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Family Heirloom, Help with Identification?

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by Sam McGinley, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. Sam McGinley

    Sam McGinley Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello all,

    I work in the marine industry and have recently received a very special family heirloom that I want to preserve. The boat in the pictures was my great-great grandfather's personal boat. It has been used by my family in various capacities over the years, but for the last several it has hung on a wall at a marina or been stored in the rafters. We know it was made at the turn of the century, so the very late 1800s or early 1900s. I'd like to know more about it, begin the cleanup and restoration process, and see it used again. What should I look for to help with identification? The canvas was painted at some point, and the seats were redone. Thank you for looking and for any help you can offer!
    Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.57.11 AM.png Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.57.44 AM.png
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Welcome and congratulations, the first thing to check is the bow deck for any sign of a decal or tag. The next would be a serial number and the information at may help you find these. My first guess would be a Penn Yan Kingfisher Canoe as shown in their 1952 catalog below. Boats with a family connection are always extra special. Good luck,


    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
  3. OP
    Sam McGinley

    Sam McGinley Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks, I follow that other posts advice on how to find the serial number. I'd hope to find one. I agree that two models look very similar, you might be on to something. Although, that wouldn't match the history I've been told about the boat. Fingers crossed for a solid serial number.
  4. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Family provenance sometimes gets distorted. I run into that quite often. I've gotten into the habit of writing things down as I go to leave records for anyone that might have a future interest... I've also gotten into the habit of writing a quick history on a piece of planking when I work on them. Many of the canoes I own or have worked on have been owned by one or two folks before me. Keeping track of their history "feels" like one of my duties.
    Your boat is almost certainly a Penn Yan. Benson hit the nail on the head.
    An interesting thing about boats is that they tend to stay close to where they were shipped..we don't know where your great great grandfather lived but that could provide another clue.
    From my experience many Penn Yans have stayed fairly close to the Finger Lakes region....although I did buy one from Berwick Maine several years ago.
    That boat will be a stunner if you restore it. An old vintage Sea-king could hang off the back.
    Shari Gnolek and Sam McGinley like this.
  5. OP
    Sam McGinley

    Sam McGinley Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So here is the serial number. I'll use the forums registry to see what I find. If you guys see something obvious, please let me know. Looks to read MC3-222 or MC8-222.

    Attached Files:

  6. OP
    Sam McGinley

    Sam McGinley Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Here is the canoe in use, although I don't know where, along with a a little information about the man himself. We will get to the bottom of this yet! Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.48.14 PM.png Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.50.59 PM.png Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.50.59 PM.png
  7. OP
    Sam McGinley

    Sam McGinley Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So... it's a Pen Yan Kingfisher. Great work guys. This makes sense based on the serial number, fact that square back canoes are really based around outboard power, and that the Pen Yan company was near where my great-great grandfather lived. Guess is 1922 based on your database. Thanks for the help! Now I've got to get her cleaned up. Which forum is best for maintenance and cleaning tips? Possible repairs?
  8. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The Kingfisher model wasn't shown in the Penn Yan catalogs from the 1920s or early 1930s so it isn't likely to be from 1922. Their 1939 catalog is the oldest one that I have found to include this model. See page 36 of the catalog at for more details. There are no known serial number records available for Penn Yan so precise dating isn't easy. The search function here or the books at may be your best sources for maintenance, cleaning, and repair tips. Have fun,

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
  9. Shari Gnolek

    Shari Gnolek Have dog, will paddle

    I hope that when you restore it you post a similar picture! :)

    Also - @MGC, are you OK??? You are recommending getting a vintage motor????? Why the change of heart?
  10. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    So that I can get rid of mine!;)
  11. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Where is the "change of heart"? This is a boat made for use with a motor.
    If it was me, I'd put an elec trolling motor on it, but that's me.


  12. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Key point in Shari's note...vintage. I finally gave up on vintage motors for my cartopper and put a nice new Mercury on it. It starts on the first pull. It doesn't leave a plume of gas and oil on the water. The pull cord doesn't come off in my hand every other time I use it. The rewind spring doesn't need to be rewound every other time I use it. No varnished floats or mixing oil and gas.....I still have two old motors to hang on the back if I want to look "period"...but I've moved on to modern convenience and reliability. I don't need to carry tools in the boat anymore. I'm not against a motor on a boat made for one....I'm just not keen on torturing myself with an old relic anymore.. been there and done that. I look at the one in the photo and think, boy, that thing must have been interesting to keep running. A trolling motor would also be fine.
    Shari Gnolek and Dan Lindberg like this.
  13. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I go even farther, if I'm going fishing, I'll take my Lund w/25.
    If I want to go fast, then the Starcraft w/85.
    If I'm off to the BW, then a canoe, preferably light.
    Casual day paddles, then the w/c.
  14. David Satter

    David Satter LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I did this one a few years ago. New transom, canvas and satin varnish. Sorry I can't remember the year unless I dig out the paperwork. pete syak, kingfisher 010.JPG pete syak, kingfisher 011.JPG

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