What is this canoe?

pat chapman

Willits biographer
I got a canoe in the shop for repair that I can't identify and hope someone can help. It has a serial number stamped on both inside stems - ONS 19. There are no nameplates or decals and no evidence of one having been on either deck. It is 16' long and 33" wide at the outwales. The lines look an awful lot like an OT Yankee, but it has no other OT characteristics. The ribs are untapered, unbeveled white cedar and the planking is narrow red cedar. The furthest cant ribs are not double wide as in a Chestnut. It has a lake keel that has been finished bright. The seats are finished in woven cord without evidence. The outwales are mounted with stainless steel bolts and nuts at each rib (this seems to be an aftermarket change as all other fasteners are slotted brass screws or bolts).

Any thoughts?


  • 20210330_115711.jpg
    254.6 KB · Views: 355
  • 20210330_115652.jpg
    262 KB · Views: 343
  • 20210330_115636.jpg
    290.1 KB · Views: 339
  • 20210330_115629.jpg
    322.1 KB · Views: 330
Hi Pat,

somehow this didn’t post last night. You may already know:

ONS Indicates an Owasco (O), 16 feet long (N), with spruce trim (S). The three-letter designator also indicates that the canoe was built probably between 1933 and 1947 based on the t.

Hope this helps,
I could use some more help about this canoe. The gunwales are Alaska Yellow Cedar as opposed to the spruce as indicated in the Penn Yan catalog. Did Penn Yan ever use this wood in gunwales, or should I assume they were a replacement in a previous repair? The ribs definitely are not white cedar, but I'm uncertain of what type of wood they are. They don't have the pungent odor of yellow cedar, but the lack of obvious grain makes me lean that direction. Anyone aware of other woods Penn Yan would have used instead of white cedar?
Hi Pat,

I've only seen spruce or mahogany in PY canoes. They may have used yellow cedar if it was available, but I don't think it likely.

I did restore one wartime PY that had western red cedar ribs as well as planking.
Years ago when I was talking with the guy at PY, he said that "in the 1931-3’s the “S” used basswood ribs".
I suspect that was what was in the one I had, ONS 62.