Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Build Info Request - Old Town S/n 119411 - 16

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by -shawn, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. -shawn

    -shawn New Old Canoe Guy

    Any help locating the build record for this old beauty would be appreciated.
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Welcome, the Old Town canoe with serial number 119411 is a 16 foot long, CS (Common Sense or middle) grade, HW (Heavy Water) model with open spruce gunwales, oak decks, oak thwarts, oak seats, a keel, and sponsons. It was built between October, 1936 and February, 1937. The original exterior paint color was dark red with a white hair line stripe. It shipped on March 30th, 1937 to Long Island City, New York. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.


    This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  3. OP

    -shawn New Old Canoe Guy

    Thank You Benson!
    Having this build card helps to bring this old canoe back to life.
    I think you meant that it shipped March 30th, 1937 in your text description.

    Does open spruce gunwales mean that the gunwales are spruce and open between inwale and outwale?
    Or is Open Spruce some variety or descriptor of spruce? Or? or?

    I'm also curious about sponsons. In general and their history.
    Also how they were made. It looks like they were added after the canvas was filled.
    Any links to information on that part of the construction process would be appreciated.

    I became a member of the WCHA yesterday!

    Glad to support this organization and looking forward to being a part of this community.

  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Oops, I have corrected the error. "Open" in this case is a descriptor for the type of gunwale and not for the species of spruce wood. The diagram on the bottom of the page at shows the differences. It appears that the term "sponson" was created in the mid 1800s to describe additions on the sides of ships to help support cannons and paddle wheels. The first documented use of them on canoes may be the 1901 Old Town catalog. There is a fair amount of information about sponsons at including the patent for invisible sponsons from 1908 and an unsubstantiated claim from 1965 that White invented them. Chestnut got the Canadian patent number 93181 on May 16th, 1905 for "air chambers" (i.e. sponsons) although they clearly didn't invent them. (See for a new perspective on why Chestnut patented 'trade secrets' from other manufacturers.) Most sponsons are added after the canoe is nearly finished. The usual approach is to canvas and fill the canoe then canvas and fill each sponson before putting it all back together. This is a lot of work so sponsons are frequently not reinstalled when a canoe is repaired. There is a fair amount of information about sponsons and gunwales available here if you use the search function. Welcome to the WCHA,

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  5. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    “bending a plurality of transverse ribs about a suitable wooden form, securing the ends of the ribs to a suitable gunwale, covering the ribs with a plurality of longitudinal slats, covering the slats with a covering of canvas, and treating the canvas cover with an impervious filling material”.

    This is a wonderful description of what we like to do.

  6. OP

    -shawn New Old Canoe Guy

    Thanks again Benson. Glad I trusted my gut and didn't jump into the restoration of this one. The sponsons are beautiful but nobody I asked could even tell me what they were called. I acquired this canoe a little over a year ago, have paddled it once and now and am working on a restoration plan.

    This summer I acquired a second wood canoe that also does not hold water. This one is a Chestnut. Presumably a 16' Pal that so far I've narrowed down to 1954-74 for year built.
    I've begun the restoration of this one first to learn my way around the wood-canvas canoe...

    The idea of rivalry between Old Town & Chestnut is fascinating to me and would appreciate any info to that end.
  7. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Old Town and Chestnut had a brief dispute over the hiring of employees that is well documented in Roger MacGregor's fine book "When the Chestnut was in Flower: Inside the Chestnut Canoe." My understanding is that the lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, not on the merits of the case. Old Town decided not to pursue it further because they felt that a Canadian court would never give them a fair trial in an international dispute like this. The information about tariffs and their impact on canoe distribution at indicates that Old Town and Chestnut did not really compete that much in the marketplace. Let me know if this doesn't answer your question,

  8. Perry

    Perry Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Great info

Share This Page