What Charles River builder put serial numbers on ribs?

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
Al Braton asked me to post the following question. Please reply here because I would like to know the answer too. Thanks,



I am trying to find out information on two canoes I believe were built in the Charles River area. One is a courting canoe, the other has 30" decks. Both have serial numbers stamped in the ribs. Any idea who stamped the numbers in the ribs like that? The one with 30" decks has the top of the stems rounded over. Any help is greatly appreciated. As of right now, neither is for sale, sorry.

Al Bratton
Woodstrip Watercraft
Pics and thoughts

There is a type of Charles River-area canoe with 3-part serial number, each part stamped on a separate line (thus 3 lines total) on two ribs- one in each quarter of the canoe. See attached photos for one example, which looks like "A21 33 16", but could be "421 33 16". The maximum inside beam of this canoe is 33" and the length is 16'.

In these canoes, the serial numbers are stamped on the face of the rib in the bottom of the canoe, and the font is very distinct- outlined characters. Sometimes we have called this a "double stamp" because of its appearance. But the serial number is also stamped on each stem, in 3 parts, but all on one line (only one line will fit on the stem!). Al confirms that this is what he is seeing on the ribs of his canoe, though he cannot yet see the stems.

I have seen tagged Arnolds, Robertsons, Walthams, Sheas, and Nuttings which did not have this kind of stamp (not outlined, and not on ribs), but this stamp could represent a particular model of canoe from one of these makers, or a particular point in time at which this was done. However, because these serial numbers are SO distinctive, I would bet that it represents some other builder (my list currently includes at least a dozen builders in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).

More thoughts?



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Here are a couple of other serial number types for comparison. Note the blocky font of the "xxx yy zz" format serial numbers (see above), vs the small thin numbers in the left photo below and the larger "frilly" numbers of the one on the right below.

Below left is without question either Robertson or Waltham. The one on the right is an unknown, but I wonder if perhaps Kingsbury. Bottom line- I think that a close look at serial number style is going to go a long way toward at least putting a particular canoe into a category, if not (someday) builder.



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Serial No.

Just to contribute to the serial number mystery, I have a short deck 15 foot canoe that is stamped Robertson on the thwart and has the "33" "open font" style serial number stamped on the stem. The canoe appears similar to the short deck version in the Robertson Catalogue. Folks on the forum here have suggested that the canoe may be a Robertson or may also have been built by other Charles River builder(s), and used in Robertson's livery.

I have a second long deck with a Robertson plate. I have not been able to locate a serial number on that boat.
Do you have other photos of the canoe with the A21 33 16? I'd love to see them as these markings seem to be of the exact type as is on my just acquired Charles river style (see my recent post under History and Research Forum...16 Charles River Style Long Decks).
Do you have furher info on the A21 33 16 canoe?