Old Town, S/N 16800


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Family legend refers to this Canoe as a H/S Graduation present to my Grandmother. It's red (hard to tell which Red it was - although the condition is vg) Old Town, 17', with sail/leeboards, floorboards, seatback and original oars. I'm not certain what model it was...

Can anyone assist with original shipping description, etc?

Thank you very much, this site has been very helpful.

Serial number 16800

The Old Town serial number 16800 belongs to a 16-foot OTCA canoe built in January, 1911. It was CS (common sense, middle) grade, with spruce open gunwales, maple decks, and ash thwarts. It came with a keel. And that red may be original, since the build record says it was painted Tuscan Red. It was shipped in June 1911 to Milwaukee, Wis.

Congratulations on looking into your grandmother's canoe. It's almost 100 years old.

The scan of this record is attached below-- click on it to get a larger image. This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details. I hope that you and anyone else reading this will join or renew membership in the WCHA 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.php to renew.

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.

Norm Sims


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Ric-- Please double-check that serial number and compare with details in the record Norm posted. If your canoe has a "17" after the serial number, this would not be the correct record... this is the record for a 16 foot canoe. A detail that should stand out is the closed gunwales... does your canoe have open or closed gunwales?

There's no mention of a sail rig on this build record, but that doesn't mean one couldn't have been added later. The usual canoe to be fitted for sailing is the HW model-- although I've seen Otcas and Charles Rivers with sail rigs... but not as commonly.

Other factors to consider is whether your grandmother graduated from High School in 1911 and if she lived in Milwaukee. We like connecting the canoe to the correct record-- just want to be sure about it!

S.n. 16800


I have copied the Carleton build record for serial number 16800, just in case. As Kathy said, if your grandmother's boat is 17 feet long, that Old Town number may be incorrect. i just went through this with a canoe I bought that I thought was an Old Town but turned out to be a Carleton. Carleton was purchased by Old Town and made in the same factory with similar parts but different designs.

The record I've attached for Carleton number 16800 indicates a 17-foot Indian Princess in bright red that was shipped to Rochester, N.Y., in June 1922. Does this come closer to fitting your grandmother's boat? There is also some writing on this build record that I cannot read relating to floor rack and outside stems, but that probably means they were present on the boat, if it was a Carleton.

Norm, Kathy - Thank you.
Looks like you guys nailed it. My assumption of her Canoe being an Old Town must be a mistake. She indeed lived in Rochester, NY (which is where the Canoe is today), and she graduated High School in 1922 - and the complete serial # is 16800...17. And, if my Grandmother was anything like my daughter, the "Indian Princess" model would be just about perfect for a young girl.

There is indeed a full floor rack - unsure about the other stem elements you refer to (the build record did not come through in your last post.. could you resend?)

Thank you both very much - this is very exciting to be able to really understand this family heirloom's lineage.
Indian Princess


I'll try to re-attach the Carleton build record. I just bought one of these canoes myself. The WCHA has a catalog of Carletons, which had a very graceful hull design that descended from the birch bark canoes. A very special canoe.

Let me know if the attachment doesn't come through.



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Carleton Indian Princess


If by chance you have any digital photos of the canoe, I'd love to see them.

Once again, brilliant job guys -

The build record came through perfectly, with the exception of the Keel, OS Stems and FLoor rack notations...IDK if your records come through cleaner, or if the original scan wasn't able to pick up the writing. It also doesn't refer to the sail - but seeing that it was delivered to a local dealer, perhaps this was a dealer addition?

I need to take some photos the next time I am at the lake (prbly Labor day) and I will immediately post and copy each of you. Kathy, I know that there is a stripe at the cove, but the greek design may have faded, or was not noticeable when I lowered the boat down from the garage rafters (where it has been since 1966). It really helps to now know what I am looking for. I will get a good close up of the bow when I get the boat out again, and examine closely for any additional decoration.

Original sail is in good condition, and I've found one of the leeboards, but haven't located the rudder assembly or connecting rod for the other leeboard....looks like its time to get to work. You've got me excited to continue this hunt.

Thanks again,

BTW - one additional question...On the build side of the scanned record, it refers to the boat being "Railed" on May 18, 1922, and then there is a handwritten note - "Stone". Does that refer to a process, a build style, a color, or what?
Indian Princess

I can't read those notations on the build record, either. Kathy, who has more experience with these things, can sometimes decipher.

Usually on a record next to "keel" or whatever, it would list either the date it was added to the canoe, or the worker who put it there. On this record, the keel item seems to start with an M as in May, and the Floor Rack item seems to end in a 2 as in 1922. Both might have been done with the same rubber stamp you see on the right side of the build record. Any notation in that space would indicate that the canoe was shipped with a keel or floor rack or whatever. I don't see any space for a notation about sailing equipment. If it shipped with that, it may have been a separate order.

In the build record database, the immediately adjacent items are both different canoes, so I can't find any records referring to a sail. If you need to replace the sail, you might check the WCHA forums and suppliers for folks who make them.

"The build record came through perfectly, with the exception of the Keel, OS Stems and FLoor rack notations...IDK if your records come through cleaner, or if the original scan wasn't able to pick up the writing."

The notations after Keel, OSS and floor rack are simply the dates they were installed, and if there wasn't enough ink on the stamp, it probably wasn't clear on the original record either.

