the computer!) I thought I'd direct you to two videos about the Morris which provide much of the information we've learned from keeping a database of existing canoes.



If you, or anyone else reading this, doesn't have high speed internet and can't see the videos, please contact me and I'll put them on a DVD and mail them to you.

A Morris with a 9XXX serial number dates from approximately 1911, according to the most recent theory.

If your father-in-law knows what year Vern bought the canoe, this would help our research.... and if there's any existing paperwork--- well, I'd be jumping up and down.

I'll be back in a bit...

Hi Kathy,

great to hear from you! I'm afraid there's nothing detail-wise except the canoe and my father in law's memory. I'm really curious as to his memory of this thing being sailed... I have a stinky old fiberglas catamaran right now to feed my sailing addiction, but would dump it in a heartbeat if I could rig this for sail... will only do it by the book though, and YES, I understand that sailing a canoe is probably rather different than my catamaran :)))

I have a few more and full resolution photos if you'd like me to email them directly. PM me with email address. I look forward to asking you lots of questions and will likewise send you any details you ask about this canoe. It's in the barn up north, about 2 hrs away however, so may be a couple weeks before I can take more detail pics. (I'm a little afraid to strap it to the roof and drive it home at 75mph!).

Oh, yes -- I'm dying to strip the paint off the decks and gunwales... hopefully I can do that yet this fall!

How do I decide if I should peel the canvas off or not?
Hello again, John--

Your Morris appears to be either 17' or 18' long. Length is measured from the farthest point on the bow (outside) to the farthest point on the stern... but if you pull a tape along the side of the canoe, you'll add-in the curve of the side--- so, imagine a stick placed vertically in the ground, that just touches the bow and another at the stern, and measure a straight line between them.

Your canoe is probably either a Model A, type 3 or a Model B, type 3. Could be a C or D, but is more likely A or B and I'd vote for B. The B is more often the model fitted for rowing or sailing.... the HW of the Morris-world, not necessarily in terms of measurement but in terms of use (so perhaps in terms of measurement, after all).

I'll give you the width of the A and B models, but after 100 years, any canoe may not be exactly as it was when it came off the form... so catalog measurements must be taken with a grain of salt.

The 17' Model A Morris is 34" wide at the extreme, and the 18' Model A is 34 1/2". The 17' Model B is 36 1/2" at the extreme, and the 18' Model B is 37 1/2".

Type 3 refers to a long-decked canoe with outside stems. I believe I explained what outside stems are on the video. They are the strip of hardwood on the outside edge of bow and stern, that protects the boat from banging into things (the dock, an old snag, some moose's antlers, etc.) and also looks really nice when refinished the same mahogany color as the other trim, contrasting with the color of the canvas.

Your canoe has a diamond-shaped flag/pennant/burgee holder on the deck. This is original to the boat. The blocks for the row locks are original and very cool to have-- we have a set and yours is the only other I've seen. The painter ring is the metal loop above the serial number plate. This is also original to the canoe--- Morris painter rings were nickel plated and placed on the stem, just like that. Different from Old Town, but they show up on Morris canoes again and again in that location, and are seen in the catalog as "painter loop and screws" for 25 cents. (The catalog I refer to is part of the Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Company Catalog Collection CDs, available from http://www.wcha.org/catalog/ and http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/cdrom.htm on the web.)

It's nice to retain as much as possible of an old canoe (as Greg said), but the things that apply to a Chippendale chest of drawers, regarding restoration, don't necessarily apply to old canoes. If you were to strip away all the old patina and apply stain and varnish, you won't decrease the canoe's value. Boats are in the same general category as antique cars.... to restore them, you make them usable again... you take them back to what they were, but with perhaps some better products for wood protection.

The general consensus is that it's your canoe and you can do what you wish. But if you know what you're doing you'll be happier with the end product.

As MGC mentioned, using the "search" function (above) should bring up old discussions of Morris canoes--- and you may find you have even more questions... I hope you feel free to ask. If you email me in "real email" I can send you the text of the most recent article on Morris canoes that was in our journal, "Wooden Canoe". My email address is kathrynklos@gmail.com.

Hi again Kathy,

thanks for the reply -- I'm really liking what I'm hearing. Funny you mention cars as that's my other obsession: my 50 year old Lotus Seven: http://www.simplesevens.org/1135.htm.

Not only have I researched and painstakingly returned the car to a more original specification, I've built the entire SimpleSevens web site which seems to be somewhat similar to your Morris Canoe database efforts.

Just now I'm picturing towing the canoe behind my Seven... what a great picture that will make :)

John D.
Hi again, John--

I sent my last reply before reading yours... so I have some additions--

The best resource on sailing canoes is Todd Bradshaw's "Canoe Rig"--- found at bookstores, on eBay, at the library, etc. Todd posts frequently in these Forums, so canoe sailing questions will be answered by him and by the many others who sail their canoes as well as paddle them. I'll attach a page from the 1917 Morris catalog, showing the sailing accessories. Morris didn't offer a rudder-- steering can be done with a paddle.

Your canoe may be in good enough shape to get it on the water, but with winter setting-in you might want to think about restoring the canoe over the winter and having it looking beautiful for a springtime launch. If the canoe's water-worthy now, you could paddle it during the lovely fall weather even with paint blobs and wood that has to swell a bit before the boat isn't taking on water.

My partner, Denis, came up with a stain formula that replicates the interior staining seen on most Morris canoes. Bert Morris preferred to have all the wood on his canoes the same mahogany color. We see very few Morris canoes with a light interior--- so my guess is that when we do, it was the customer's choice. I'll send you the formula-- it's probably posted in previous Forums replies too... but you won't need to worry about that until the interior of your canoe is stripped and sanded and any wood-repair is done.

Stelmok and Thurlow's book will tell you how to go about the restoration of the canoe.... and there are YouTube videos (many of them made by folks who post in these Forums). Yes, the canvas will have to come off.... but, as I said, if the canoe is water-worthy you could take it for a test-drive.

Any pictures are appreciated--- the most important ones are:

Decal, if it still exists
Stem and serial number
Profile of bow or stern
Interior showing seats/thwarts
Any picture showing gunwale type
Pictures of anything unusual-- rowing/sailing equipment
Any accessories-- backrests, chairs, paddles, sailing equipment, etc.

I like a picture of a canoe tilted up on one side, showing the interior. Canoes that are restored can look really spectacular in this pose... so it makes for a nice before-and-after.

Thanks again!



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Hi again, John--

My partner, Denis, came up with a stain formula that replicates the interior staining seen on most Morris canoes. I'll send you the formula-- it's probably posted in previous Forums replies too...

Hi Kathy,
I suppose it would be helpful to post Denis special blend. I don't recall seeing it. At least not on this site. Maybe it was posted on the site before it crashed and all of our older posts were lost..

I also occurs to me that it would be really helpful if you could post what you now know about the Morris build dates. For example, in 1911, what are the first and last dates as you know them now. Same for other years. I don't recall ever seeing the dates that you have accumulated.