What is it?


Curious about Wooden Canoes

I am new to to the forum and yesterday I posted a message on another thread instead of starting my own. I am still figuring out how this works. Anyway I had said that I have a canoe that was given to me and it the owners said it came from Belle Isle Michigan they thought. It is slightly longer than 17 feet long and 34 inches wide. It has an outside stem. Other than some rot on both tips I do not think it is all that bad. I would love to identify it and get an idea what year it might be.



Wooden Canoe 004.jpg

Wooden Canoe 005.jpg

Wooden Canoe 006.jpg

Wooden Canoe 007.jpg

Wooden Canoe 008.jpg
It's a Morris. The splayed stem (and impression from the serial number tag) are distintive. If it came off Belle Isle, and has a 36" bow deck and 24" stern deck, it is one of the ones in the style preferred by Belle Isle liveryman C.J. Molitor.
The bow and stern decks look to be the same at 24 inches long if I am measuring them right. All of the trim looks to be Mahogany. Are there alot of these style canoes out there?

teetogreen said:
Are there alot of these style canoes out there?

This depends on how you define "alot" naturally. There are three Morris canoes currently listed at http://classifieds.wcha.org/ in the classifieds here and one is identified as having "4' mahogany decks." Your Morris with long mahogany decks is not unique. The information at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/morris/records/morris.htm indicates that Morris issued over 17000 serial numbers which is about the same as the Kennebec and Carleton canoe companies each did. Old Town Canoe issued 50,000 to 100,000 serial numbers as shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/oldtown_chart.html during roughly the same time period. More information about the Old Town model production is available at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/models.html if you are curious.

Morris made some wonderful canoes so have fun with yours.

Though I don't have time for a long answer, here is some info. Kathryn will probably follow up for me later.
At this point yours is the fifth. Belle Isle we know of. There are two here in the U.P., Ken Mueller had one, and I can't recall who has the other. C. J. Molitor preferred Morris canoes and most of them he orderred with 36 inch bow deck and 24 inch stern deck, and they were 18 feet in length. As Dan said. They were trimmed in Mahogany. Ours has rub rails and one keel. The other here in the U.P. has a center keel and two bilge keels. Ours has the dark red interior whereas the other is lighter.
Do you happen to have the brass plate with the SN.
As Kathy will exlpain - I'm sure - we are building a data base of Morris canoes and we would like to add yours. There are about 120 in the data base now.
Feel free to contact me in private email if you wish. My new email address is -dkallery@att.net. I keep forgeting to change it in the members info here.
Where are you located?
The SN plate is missing unfortunately. It has a white oak keel and outer stems front and rear. The stain on the decks is dark almost reddish in tint. Mahogany outer rails. Is there a way of knowing the original color or colors of the hull? I am located near Lake Winnipesaukee in NH.

Yours would be number 130

Morris canoes go into the database with whatever information is available. If there's no serial number, it goes into the file with other canoes without a s/n but according to a guessed-upon age, based on appearance.

Your canoe appears to be from the 1915-1920 period, based on the presence of what Morris called "special ends", or "torpedo ends" which show up only in the later catalogs. This is a common courting-canoe style. Long decks appear to be more common in the Morris of this period than prior to 1910, and this is consistent with the preferred style of the recreational paddler. Somewhere, there's a picture of a canoe with about 50 pounds of pillows, a phonograph with morning-glory horn, spotlights... it think it's in an issue of Wooden Canoe.

B.N. Morris canoes are usually trimmed in mahogany and their interiors are usually stained that dark "oxblood" stain. There's no way to tell what the original colors may have been without the original canvas... but this gives you free reign to do whatever you want. Check out the color and design of the courting canoe on the main page of this website, and on the cover of a Morris catalog below.

Outside stems were common in courting canoe type Morrises. Your Morris appears to be a model A type 3. The Belle Isle canoes often had rub rails and sometimes had bilge keels. You may find indication on the bow deck of other stuff being attached at one time-- the spotlights and flag sockets... these boats were all tricked-out.

If you use the "search" function above, you'll find a lot of information on the Morris, including pictures of a Belle Isle model with signs of the original color and design scheme.

I imagine many of the Belle Isle canoes were scrapped when the liveries were discontinued, and some (like ours) were sold as fishing boats. With renewed interest in wooden boats, more may appear... and the Morris database is ready and waiting for them! With the addition of your canoe, we have 130 Morris canoes in our database.



  • Morrisfront.jpg
    196.1 KB · Views: 397
If you think you have the original canvas, you might try scraping-down to see what colors turn up... but there may have been fancy designs as well.

Thought I'd attach a few Belle Isle postcards, which offer a flavor of the times. These are images of post cards now on eBay... there are always quite a few.



  • Belle Isle canoes.JPG
    Belle Isle canoes.JPG
    22.1 KB · Views: 435
  • Belle Isle2.JPG
    Belle Isle2.JPG
    24.2 KB · Views: 409
  • Belle Isle3.jpg
    Belle Isle3.jpg
    84.1 KB · Views: 405
Thank You for all the information. I am glad to now know what it is. Both decks where partially there when I got the canoe and they both had the original flag sockets still intact.


I thought it was "pigeon blood", and what exactly was used to color the Morris interiors? I've always thought it was just a term that described the color, but if pigeons are needed, I know where to find a mess of 'em....just curious.
I think it was a term used to describe the color too... unless the shoes some of my classmates wore in high school were actually dipped in the blood of an ox. If animal blood was used, makes more sense to use the ox.... how many pigeons would equal one ox, anyway...?
So is the interior originally dark? Mine is pretty dark but where the brass SN tag was the color under it was much lighter. I don't think they would have stained around it. What do you use now for stain something modern or Ox Blood or Pigeon Blood?

It's most likely that your canoe had the traditional dark Morris interior. I'll attach a picture of the interior of our Belle Isle, showing what it looked like after Denis stained it to the original. The interior of your boat maybe got darker with age, accounting for the color change where the s/n plate was.

As is frequently said in this place, however: "it's your boat." You can choose how dark or light you want it. My impression is that Bert Morris liked mahogany and thought his canoes looked nice if the interior matched the trim.

You don't have to kill a bunch of livestock to get the right color. Denis has been trying to find the exact formula he used, because Andre also has a Morris interior to stain... it was a combination of MinWax products... Denis says you can write him directly, if you want to: dkallery@att.net.



  • int Morris BI.jpg
    int Morris BI.jpg
    47.8 KB · Views: 412
Andre and Chris,
So far I have been unsuccessful in my search for the formula I used to stain the inside of our Belle Isle. I put it in a really safe place so I wouldn't loose it. Apparently too safe! :confused:
These ,however,are the stains I mixed together- they are: Sedona Red #222 - this was the base, Red Mahogany #225, Special Walnut #224 and Golden Oak #210 B. The last three were added to adjust the color to what I wanted and in small amounts. I'm sorry that I can't be more accurate. What I did was take raw Cedar and kept experimenting till I got what I wanted. If I do find the formula I will post it.
Good luck, Denis :)
safe places

Denis, no worries I've put a stop pay on the cheque:D
Never fear, lost things are always in the last place I look.