Old Town Molitor???


LOVES Wooden Canoes
Pretty sure this is an old Molitor, it has open gunwales, triple keel, outside stems, uneven deck lengths (longer in bow than stern), rub rails (with stem band), floor rack, AA trim, serial no. 76235 18, any additional information would be much appreciated!! Thanks, Todd

Thought I might add this bit of info as well, was browsing and saw a post from Katheryn Klos with a pic of an open gunwale morris, the ends of the ribs on this boat are also very narrow in width profile (about 1") just like her pic of her morris. Is it possible that this boat is one of the "lost" morris boats???
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I don't have the official serial number CD, but using the Old Town graph, your canoe appears to be circa 1923 (or so), and could very well be a canoe built by Old Town for CJ Molitor's canoe livery. Molitor wanted canoes with 36 inch bow decks and 24 inch stern decks, rub rails, mahogany trim etc. such as you describe on your boat.

Benson knows the story better than I, but my guess is that your canoe is totally Old Town, because that looks like an Old Town serial number. If it's a Molitor model, it was built in the Morris fashion because that's the way CJ Molitor wanted it to look. The build record may confirm this. I don't know if Old Town tapered the ribs on their Molitor model because that's the way it was on the Morris canoes, or if they might have done that anyway. Does your boat have a splayed stem?

I'd love to see your canoe side-by-side with a Morris of similar type, and really go over the differences and similarities-- whether it's a Morris that was finished at Old Town after the fire, or an Old Town Molitor. (Is there a term that differentiates the OLD Old Town Molitor from the sixties reincarnation... like "Original Molitor" vs "Modern Molitor"?)

Our Belle Isle Morris, which may have been part of CJ Molitor's fleet, has closed gunwales and the ribs are pocketed. There's sometimes a livery tag on these boats, but there's none on ours. I'll look for a picture Ken Kelly sent me of a CJ Molitor livery tag and post it, just for the record.

If you can share some pictures, that would be great. Every piece adds to what we know. Although it seems the more we learn, the more we discover we need to research, overall our understanding is getting clearer!

76235 is indeed assigned to an 18' Molitor in AA grade, with open mahogany gunwales, a 36" and a 24" mahogany decks, mahogany seats and 3 thwarts. Though the record is faded, it may have had a keel, outside stems and a floor rack. It was painted orange and shipped to HM (?) Winchester of Worcester, Mass in April of 1925.

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/catalogs/old-town/records/ if you want more details. Please join WCHA or make a tax deductable contribution so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/join.html to join. If you are already a WCHA member, THANK YOU!

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


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Thanks to Mike and Cathy for the information, if anyone has a description of the features of a 1923-25 Molitor that would be great, I would like to know if the triple keel and rub rails were a "standard" feature on the Molitor, and thus, may not have been noted on the build record??? Also, if the boat had standard rub rails, was the presence of stem band attached to the outside of them a "standard" feature at the time, or just someone's afterthought for additional protection??? This boat weighs a ton (not literally, but I bet it goes about #120), and I would eliminate x-tra stuff in the restoration to save weight, Also, are outside stem bands finished bright or painted on the early OTs???

Thanks Again!!! Todd
Hi Todd--

The original Molitors, from what I understand, weren't a "model" in the sense that the otca and HW and Charles River were standard Old Town models, but were a special-order canoe made for CW Molitor of Detroit. He used them in his livery and wanted them to have the fancy courting canoe style and all the extra protection a canoe would need if it was to be rented to groups of goofy young adults... bilge keels and rub rails and stem bands, etc. Maybe the original owner of your canoe rented a Molitor on Belle Isle and wanted one "just like that"... so, it may have come from Old Town looking just like one going to the canoe livery... because Mr. Molitor's canoes were built that way. Our Belle Isle Morris has only one keel, so we know that feature varied-- at least on the Morris-built Molitors.

What I say here is just a guess and maybe someone else knows better. Would be interesting to know how many Old Molitors were made other than for CW Molitor.

And I think anyone here would tell you that it's up to you how you want to restore your canoe. It doesn't have to be orange, either.

Pictures of the restoration process are always appreciated!

I'm interested in knowing if the keel on your canoe is attached to every rib, as they are on a Morris... and if the stem is like an Old Town's or is splayed as on a Morris. Thanks.

