The evolution of the Old Town wood and canvas canoe models

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
Many years ago Dan Miller noticed that the 16 foot long Otca had a significant increase in width between the 1956 and 1957 catalogs. This eventually led to the confirmation that the wider Yankee form had replaced the narrower Otca form at that time. I decided to take a look at the changes in width and model names for all of Old Town's wood and canvas canoes as described in the catalogs from 1901 to 1979 to see if there were any other obvious changes or connections. The results are shown in the table attached below.

The shapes of wood canoes are known to vary (especially over time) and the dimensions in a catalog tend to only be a very rough approximation of the actual canoes at best. Still it is interesting to see how frequently these numbers were changed.

I have also indulged in some speculation about how some of the forms for a few of the early models may have been used to create later models. There were 15 and 16 foot versions of the IF (Indian Fishing) along with a 17 foot FB (Flat Bottom) and an 18 foot GG (Good General) models that only appeared in the 1901 catalog. The Robertson model was introduced in 1902 and offered in these lengths so it seems likely that they would have used to old forms for these new models although some modifications may have been made. The Robertson model was renamed to the Charles River model in 1903. It also seems likely that the old 16 foot long HW form was used to create the new Guide's Special model in 1954.

It is also interesting to see how the war canoes expanded and contracted over time. It must have been quite a binge and diet program.



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Interesting indeed... I suppose we can only speculate on why this occurred. Did they make new forms periodically? Did someone forget the dimension, and made something up that sounded close? The possibilities are endless...