"It also doesn't refer to the sail - but seeing that it was delivered to a local dealer, perhaps this was a dealer addition?"

Yup-- this is my guess too--- often the accessories were added at the dealership.

"Stone" is the name of the fellow who railed the canoe.

Glad you're excited about your wonderful canoe!

source for information about sailing gear

The best single source for information about the rigs for sailing canoes is Todd Bradshaw’s book -- Canoe Rig: The Essence and the Art: Sailpower for Antique and Traditional Canoes.

Todd is a frequent contributor to the forums, and his book, in addition to having a wealth of information, is a work of art itself.

There is also, of course, quite a bit of information on these forums.
Finally got some photos

Ok, so it took longer than I thought to get back to NY state. Thank you again to all who aided with the research. Here are a quick series of photos. We obviously didn't clean up the hull before taking them, but on the whole it looks pretty good. As far as I know, the seats/hull are original - but I can only speak for the last 50 years - Other more experienced eyes may pick up repairs or a recanvas job that i wouldn't recognize. Cane seats look original, and the floorboards, seatback, paddles and sail are as I have known them since 1960. There are small cracks in the bowdeck that look easily repairable - no other hull cracks in ribs or stringers were noticed in our very hasty review. Kathy - the only inconsistency in your research is the lack of the bow decoration. THere doesn't appear to be any previous paint on the hull other than the white line that is there now - but again, this could be the sign of an early recanvas job.


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That's a beautiful boat. I especially love the 36-inch decks.

Kathy and others would know better about this, but I doubt that the canvas and cane are original. Both wear out quickly and are replaceable. Plus, the original paint job had a black stripe with gold trim. It's possible that someone simply painted over it. Or the canvas was probably replaced. With a little repair, you could bring this back to original condition. It's a gem.

You might check with Todd Bradshaw about getting sails for it.

Canoe canvas typically lasts about twenty to thirty years in normal use so it is highly likely that yours has been replaced at least once as Norman mentioned. I recently got some of the Carleton financial records and thought that the attached section might interest you. It shows that your Carleton with number 16800 had a list price of $91. The total order was discounted 25% so the dealer paid $68.25. You could make this all into a very interesting article for the Wooden Canoe Journal once the restoration is finished. Have fun,



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Since it looks like a piece of the planking was replaced, it is likely that the canvas was replaced at the time that repair was done. Also, I believe that outside stems were usually finished bright rather than painted, and there is red paint on the stem band, indicating that the canoe has at least been repainted.
What a wonderful graduation present your grandmother received--- a gift for generations of her family to enjoy!

As beautiful as this boat looks now, it certainly will be a knock-out. I can picture it with paint removed from the outside stems so that your eye travels from bow deck, around the stem and up the other side to the stern deck.

Can you determine if there was once another thwart in the center? Sometimes canoes of this length have a middle thwart attached with wing-nuts that goes missing because it was designed to be removed. (I'm not totally convinced that one needs to replicate missing middle thwarts, if the canoe spent most of its life without that one...).

I've attached the page describing the Indian Princess in the 1922 Carleton Catelog (courtesy 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.). As you can see, the long decks were an even fancier option on this already-upgraded canoe. Note what they say about the middle thwart. I'm wondering if the longer decks re-arranged the interior in such a way that they left it out, or if it was originally there and was set aside in a boathouse in 1923...

Your paddles appear to be very cool too.



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In the photo with the floor rack I can see at least four sections of planking that are lighter in color than the rest. This would indicate a repair and re-canvas job was done in the past.
Amazing comments

Again, tremendous insights, and great analysis of the repair history that I would not have picked up on. Once pointed out, it all looks a bit obvious, but I guess that's the difference between knowledgeable sources and inexperienced stewards of these boats. While I have only seen this canoe on the water once in the past 50 years, it looks like it had quite an active history prior to my arriving on the scene.

Norm, Greg, Denis - thanks for pointing out the repairs and identifying other areas to look in. I will try to get back to NY in the next month, and, with your points, will look for additional areas that seem to be "second generation" parts. I thought the caning was impressive that it was still together, and it certainly looks very attractive, but I don't think i would trust it to hold weight, as it predates me, and I'm now old.

Benson - The sales record is incredible. Thank you. I need to check to see if Rochester Sporting goods is still in business, as i can now inquire about the "lifetime warranty" ;-). Thinking about inflation, etc, it sounds like this was quite an expensive graduation present - although one that my grandmother obviously used quite a bit, if the repairs are any indication. Sorry to see the loss of the decorative paint on the hull (any chance that it was left under the second canvassing?), but these boats were not meant to stay on shore and viewed as art objects, and the repairs to the hull look significant enough to imply it was a needed fix.

Kathy - the catalog description is amazing - kind of surprised that it did not mention the extended decks, but as you pointed out, they may have been covered in other sections of the catalog. There are two drilled holes on each gunwale right about where the thwart would go, and I dimly remember seeing something that could have been a thwart in the garage. i assumed that those holes were the attachment points for the leeboards (and still may have been) which could explain the removal its removal.

Now it's time to to get her back in shape. My own skills would not do this justice. How do I best identify who we can work with to bring her back into shape, without ruining the character and strength of the original design and keeping some form of the patina?