Thompson Canoe ?? Newbie Member


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hello Fellow Canoeists---We are new to the forum. We have an old (1920's?) canoe, wood and painted canvas over wood ribs. Brass end protectors, keel, rides smooth even in rivers with light rapids. 17 feet long, 2 cane seats, one good condition, one toast. We still use this canoe but it is getting pretty worn out. We have always thought it was an Old Town but someone recently told us it is more likely a Thompson. We can not find any markings. We would like to find out more about the canoe, including value as we may decide to sell it or not depending on how sentimental we feel at the moment, perhaps we should try to restore it. We live in Beaverton Oregon. Any help most appreciated. We are going to try an attach a couple of photos if we can. thanks Gerry and Jory


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Canoe ID

That's the link to a website you may find helpful in identifying your canoe. Scroll down on the left to Old Town and Thompson and see if any of your questions are answered... or at least begin to be answered... then come back here with more questions or conclusions to discuss.

Many of the old canoe companies had no identification other than a decal on the deck, which disappeared over the years. But yours may have a serial number under layers of varnish and dirt. We are able to connect a serial number to the original build record for three of the old canoe companies... the dragonfly canoe id site will explain this, and where/how to check for numbers.

I can't see the deck on your canoe too clearly, but it could be a Thompson... however, some of the other canoe companies had decks similar to Thompson's. Shell Lake and Peterson Brothers made canoes very much like a Thompson.

Your canoe has very nice lines... could be a Thompson "Hiawatha". It appears to have outside stems... that's the steam-bent strip of wood (usually oak) on the outside edge of the bow and stern... it protects the boat when someone paddles with too much enthusiasm into the dock, and it gives an extra touch of class and beauty (in my opinion) because it adds to the pronounced recurve of the stems... and it's usually finished in the natural wood, in contrast to the canvas color.

I'll share a bit of "canoe trivia". Your canoe's shape is reminiscent of the Ojibwe ricing canoe, which had stems with a similar degree of recurve. I'll attach a picture. During the first couple decades of the 20th Century, the canoe went from being a vehicle for hunting and fishing to a vehicle of courting and wooing. The design of the ricing canoe worked well for the courting-style of wood-canvas canoe: its shape permitted the elimination of the center thwart-- rice-harvesters could collect the grain on a blanket in the center of the boat, and scoop it up in a bundle without having to work around that wood brace... and in the case of the courting canoe, a lady or two could recline on pillows in the open, center area.

Anyway-- you have a nice canoe-- I hope it becomes one of your family heirlooms!



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It's a Thompson.

I just went to correct my post and lost it all.

The decks and twarts and seat spacer are all thompson and yes it's a Hiawatha.

You can see Dave Osborn's at his site through the builders sections on this site, Little Lakes Canoe Restoration, WI.

Wow! Thanks!!

Speedy reply from some knowledgeable folks. we will visit the two sites you recommend. We think the canoe is very old, it has been in the family a long long time, we think since new but we did not get it until about 30 years ago. the relative who sold it to us then is now gone so we can not ask her any questions. it was our main canoe for many years but she is getting a wee bit tattered and needs restoration or a new home but NOT to end up hanging on someones cabin wall, this canoe loves to be in the water. nice that she is a Hiawatha, nice name for the old girl. thanks again, and will check in later. gerry and jory
Yes, it is a Thompson, but it is not a Hiawatha model. By definition, the Hiawatha has half ribs. Without them, it is an Indian model.
Good Observation!

Yes, certainly an Indian model. It is not confirmed, but highly suspected that the Indian Model and the Hiawatha model were made with the same mold. There is a thread somewhere on this forum that talks about it. I believe that most of the canoes were built in the Peshtigo, Wisconsin factory, but I once owned an Indian with a decal from the Cortland, NY factory.

Good luck, Gerry.
Need help, contact me.
Dave Osborn
I'm also going with the Indian, though it could be one of the odd models, like Dan said, the H came with the half ribs.

As for whether the I and H used the same form, I don't believe so.

The H is sold as a flat bottom, stable design, where the I is sold as a fine paddling, seaworthy design. And the canoes/pics of the two I've seen tend to support this, with the H being a flat bottom and the I more of a arched bottom. With this said, I have 2 T's that don't have half ribs but are also a bit flatter then another I I have, though they are not flat like the H's.

