Rushton canoe?

pat chapman

Willits biographer
I looked at a canoe yesterday for someone wanting to sell, and think I stumbled on a Rushton. Unfortunately, the interior is painted and there are no decals or nameplates anywhere. Very faintly stamped on the bow stem appears to be "JH Rushton, Canton NY". Originally this looks like it was covered by a round metal tag, which is long gone. We couldn't find a serial number anywhere, but the paint is pretty thick. This is an odd canoe - closed gunwales, but without evidence of a railcap. The shear plank is very wide, at least double the width of the other planks. The bow seat is mounted on stringers screwed to the ribs and the stern seat is bolted directly to the inwales w/o dowel extenders. Both seats are roughly built w/o much relief of the edges. The only thwart is the rear quarter thwart, and there is no evidence others were ever present. Sorry, neither of us had a tape measure to get dimensions, but it appears to be about 16'.

Any opinions on whether this is a Rushton, and if so, what model and vintage? Is the end of the stem where I should tell the owner to look for the serial number?


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Hi Pat,

I could very well be. The very wide sheer plank is a distinctive Rushton characteristic. I think the closed-gunwales are appropriate as well, but sometimes you see the edge of the sheer plank between the rails. The bow seat on cleats is also typical.

The decks look wrong though, they should be heart-shaped, and the stern seat should be trapezoidal in shape. It's possible these are replacements, or it was built differently than typical for some reason.

If there is a serial number, it would be on one of the stems in the usual place. You can't tell anything from them though. Also look for a Rushton stamp on top of the thwart in the center.

Hi Pat,

It does look like a Rushton Grade A canoe. Rushton's all-wood canoes had inwales "pocketed" to take the ends of the ribs. The outwales were put on so that from the top you see inwale, shear plank, outwale. In Grade A wood-canvas canoes, however, the inwale is both pocketed for the ribs and rabbeted to cover the top edge of the planking. Thus, from the top, you see only inwale and outwale tightly apposed to each other. Old Town did something similar and called it "double gunwale" construction.

The square-edge seat frames seem reasonable, as is mounting on cleats. The single thwart was a stated feature of Grade A wood-canvas canoes (unfortunately- look how the canoe has relaxed ahead of the thwart). The decks are odd, so may have been replaced, but Rushton offered at least 3 deck syles on wood-canvas canoes. This could well be original. Stripping could prove useful- trim should be cherry. Finally, the floor rack is a bit odd. Rushton catalogs show 6 longitudinal members, not 5. So it looks like a Rushton with only a couple of unusual features that could easily be original.

Seems unusual that a Grade A canoe would not be tagged. There were several styles of Ruhton tag, so stripping the decks may reveal nail holes that tell which style tag was there. You may also find the Rushton name stamped in a variety of places including stem bands.

Thanks Dan and Michael. I'll pass the word on to the owner of this canoe. She'll be pleased to know what she has.