On dating Morris catalogs

Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
This is the second of two threads I am starting based on research I have done, with the interest of helping to solidify our knowledge base of Morris history, and dispel some of the myths that seem to be living a life of their own... This thread has to do with dating the series of undated catalogs, including the one reprinted by the WCHA many years ago. The other thread relates to identifying when Morris began building canoes, and can be found here: http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.p...orris-Begin-Building-Canoes&p=44269#post44269

A number of catalogs issued by B.N. Morris were dated; these include 1893, 1901, 1911, 1916, 1917, and 1919. In addition, a series of four different catalogs, with the same cover, but differing in colors (see attached), were also published. None of these were dated. One of them has been reprinted by the WCHA, and in doing so, the date of circa 1908 was attributed to it. Following this, similar dates were assigned by myself for these catalogs on the Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Catalog Collection CD-ROM. This date was based on a reference in the catalog to Morris claiming he first advertised in 1887 in Field and Stream. However, Field and Stream was not in publication until 1895 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_&_Stream). Morris may have actually been referring to Forest and Stream, which was in publication at that time, however, no Morris ads have been discovered in that publication in that time frame yet.

Also in these catalogs is a reference to being in business 21 years. As it seems likely that Morris started in the business 1891-1982 (see the other thread, linked above), this would put the earliest date of these catalogs at 1911-1912.

Comparison of prices of canoes in these undated catalogs with those of other companies, including Old Town, Rushton and Thompson, demonstrates that prices were pretty much held constant from 1902 to 1914, and that in fact, Morris and Old Town canoes were priced the same for equivalent lengths and trim packages.

Therefore, I propose that these catalogs should be dated as follows:

Red on Red cover: this is the earliest, based on the quality of the images, and slightly lower prices for some accessories, including sails and leeboards. This catalog is also the only one to mention motor canoes. Motor canoes, with inboard engines, were popular before 1910 until the outboard motor was developed, supporting the theory that this is the earliest catalog in this sequence. Furthermore, one Morris Motor Boats catalog dated 1910 is extant. Circa 1911-1912

Brown on Tan cover: This I believe is next. It comes in two versions, that are identical apart from some text layout due to having been produced by two different printers. Circa 1913-1914

Green on Yellow Cover: This I believe is the most recent. In many ways the presentation of text and photos is closer to the 1916 catalog than any of the others. Circa 1915.

I welcome any comments, corrections or other suggestions on this.



  • Catalog Cover Brown.jpg
    Catalog Cover Brown.jpg
    24.2 KB · Views: 214
Last edited:
Here are the images of the front and back cover of a Morris 1893 catalog.


  • Copy of 1893-back cover.jpg
    Copy of 1893-back cover.jpg
    277.5 KB · Views: 235
  • Copy of 1893 front cover.jpg
    Copy of 1893 front cover.jpg
    342 KB · Views: 243