Just a bit of additional information. First- Kathy hadn't had her tea yet when she replied. That is C. J. Molitor, not C.W. . The use of bilge keels may have been because these boats [the Belle Isle ones] were pulled up on docks at the end of the day or use period -thus more protection for the hull. Our keel was Mahogany, but it only had one. There is another here in th U.P. that has bilge keels and they are also Mahogany.
This exchange points up nicely the reason that Kathy and I are triying to gather information and photos of as many Morrises as possible. The more data collected the more knowledge we gain about a company that has [to the best of our knowledge] no records remaining. We hope to get lots of co-operation from all Morris and Morris type owners.
Peace, Denis
Thanks again Kathy and thanks Denis, I made my deal on the Molitor this morning and should have it back in the shop this afternoon, will take some pics and share with you all, I can tell you Kathy, that the keels are attached on every other rib like an OT, and it does not have splayed stems, if anyone has a resource for the what orange looked like that would be appreciated, I love orange!!!
In Sue Audette's book on the history of Old Town Canoes [available at the WCHA Store] there are plates showing the designs for Old town Canoes. Numbers 6, 11,31 and 39 all show an orange canoe. Number 37 may also be orange but is a brighter tint. There is also a poster available through the WCHA store that shows the designs mentioned. Perhaps Benson or someone else may be able to send you photo copies of the paint chips Old town used.
Peace, Denis
the other detail i failed to mention, this boat has a #27 stamped into the front deck, not sure that corrolates with other livery boats you've seen, on Tuesday, I am going to be at the Worcester Historical Society doing research on a project, I will see if this Mr. Winchester ran a livery on Lake Quinsigamond, may find out he is somehow connected to H.E. Crandell
Triple keels (or bilge keels) and rub rails with stem bands on them were not a "standard" feature on the Molitor model to my knowledge. Almost everything extra was mentioned on the build records so the lack of any special comments on the bottom of yours would indicate that these were probably added later.

Outside stems like yours were varnished with bright stem bands along the curved part and painted on the flat part including the keel in my experience. The only paint chips from Old Town that I have seen are from the 1960s so they may not be much help. Many of the colors were based on college colors so yours could have been the Princeton orange. This is the Pantone Matching System (PMS) number 158 according to their web site at http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pubs-team.html if you want more details. Paint archeology can be fun but it is not an exact science. Look for areas where the original paint might have been hidden out of the sun light under the rails, keel, bang plate, etc. My general advice in these situations is to pick a color that you like because no one is ever likely to be able to prove that it is not the original shade.

Most of the Molitor models shipped to dealers other than C. J. Molitor in places other than Michigan. The oldest known Molitor models did ship to his shop in Belle Isle with pocketed ribs, splayed stems, and all of the other usual Morris features along with an Old Town series serial number as shown in the first two build records attached below.

Please keep us posted on the rest of your restoration. I once owned a Molitor that shipped to Boston as shown in the last build record below so I may be able to help if you have other questions. It did not have bilge keels or a rub rail with stem bands on it.



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Do we know how people knew the Molitor model was available from Old Town, since it wasn't in the catalog? Was it suggested by dealers, or did it appear on a flyer?
I do not "know how people knew the Molitor model was available" since it does not appear to have been mentioned in any catalog, flier, or other printed information that I have ever seen prior to 1965. It appeared on the cover of the 1965 catalog as shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/covers/large-65.gif but was not described in the text until the next year. It is also probably worth mentioning here that the new Molitor models which were introduced in the 1960s are similar but substantially different from the old Molitor models that were made in the 1920s. Old Town actually had several other undocumented models over the years including the XX, MC, Sail Sled, wooden Ojibway, Weldwood, and others.

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Just got the molitor home, here's a pic, found the orange paint under what appears to be a "re-filling" job, prior to painting with the brown paint!!!


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Thanks for sharing this picture. It's interesting to compare the Old Town Molitor with our Morris that was probably one of CJ Molitor's boats. The rub rail on our canoe follows the contour of the gunwale... and ours has closed gunwales. Does it seem that your canoe had a removable center thwart? The Morris canoes did-- and the thwart is often missing, having been set aside and lost along the way.

Most Old Towns from this period have wing nuts on the center thwart for easy conversion to a courting canoe. A few pictures of my Molitor are attached below for comparison.



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