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Old Town Serial No. Mystery

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by ChattahoocheeJim, May 16, 2008.

  1. OP

    ChattahoocheeJim Canoeist & Collector

    The "rub rail" may be covering holes in the canvas where sponsons were once fastened. There are holes about 3 1/2" from the underside of the inwales. Coincidently right where the screws fastening the sponsons are located on my other boats with sponsons.
    There are two holes in the rear os stem about 10" apart, just about where the rudder clips are on other sailing canoes.
    In addition the decks, gunwales and seats are mahogany.
    Good observations - could be very helpful. Thank you for thinking about this.
  2. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    The upcurve of those ends also looks a bit more then others I've seen,
    and with all that mahogany, could this be a Charles River w/o the long decks?

    Though it doesn't seem quite flat enough to be a CR, maybe a mix of features from various designs?

  3. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    I also thought it had sweep to the stems that looks "Charles Rivery"... but with a sail rig, it seemed more likely an HW... would seem even less likely to be a CR if it had sponsons. Why fit a "river canoe" as you would for one going out on a lake?

    All-in-all, the canoe has many add-ons, and perhaps it was a special order all-around... sort of a hybrid. It sure would be interesting to find the build record!
  4. OP

    ChattahoocheeJim Canoeist & Collector

    The seats are interesting. Both are bolted tight to the gunwales with no wood extensions to drop the seats to the normal level. And they're not fastened with the usual diamond head bolts
    Further, the hole in the seat for the mast is round, not square (date?) and is obviously made with a brace and bit (not a modern spade bit) - it has a small screw hole in the middle. Hole not cut all the way through. And it is attached with two steel (rusted) square-headed lag bolts into the keel. Soooo the sailing rig may well have been installed later. Except the seat thwart is mahogany like the rest of the trim and matches gunwales and decks. The center thwart appears to be ash, the only false note.
    I can't imagine fastening a rudder to an os stem - seems fragile. But the holes are in the right place.
  5. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Hi Jim,

    Your canoe certainly looks like an Old Town- many features fit, and the profile is very much Old Town. The flat floor suggests a Charles River model. But Kathy- what do you mean by "Why fit a "river canoe" as you would for one going out on a lake?"... Old catalogs describe Charles River canoes as being suitable for rivers and ponds, and HWs as suitable for large rivers, lakes, ponds, saltwater... By the early 1900s, the recreational canoeing market was so huge, and makers like Old Town were pretty free with their descriptions, apparently interested in convincing the prospective buyer that the canoe they liked would be suitable for whatever use they chose. Buyers could outfit a canoe any way they saw fit.

    This canoe does appear to have CR lines (but photos are too small to see much). And there do appear to be holes in every other rib, but it doesn't look like they were for sponsons. There appears to be a single row of holes (again, photos are so small it is difficult to tell), and these are surely the holes for attaching the rub rail. The sailing rig was likely aftermarket- the mast step is a completely different shape from the usual Old Town style (and the way it is attached is all wrong). Are there diamond-head bolts, or are seat and thwart bolts countersunk and bunged? If the latter, this points to an early date, sometime in the teens or earlier.

    Bottom line- it appears that you have an early Old Town in AA grade with rub rails, outside stems and half ribs. There does not appear to have been a floor rack or sponsons. These features should help you narrow down the possible choices.

    As for the different woods, all of the trim in a AA-grade canoe would be mahogany, so those pieces that aren't mahogany were probably added later. Finally, the seats- these could have been ordered from the factory mounted up against the gunwales, or someone could have removed the spacers later... spacers were standard, but the company would do what you wanted.

    Serial number- if there is varnish still there, have you tried stripping it away with a chemical stripper? If the varnish is gone, wet the stem with water- this will sometimes show impressions much better. Recently I was able to determine the maker of a canoe just from the very faint difference in patina where a deck decal was once applied, but not a trace of which remains today.

    Hope this helps,
  6. birdbrain

    birdbrain Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Try dusting the area with white flour, then gently blowing off the excess. It can make the letters more visible. I've done this with the old, flat gravestones on my farm, it's the only way you can read them.
  7. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    good discussion...

    We have some great input here, thanks...

    I was thinking Charles River, too, when I saw this listed on eBay... and said this to the eBay seller, when trying to convince him to re-check the serial number of the canoe (which didn't look like a GS to me).

    When I said, "Why fit a 'river canoe' as you would for one going out on a lake?"... I was arguing that the canoe might be an HW, if it was set up at the factory as a sailing canoe.

    I'll poke around the serial numbers again. In the number combinations I've tried, none has been an 18 footer AA grade with half-ribs-- of any model-- and that's what I've been searching for, trying eights for threes and sevens for ones, etc. Unless we can get a better idea of the actual serial number, it'll simply take a lot of time.

    I don't think this is a case where the canoe's serial number doesn't match the record... I think the record is there, awaiting discovery like the hidden treasure in an adventure movie. We have the clues and have to follow the trail...

    If the serial number begins with 64XXX, the canoe dates to 1921.

  8. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Now if we had those records entered into a database, or even a spread sheet, the searching wouldn't take so long. Maybe not quite as fun though. :)

  9. OP

    ChattahoocheeJim Canoeist & Collector

    Amazing expertise....

    The ribs are tapered, but the seats and thwart are fastened with countersunk and bunged (in my neighborhood, we call it "plugged") holes. Quite elegant.
    Looked at the numbers again after dusting, wetting etc. And I swear the first three numbers are 643 (but I wouln't bet my house on it, the first two maybe), the fourth I think is a 1. The last is a mess on both ends, but it could be 0, 1, 2 or 3. Of course five more integers. I'll go back and review the numbers checked and see what this does. Time for a spreadsheet.
    Thank you all for your interest, thoughtfulness and help.
  10. OP

    ChattahoocheeJim Canoeist & Collector

    As I thought every one of the numbers resulting from this new look, Kathryn has tried except 64311. Probably not likely.
    The good thing is it's still a very nice canoe, and when restored will be a beauty.
  11. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    It'd be handy to be able to log in a description of a canoe and have all the possibles kick out... might show some interesting comparisons, and would provide interesting statistics... you'd find out how many canoes of a certain model or length or grade were constructed in a particular time period.
  12. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Ask Benson just how long it took to do the 13,000 or so that have been done so far. If you are volunteering, we can supply the records :D
  13. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    the time it takes...

    It's easy to understand the enormity of the work involved in this Old Town s/n project when searching for a single serial number... and some records have a front and a back that needed to be scanned.
  14. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    This is true and you have done a great job with the database for the 594 Seliga canoes. However, it takes several minutes for a person to manually read and enter each record into a database as you probably know well. This means that the current sample of 14,155 records in the Old Town database represents over 700 hours of effort by a huge number of volunteers as Dan Miller mentioned. The remaining records would take about five years for one person to complete in full if they worked on it for a typical 2000 hour work year (i.e. 40 hours per week with two weeks off for vacation). Then they could start on the 13,201 Carleton records which would take about 660 more hours and the 28,397 Kennebec records would be about 1500 hours. Let me know if you or anyone else wants to devote that much time to a project like this.

    The current sample database has provided some estimates of the total number of models built as shown at and other estimates are available at in the links on the bottom of the page. Additional estimates can be manually generated if anyone has a more specific question.


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