Some interesting Old Town info

Roger Young

display sample collector
The following was also posted by me in the 'models' section, but as it fits into 'research and history' I decided to copy it here, as well. Hope it's of interest.

Here's a quick up-date, albeit still incomplete, on the numbers of Old Town 'display' models produced (for those who care about such things) in comparison to other manufacturers of the day. Those following the discussion above will know that Kennebec appears to have produced some 60 'miniature' or 'small' canoes between 1916 and 1926. It is speculated that Carleton may have made about 30 (but that is 'guesswork' on our part).

I have just completed a visual 'crawl' through the individual Old Town build records between serial #'s 30,000 and 90,000, covering the period roughly from January 1914 to the end of 1925. (I'm still working on the balance). So far, I have come across about 80 small canoes, described as either 'display' or 'sign' canoes. About half of these are of the 4' dimension; the balance vary (and I found this surprising) from 8', to 10' and even 12'. Until now, I did not know that Old Town made a 10' 'display' model, or that it shipped some of it's 12' canoes described as 'display' items. There are several of each, so it seems more than mere coincidence.

When finished, I hope to have a spread sheet with comprehensive details. My system is based upon a rapid visual scan, clicking through the files one at a time, but sometimes viewing as many as two, three or four files a second. Eyes do grow weary at times, and the mind gets numb (often my situation anyway), so I may have missed some. There could be a few more.

Interesting tid-bits jump out when doing a search like this. For instance, I found 4 kayaks, built between 1924 and 1925: three 10 footers (ser. #'s 82096, 87669 and 87666) along with a 12', # 85104. I found a 16' torpedo, #61768. There could be others; these just jumped off the pages. I found several Carleton model canoes built with Old Town serial #'s. And, for those keen on knowing more about dinghy production, I found roughly 450 9' dinghies built in this period, along with 375, or so, 11-1/2' dinghies. There were also about a dozen 10' dinghies, and a handful of 7-1/2' and 8' styles.

As these roughly 60,000 records flashed by, I could not help but form some impressions from the repetitive words being seen. I was surprised at the number of 25' and 34' War canoes, along with the seemingly quite common 'square stern' models. More, perhaps, than I would have expected when starting out. What were the most common styles of canoe seen? I'd have to say "HW", "CR", "Ideal", "Otca", with some "Guide", "Livery", "50#" and "Special" trailing them, and a sprinkling of "Yankee" and others. But, that's only an overall impression; I did not keep track of the numbers; it was all I could do to get what I did.

More to follow.

Anyone wishing to add comments or thoughts to this 'project' is most welcome to join in.
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war canoes

Hello Roger, I love that kind of research. So how many of those 25 to 34 ft war canoes would you estimate? Have to say, they are fascinating if not just beautiful.
Very difficult at this point to give you much more than a guess based on my fading recollection.

As you will see from the above, I was basically going through cd's of the OT build cards looking for references to 'display' models, and tracking those in order to build a data base. That detailed info is noted in the Forum chat on "models". On the way through, I couldn't help noticing some other features, this being my first exposure in any depth to OT history. I kept count, for a while, of dinghies, and was pleasantly surprised at the number actually turned out. Other items 'jumped' off the page. My impression was that the number of war canoes was fairly substantial. If I had to guess, I would say likely a few hundred were made, counting both lengths, 25' and 34'. OT would often build 4, 6, maybe 10 in quick succession; then several more some months later. They were a fairly standard item at large canoe clubs and summer camps, from what I noted.

Benson may have more factual info to pass along. My thoughts are really more 'impressionistic', based on flipping through the cards, except where I paused to make exact counts or record serial #'s. Eventually, as more of us pour over the cd's, it is likely that more thorough data bases for different styles will be created, and maybe one day, there will be a fairly accurate, ready-made answer for such questions. There's a bit of 'eye-strain' involved to get to that stage, though.

Before getting to that detail, I just thought I'd make note of some of my own personal reactions and impressions in a general way. That led to my comments, above.

Hope that helps.

Hi Roger,

Speaking of dinghies, do you remember what the count was on 14' sailing dinghies? I seem to remember it being pretty low, but if you have a number......



If you go back a few pages (p. 4 presently), you will find a thread started by Bill Therkauf asking for info on a 1937 14' OT sailing dinghy. I had some info on hand at the time which I passed along - it contained some numbers on 14' 'metal' sailing dinghies and 11-1/2' dinghies. I have a vague recollection that the question came up again, and that Benson mentioned someone else was gathering the relevant numbers to build an overall dinghy data base. That will be quite an extensive bit of work when finished.

That's the best I can recall at the moment.

A sample database of the Old Town records has been created as described at and used to estimate the total production of the more popular canoes as described at but this technique doesn't work very well for the less common models like 34 foot long war canoes and 14 foot long sailing dinghies. The database has three of the big war canoes as shown in the build records attached below. The one with number 4034 is particularly interesting since the back side has some detailed notes about who worked on it and for how long. Some of their best builders like Alfred Wickett and Joe Ranco spent a long time on this one. These notes also probably indicate that this may have been the first ones they made. I would guess that a few hundred were built as Roger suggested previously. The original form is probably still around but I have never seen an actual canoe this size so I don't know if any still exist.

The database has 7 of the 14 foot long dinghies but none of them included sailing equipment. Doug Scott has a copy of the build record CDs and planned to create a full inventory of the Old Town dinghies this winter. He should be able to give you an exact total soon.



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So Benson,

If you have about 6% of the OT build into a database,
how much work/time would it take say 100 members, to get the remaining 94% in?

And maybe more important, who would be tasked with maintaining the database?

Well, it takes me about a minute and a half to type in a single build record. There are about 195,239 Old Town records to be entered so this works out to over 4880 hours. One person working five days a week for eight hours a day would finish in about two and a half years. One hundred people would need about a week and a half. There would probably not be much database maintenance once it was finished. Anyone is welcome to start practicing with the records posted here in the forums if you want to get started or let me know if you have other questions. Thanks,