Old Town Identification

Duncan Rosborough

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Here are some interrior photos


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And the planking appears to be white cedar not red cedar, another indicator I think that this is not an Old Town.

Untapered ribs and white cedar planking were both commonly used by Old Town in the earlier days.
Take a close look at the planking pattern.

They did not gore the plank until the 6th plank off the keel, maybe because the plank was very narrow, but early OT's had wider plank and most I've seen the newer the OT the narrower the plank.

Just a thought but won't put money on it,

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This canoe appears to have had the wrong number stamped on one or both stems and was later repaired by cutting off the decks/points at each end. Serial number errors are rare but these numbers were stamped by hand, one digit at a time. Tom Seavey has recently restored an Old Town boat with a single serial number digit wrong on one end. This canoe may have also had outside stems originally.

The Old Town canoes with serial numbers 117420, 117421, 117422, 117423, and 117429 are all 16 foot long canoes as shown below. You may be able to identify yours by checking for other clues. Is there any sign that a floor rack or mast step was once on the bottom? Is the outer edge of the stem unusually broad (i.e. wider than the stem band)? The stern seat may be the only original part of the trim so is it ash, oak, mahogany, or something else? What type(s) of wood were used for the long thwarts and do they look the same as the stern seat?

The rails, bow seat, and short carry thwarts all appear to be newer than the rest of the canoe. It is not unusual to have an order number crossed out and replaced with another. This simply means that they couldn't find the canoe quickly when it was time to ship it for the first order so it shipped later with another order. This would be especially true in the case of a serial number error which means that there may have been two completely different canoes in inventory with the same number.

My guess is that you probably have the canoe that was assigned serial number 117423 which originally had oak trim and outside stems.



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Consider the shipping destination-- although canoes can easily be moved, most don't seem to stray too far from their original home.

(I knew you'd narrow things down, Benson!)

Update from owner

I just spoke to the former owner. He has owned the boat since the mid 60s. He feels it would have been new in the mid 50s. It had "Old Town" on the bow. He felt it was original when he got it and he only replaced outside gunnels and covered in fiber glass. It allways had the grab thwarts and he does not remember any decks. Please give me your thoughts.I don't feel it is a yankee as it dementions don't match. I do feel as I am close to Old Town, ME that it would not be a canoe that was shipped out of state and then came back.
Canoe-destination is a good point... you likely have a canoe that was built in Maine and has lived there ever since.

There have possibly been more wood/canvas canoe builders in Maine than any other single state (this would be nice to know for certain)--- here's a list of past/present builders (does not include all--for instance Veazie Canoe Co.):


As far as I know, Old Town canoes always had a deck... but I suppose someone could order a canoe without them, and order carry-thwarts at each end. Where did the former owner say that the words "Old Town" were located.... it's normally on the bow deck.... although some canoes from the later period had a side-decal... about midway on the canoe.

Any canoe dimensions from old catalogs should be "taken with a grain of salt"... as the shape can shift over time... each canoe is an individual, from the time it is made.

16 Ft. OT Guide

After viewing pictures of a 16 Ft. guide model that is for sale in the classifieds. I feel this is my boat. Something is strange about the lack of decks. Maybe they were removed, maybe they were never there. The build slip is incorrect. I assume that the year of manufacture is 1936 due to the serial #.Is there a way to look a build records for just 16 Ft. guides in the spring of 1936 with a Maine destination?
It takes countless hours to look for anything really specific in the build records. The records are arranged by number, so there is no way to check a specific size or time that the canoe was shipped--- it would mean looking at thousands of build records. It has been done: Roger Young looked for model canoes and really hurt his eyes... so, it isn't easy and I doubt any of the volunteers could take it on.

But the records are available for sale...

Benson made the suggestion that the canoe could be one of several Yankees that was cut down. This makes sense, as a Yankee that had its stems reduced could also lose its decks and gain carry thwarts as part of the change.

It may be that you have to accept that you won't know for certain all the details of your canoe's manufacture... and that puts you in the same category as all of us who have canoes that weren't built by Old Town, Carleton or Kennebec... and a couple others. You know the probable year of manufacture, and for most of the old canoes that's as good as it gets. You know it's probably an Old Town, and you can restore it as such. And it will be a cool canoe-- lucky to have found a home with you.

The narrow planking (approx.3"wide) and very slight taper of the ribs are characteristics of Old Town canoes built in the 1960's. Obviously, the serial number doesn't indicate that. Gil