If old canoes could talk..........

Embarassing Questions

We went to Dragonfly Canoe and looked at the woods on the list for Hiawatha's and we know we have the following woods on the canoe: oak and mahogony, not sure about the spruce and maple but maybe...but we are not sure what each of the parts of a canoe are called. Now you see how novice we really are...what are thwarts and gunwales? And what do you call the part that is up at the bow of the canoe that is flat and ties the two sides together? Gerry
Thanks--new question

OK--Now we know the names of the parts, where do we get new brass bang plates? Is there a canoe place that we can order them? do we need to know year and/or model of Thompson (we are still stuck on that one). we still think we are in the 20's, but not sure yet if Indian or Hiawatha. what is the difference between flat bottom and curved that would help us distinguish which we have? thanks again. gerry and jory
You can get stem bands (bang plates), as well as other materials, from one of several suppliers in the WCHA Builders Guide (

The difference between the Indian and the Hiawatha is the absence or presence, respectively, of half ribs (compare the two images attached below).

The two models were quite possibly built on the same molds, the addition of un-steamed half ribs would be sufficient to flatten out the bottom of the canoe enough to see the difference in hull shape.


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thanks again

thanks, we will order some today. we definitely do not have half ribs so i guess that means we have an Indian rather than a Hiawatha. my wife will be disappointed, she was already calling the canoe Hiawatha. gerry
Hi again-- You can name your canoe Hiawatha if you want to... it's a good name for an "Indian" :).

Kathy (who lives near the shores of Gitche Gumee)
Thanks Kathryn

Good idea. Do you really live by the shining big sea waters? We have virtually no lakes in Oregon....mostly rivers. Gerry
Welcome aboard,

I can't assist with the canoe ID. Brochures for Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. are available for sale on a CD-ROM at and

The sixth THOMPSON ANTIQUE & CLASSIC BOAT RALLY takes place 8-10 August 2008 at Nestegg Marine in Marinette, WI. It is a fun event. NO judging and NO awards. Tons of time for sharing, networking, learning, beer, going for boat rides.....

One day I would love to get a Thompson canoe to add to my collection of nine or ten Thompson row and speed boats! I am heading off to Illinois on Friday to pick up another one!

Andreas Jordahl Rhude
Founder & President
Thompson Antique & Classic Boat Rally, Inc.
a non-profit corporation
Thanks for the Help

We found the brass bang plates and thru WCHA members and your Builder's site have hooked up with local Oregon canoe builder of canoes using old Thompson mold. We plan to visit him this weekend, buy a couple of supplies, talk canoes. Many thanks for your generous forum comments and info, in just 1 week we found out so much about our canoe. At a minimum we are going to do some work to get her back in shape. Still newbies but not quite as dumb. Gerry and Jory
I was wondering when someone would mention mr ferwerda and his original hiawatha form. Strange coincidence that he also happens to be in oregon... But fortuitous.

Have fun with the thompson - love the classic lines of those boats. Something romantic about that era of craft/design...
Mr Dumb Questions Guy

I think we take the honor of dumb questions but nice to know we are not alone (although i suspect you say it tongue in cheek). Someone once said there are no dumb questions but when you are starting out it sure doesnt feel that way. It is amazing that Mr Ferwerda is in Oregon with us...probably an hour drive away, so we are very excited to meet him. Reading a book called Wood and Canvas Canoes before we go so we will not be quite as dumb as we were when we entered this forum. Many thanks. Gerry
Dumb Questions-

Dumb mistakes top dumb questions. And I make alot. Last Saturday I installed an inwhale upside down. Took a deep breath, turned it end for end, steamed it again, bent it the other way and put it on right. Sometimes when I am looking at the upside down canoe form and the bevel on the inwhale and the taper and the curve, my brain gets locked up.
Much to learn still,
Regards, Dave.
OK--so here is mine. we installed a dog door in our garage door, took lots of time to measure exactly right (you know measure twice, cut once), measured our dog who was a puppy at the time and looked up about how tall she would be full grown, installed the dog door, lifted the man-door into place and the dog door was at the top. now a nice window. regards, dumber