very old Old Town canoe

James Malone

New Member
I have a very old Old Town canoe. It was stored for about 70 years in a barn in Delta, Pennsylvania before I moved it to my parents' garage in York, Pa where it has been for about 35 years. It has the Old Town seal in the bow and the serial number appears only in the stern. From what I can tell, the serial number is 17 - 781. I have included photos I took of the serial number. The numbers are a bit hard to read but if you stare at it long enough, I think you can see them.

The canoe belonged to my grandfather and his brother and they likely would have had it around 1905 or so. The canvas has degraded and it has a little wood rot along one of the handrails and one of the seats needs repaired. But otherwise it is in pretty good shape.

Anyone have any thoughts on how I can figure out more about the provenance of this canoe? I have heard that Old Town might now have records for canoes of this age.

Best Wishes,
James Malone


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Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
There are no known records available for any Old Town canoes with three digit serial numbers or less. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this canoe is probably not as old as you think. The style of decal in your picture wasn't introduced until around the 1920s. (The earlier version didn't have the "TRADE MARK" in the middle.) It appears to be on the twenty inch deck of an Otca model which was introduced in 1908. The serial number font is the later style. The only confirmed Old Town with a three digit serial number is shown at and it looks much different from your canoe. Some of the tricks described at may help you uncover the missing digit(s) on the stems of this one. A good varnish remover will probably work wonders.

My guess is that you may have the Old Town with serial number 78144. This is a 17 foot long, CS (common sense or middle) grade, Otca model with red western cedar planking, open spruce gunwales, birch decks, birch thwarts, birch seats, and a keel. It was built between April and December, 1923. The original exterior paint color was black with a two inch white stripe and pointed ends. This may have looked like the design shown at with black in place of the red. It shipped in January 29th, 1924 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A scan of this build record can be found below.

This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will donate, join, or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to donate or join.

It is possible that you could have another number if this description doesn't match. The catalog page describing this model is available at from 1923. Canoes with a family connection are always extra special. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions. Good luck with the project,


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