Robertson canoes


Can someone direct me to the history of the J. Robertson canoe company? I just acquired a 16’ Robertson, closed gunwale, short deck canoe. Robertson is stamped into a thwart and there is a 4 digit serial number stamped into the stem.
Thank you,
Jody Bronson
Hi Jody:

J.R. Robertson built canoes and had a livery on the Charles River in Auburndale, MA. If you search on "Robertson" on this Forum you will find at least 10 pages of information. Let us know if you have specific questions. We love pictures too, if you have some to share.


A comprehensive history of the J. R. Robertson canoe company has not been published yet but I wish that someone would. The catalog collection at contains six Robertson catalogs and fliers from 1895 to 1938. There are no known serial number records available for Robertson canoes although the stamp fonts changed significantly over the years. The messages at have some ideas about the serial numbering changes in his canoes. A Robertson canoe shown at has something like 1758 17 stamped on the stem. Dan Miller and Dick Persson have done quite a bit of excellent research on Robertson but it hasn't all been published yet. There are a variety of Robertson connections to Old Town, Rushton, Partelow, Waltham, Crandell, the Peterborough area companies, and others so you can find things about him in the information related to those builders. His obituary from July 18th, 1935 is attached below. I agree with Fitz, ask some questions and post a few pictures.


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191DCC0F-69FF-4BEF-B6B0-50A4DDC77EEB.jpeg Gentlemen,
Thank you for the replies regarding the Robertson. I will post some photos of the canoe within the next few days. I’m a forester for a nonprofit forest in CT, I have restored several canoes to help benefit some of the programs, perhaps this Robertson will be sold “as is” to more of a Charles river builder enthusiast to support our forestry intern program, however I’m still interested in its history.

391CF6E7-E7A4-4ED3-B2B0-88EA63BB0F15.jpeg 9D440017-AF09-42DF-9D29-0EF1E0F3DBE0.jpeg 7920CAC4-1CE8-4308-845B-1F905B4B8C37.jpeg 780DEF09-A1A5-4949-9976-8A707C8E6B00.jpeg EF9540FE-3E8B-4F45-B426-3E2BF85E812B.jpeg 391CF6E7-E7A4-4ED3-B2B0-88EA63BB0F15.jpeg 9D440017-AF09-42DF-9D29-0EF1E0F3DBE0.jpeg 7920CAC4-1CE8-4308-845B-1F905B4B8C37.jpeg 780DEF09-A1A5-4949-9976-8A707C8E6B00.jpeg EF9540FE-3E8B-4F45-B426-3E2BF85E812B.jpeg Here are some photos of the Robertson, the decks aren’t consistent with other photos I’ve seen.
The Norumbega Chapter of the WCHA restored a very similar Robertson in 2014-15 and auctioned it off at the Assembly. The serial number sequence was different and contained the numbers "35" which some folks attributed to the build year. The solid seats are also suggested by some to represent a later Robertson - 1930-ish. But there are a great number of theories out there.

Perhaps your gunwale caps are replacements. Normally they are held on with escutcheon pins rather than screws.

There are some photos of that project canoe here:
I agree with Fitz, those gunwale caps don't pass the smell test - they are awful wide. Usually on a closed gunwale canoe the outwale is not thick enough to drive a screw into, This looks more like an open gunwale canoe that for unknown reasons someone has added the caps.
Do you have a newspaper reference for John Robertson's obit.?

The page at confirms that it came from the Boston Globe.

The image of the obituary for George Richardson below was saved to my hard disk on the same day. I kept better notes about this being from the Boston Globe on September 27th, 1915. George was also one of the original founders of the Old Town Canoe Company although this was not mentioned in his obituary.


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I just noticed you found it on - I should have seen that before. I did a quick search and it is from "The Boston Globe," July 18, 1935, page 17.
Perhaps some photos of my 6' J R Robertson 'display sample' will assist in the discussion here. This piece is the only (so far) known example of a J R Robertson sample canoe. It is believed to have been made in 1910 (it came accompanied by a catalogue of that year), and contains the serial # 1038 6 (with the first two digits, "10", believed to represent its year of manufacture, and the last digit, "6", its length. It has "W" deck cutouts, gunnel caps and wide seats, one of which bears a wavy makers brand. It is also accompanied by 4 sample paddles. As for Robertson's historical involvement in canoe-making, it would seem from his obituary notice (provided by Benson, above), that he began making boats and canoes in Lawrence, MA, in the late 1870's. He was known to be friendly with the Stephensons, of Peterborough, ON, and was instrumental in luring away George Stephenson, son of old John S, from his employment at Ontario Canoe Co. in 1885. Robertson grew up in Canton, NY, and knew J H Rushton, to whom he allegedly later introduced George Stephenson after George left OCC. Robertson also introduced George to H V Partelow, of Auburndale, MA, where George was employed for a couple of years, and also likely worked for Robertson., who took over Partelow's works. The photos would suggest that "W" decks, wide seats, substantial gunnel caps nailed in place, were features used by Robertson at least as early 1910.


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