The Carleton Canoe Company Build Record Archive Project

A small poll was conducted in January 1997 through the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's world wide web site. The intent was to see how many people might be interested in contributing their time or money to create an electronic archive of the early canoe build records from the Carleton and Old Town Canoe Companies. The response was very good and a small team of volunteers have already keyed in over well over three thousand cards. A substantial contribution from Johnson Worldwide Associates, Inc. has allowed this project to continue. This company is the corporate parent of the Old Town Canoe Company.

The preliminary results are not too surprising. Most of the Carleton canoes had no options (73%), CS grade (73%), dark green (50%), Carleton models (92%), sixteen feet in length (38%), and shipped in the month of June (29%) to dealers in New York City (11%). This is based on a sample of 588 cards ranging from serial number 7595 to 20543 that were shipped between 24-March-1910 and 16-June-1946. More sophisticated data mining and analysis may yield less predictable insights. These preliminary results are summarized in the pie chart graphics below.

The build and repair records consist of about fourteen thousand index cards dating back to 1910 when Carleton was bought by Old Town Canoe. They contain: specific details about each canoe, the dates when each stage of production was completed, the name and address of the original purchaser, and other information. It is estimated that about twenty-five percent of these cards also have comments on the back with additional build details, repairs, new owners, or other details.

Scanning the cards at a commercial service in Portland, Maine cost about five cents each. All of the Carleton records have been scanned. This preserved the information as an electronic photocopy but it would be much more useful if it was transcribed and loaded into a database. The most important information is hand written on the cards so electronic Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is not a feasible alternative. A database would allow you to search for specific information such as: how many fifteen foot Indian Princess model canoes were built, or how many canoes were produced with design number four.

Transcribing the key information from one card's scanned image takes about thirty seconds to type. This information includes: codes for the serial number, model, length, grade, color, date shipped, shipping destination state, and image number. A professional service would charge about twenty cents per card to do this. The current alternative is to distribute the scanned information to volunteers who would do the transcription on their own PCs.

The records are stored in boxes which each hold the records for about one thousand canoes. It would cost about $250 (or $50 for scanning plus about nine hours of volunteer transcription) to 'adopt' or 'save' the box which holds the record of your favorite Old Town or Carleton canoe. The Downeast Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and the Maine Watercraft Museum have both offered their support to this project so the contributions may even be tax-deductible. Please contact Benson Gray at if you are interested in contributing time, money, or anything else.

Special thanks are due to: Samuel Johnson, Ron Whitaker, John Blass, Steve Krautkremer, John Shelley, Tim Hewitt, Sue Audette, and especially to the volunteers who helped key in this information: Dan Miller, Dave Smits, Glenn M. Gillis, Bill Whalen, Richard Peters, and Elizabeth Heise.

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