Old Town Molitor information


Randy Johnson

Can you please give me the build sheet information on an Old Town "Molitor" serial number: 183593 17'. Was the Molitor built on the OTCA forms, or does it have a different cross section shape?
Also, when I look at the color paint pattern choices from Old Town, was pattern #4 only done with the primary hull color in white, or was this pattern also put on other hull colors? The catalogs show the pattern on white canoes, but I was curious if the pattern was used with other base colors.
I have looked through several books and catalog sources which I have, but have found very little detailed information on the "Molitor", so any other information on this canoe would be appreciated.
Thank you for the help. I am also looking forward to my membership renewal with the WCHA.
Attached is the build record for Old Town Molitor 183593.

It is my understanding that the later version of the Molitor (introduced 1965) is built on a modified Otca form. If I recall correctly, Benson may have a photograph of the mold that shows this.

Design No. 29 from 1925 is the same as Design No. 4, but with a light green hull and dark green and red triangles. This is the only variation of the color scheme shown in the catalogs, but of course, Old Town would paint a design with any colors the customer specified...


These scans were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others as described at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/records/ in more detail. If you are not already a member, we hope that you will join or contribute to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ and http://www.wcha.org/join.html for more information.


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Molitor canoe

Dear Dan,
Thank you for the build sheet and information on the Old Town Molitor canoe! I have a 1964 Old Town catalog which does not show a molitor model available, and a 1968 catalog that does show it, so your note on the introduction of the model year really helped. I would also like to see the picture that Benson has of the OTCA mold with a molitor being built on it.
Thanks again for all your help!
The new Molitor was introduced in 1965 as Dan mentioned. It was shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/covers/large-65.gif on the 1965 catalog cover. My understanding is that this was built on a modified Otca form. The pictures of the current form at Old Town attached below appear to confirm this. The story I heard was that an old canoe with torpedo stems and a 'flower petal' deck was brought in for repairs and it got so many complements that the company decided to build them again.

The original Molitor was introduced in the 1920s although it does not appear to ever have been listed in the catalogs before 1965. The name probably came from a C. J. Molitor who ran a canoe livery near the Belle Isle area outside of Detroit. He sold Morris canoes and appears to have switched to Old Town after the Morris factory fire when Morris went to work for Old Town. C. J. Molitor seems to have liked canoes with extended stems, three foot bow decks, two foot stern decks, and lots of mahogany trim. The earliest Molitors from Old Town looked exactly like Morris canoes with flared stems, pocketed ribs, etc. while the later ones were built in the Old Town style. Gil Cramer and I have spent a fair amount of time researching the Molitor, Morris, and Old Town connections but there are very few confirmed facts to work from.

A young business student asked the manager of Old Town in the 1970s why he contined to list the Molitor in the catalogs when they sold so few of them. He responded saying that "some people like to buy a Lamborghini." It is still listed in the catalogs today as shown at http://www.oldtowncanoe.com/canoes_wood.php on the web.



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From above - "The name probably came from a C. J. Molitor who ran a canoe livery near the Belle Isle area outside of Detroit. He sold Morris canoes and appears to have switched to Old Town after the Morris factory fire when Morris went to work for Old Town. C. J. Molitor seems to have liked canoes with extended stems, three foot bow decks, two foot stern decks, and lots of mahogany trim."

Is there any chance that any records exist that might show the sale of Morris canoes by the C.J. Molitor company ?

The Morris that I have has the 36-inch forward deck, 24-inch aft deck and lots of mahog trim. The previous owner said that it had been in his family, in Ohio, since his grandfather bought it. I have the family name, but that's as far as I've been able to get.

Paul S.
I don't know of any original Morris records. They may have all been burned with the factory in January, 1920. There are some records of Morris canoes being completed at Old Town after the fire but none of these went to C. J. Molitor. See http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/morris/records/ for more information about these canoes.

There are also some records of Old Town canoes being sent to C. J. Molitor in Detroit as shown below. There are also many other records showing similar canoes going to many other states. I used to own one that shipped to Boston.



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Thanks Benson. I was thinking that perhaps the Molitor records, if any exist, might indicate the sale of a Morris to my previous owner's grandfather or his location.

The note above was the first I've heard about the mix of 24- and 36-inch decks, although I'm sure that it wasn't an exclusinve feature. At this point I can't "prove" that what I have is a Morris, or when it was built. I'm convinced, but I dont have a nameplate, SN or "papers". A link through Mollitor to Morris would help to establish the provenanace.

Thanks again. Paul S.
I don't know of any original Molitor records either. The Kennebec Canoe Company's Morris pages also identify canoes with 36" bow decks and 24" stern decks. This would indicate that there may also be Molitor style canoes built by Kennebec in addition to the ones that have been found in the Old Town, and Carleton records. The Kennebec financial ledger (Maine State Museum book number 90.42.80) contains a reference to "the Morris form." The name associated with this ledger entry is "H. B. Arnold" so it may turn out that they were making Morris canoes in the Charles River area after 1920 also. This will need some more research.

There is an obituary from the Detroit Free Press on February 28, 1980 for, "Charles J. Molitor, canoe house founder, 96, who established the canoe house on Belle Isle in the early 1900s and later sold it to the City of Detroit... Born in Detroit in 1883, Mr. Molitor opened the Belle Isle canoe house while a young man. In the 1920s he founded the Molitor Screen and Storm Sash Co., which he operated until his retirement in 1968." He also had an advertisement in a 1911 directory for "Charles J. Molitor- (Molitor's Canoe House), Sole Agent for ... Morris High Grade Canoes" and it mentioned that he was near the Belle Isle Bridge.

The Old Town records project has found fifteen molitors shipped between June 14th, 1921 and June 10th, 1922. This project data only represents about five percent of the total canoes so there may have been several hundred of them built during this period. None of these went to Michigan but several other major population centers were listed including: New York, Washington D. C., Ohio, Maryland, Philadelphia, Missouri, etc. More information about the Old Town Canoe Company Build Record Archive Project is available at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/records/ on the web.

The destination address for the earliest molitor models that Old Town Canoe Company shipped was: C. J. Molitor, Canoes and Supplies, River Front, 1472 Jefferson Ave, East Detroit, Michigan. Some of these also have a brass tag on the deck indicating that it came from C. J. Molitor.

Good luck researching your canoe. This all could be an interesting area for further study.