Haskell Boat Company
The Haskell Boat Company of Ludington, Michigan, built a single model of 17 foot, molded plywood canoe from about 1917 until about 1934. Henry L. Haskell and J.W. Beiger developed a process for extracting albumin from slaughterhouse blood, from which they produced a cheap, waterproof adhesive, which was called “black albumin glue.” Utilizing this glue, Haskell produced a three-ply plywood with both outside faces of 1⁄16-inch birch veneer, and a core layer of 1⁄16-inch redwood. With the three layers assembled and the water-soluble black-albumin glue between layers, a stack of sheets was pressed at 200 psi and heated to 220 plus degrees Fahrenheit, which set the glue and permanently bonded the layers. A sheet was ~5 x 20 feet. To publicize his product, Haskell had ‘business cards’ made from this plywood which read “Stronger than steel per unit of weight — Boil Me, Bake Me, Soak Me, Break Me — They make me into Haskell Canoes.”
To make a canoe, a single sheet of plywood was cut into a ‘butterfly’ shape, then boiled in water for 3 hours. While hot & wet, the plywood was placed over a male mold and with hydraulic rams, it was bent into a canoe shape. Oak internal stems were installed, then L-shaped mahogany gunwales, and three mahogany thwarts. The seats were bent birch plywood hung from the gunwales. The decks were plywood faced with mahogany. Wide brass stem bands covered both ends. The Haskell decal was on the bow deck, and a brass tag stamped with a serial number was tacked onto the bow stem at its inboard end. Serial numbers were 4 digits, typically starting with 2 or 3. It was given a natural wood finish with varnish.
The finished product had a “classic” Ojibway-type birch bark canoe profile with bows that swept upward, 34 inches wide at center, 13 inches deep, giving a large hauling capacity, and gently rounded bottom with slight tumblehome. A keel could be ordered as an extra. Accessories included seats, floor rack, and a laminated wood paddle named the “Redskin paddle”. These were identified with a small, round, Haskell decal.
- McCloud, Tom. A Haskell Goes Home: The Restoration of a Haskell Molded Plywood Canoe. Wooden Canoe Issue 179, October 2013.