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Peterborough canoe history/age

Discussion in 'Traditional All-Wood Construction' started by Michael Grace, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    I'm trying to narrow down the age of a particular Peterborough canoe. Its thwart tags are shown in the attached photo. The canoe was apparently shipped to Paris for sale, and I wonder if Dick P. or someone else may know something of the French import organization's timeframe of operations. A tag on the canoe's deck reads:

    “IMPORTE PAR
    L’AGENCE des MANUFACTURES AMERICAINES
    PARIS
    54 Bd HAUSSMANN”

    Boulevard Haussman is just north of the Seine in the center of Paris, and 54 Bd Haussman was apparently occupied by a fabric and/or interior design company by 1936. Thus, this canoe must have been shipped to Europe prior to then. But I already have a more narrow timeframe from previous discussion- this is a model 79 Peterborough that, according to Dick, was bult between 1892 and 1923. Age/birthyear isn't critically important; it's just a fun challenge to try to learn more about this canoe's trip around the Atlantic Ocean.

    One more question- the second photo shows the coaming/deck assembly- are the finish washers to be expected on a canoe like this? I haven't noticed these on other Peterboroughs, so wonder if they are original or not.

    Thanks for any thoughts,
    Michael
     

    Attached Files:

  2. jchu

    jchu LOVES Wooden Canoes

    My trade mark tag is different, the coaming never showed any signs of trim washers. I've had the canoe since 1976.

    I suspect mine is a very early one, but just a hunch.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. OP
    OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Here’s a serial number for the Peterborough wide board I posted about above:

    943 79

    Stamped into coaming at bow.

    I don’t understand these serial numbers. Jeff- your canoe looks its serial number could be either 4 8809 or 4 3809. Are you sure the first digit is an “8”? In any case, Peterborough # 4 3062 is a vertical rib canoe with the number clearly stamped onto a brass plate mounted to the bow coaming. This number obviously comes before either of your possible numbers, but the brass tag would seem to place it at a later date. Any ideas anyone? Could Peterborough have simply picked random numbers or perhaps have in some way started over at some time? Seems unlikely, as this would negate the entire concept of “serial”!

    Michael
     

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  4. jchu

    jchu LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Information seems limited. We should start a data base of the older stamped numbers. I'm new to all this and just finishing a long restore. I'd be interested in gathering information.

    It is 4 8809 Due to the wretched shape of this craft I suspected it was the 88th number 4 of 1909. Pure speculation though! We should delete these adds and take it over to serial number forum.
     
  5. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    Peterborough Canoe Co had the same agent in France from the late 1890’s until late 1939.

    Canoes were shipped “nested” with thwarts, seats and decks removed from all but the top inside canoe of the nest. It is not uncommon to find old Peterborough canoes in Europe with different parts and unfamiliar assembly. I am told that occasionally a shipment could arrive with the parts missing or parts without identifying numbers for assembly.

    So the finish washers could have been added later or at the time of re-assembly. If your canoe was shipped nested it should have identifying numbers stamped or written on the underside of thwarts, decks and seats.

    Cheers
    Dick
     
  6. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    The Peterborough Canoe Co numbers are as follows; a model number followed by a serial number or more correctly, a work-order number. Model numbers consisted of one to three digits before 1939 and four digits after 1939.

    The serial/work-order number series were re-started at regular intervals, probably every couple of years. Otherwise there would have been serial numbers 10 000 and over, which I or anyone I’ve talked to have never seen.

    Cheers
    Dick Persson
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Thanks, Dick! Re-starting the serial numbers is odd given the "serial" concept, but it makes sense given the numbers that are out there. I guess Pete's serial numbers were serial for a while, then serial again, then...

    So what do you know of the different forms of Peterborough tags? The tag in the photo I posted above is very thick (thought not yet measured) compared to the very thin thwart tags that are so often seen, and obviously the style is very distinct between my #79 and Jeff's #4 canoe

    Michael.
     
  8. TEP

    TEP Curious about Wooden Canoes

    model numbers

    Have not restored any Peterborough canoes but I have restored a few Peterborough fishing boats (and seen many) and none of them seem to have a serial number, ONLY a model number. Model numbers changes every three to four years on these. Example my 1955 has a model number '1838' which means it was a Speedster model, made between the years 55-58. I am new to canoe restoration and not sure if this helps, but I thought that I'd add my two cents. :D
     
  9. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    Terry,

    Yes, some of the Peterborough models changed model numbers occasionally. It happened with both canoes and boats, in the case of the Peterborough Speedster, four times. The change of model number seems to have taken place when changes were made to the models specifications.
    The Peterborough boats as well as canoes had a model number and a serial or work order number applied to it. The number can be found on a metal tag, stamped in to the stem, or keelson, or coaming, or transom brackets, the place varied with model and when the watercraft was produced.

    :) Dick
     
  10. TEP

    TEP Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Peterborough boats

    Thanks Dick,
    Nice to see that there are people knowledgeable about Peterborough boats. What little I know about them has come from the few old catalogs (which are rare) and some hands-on experience restoring a few. So far I have only seen the model numbers stamped on the transom knee, no serial numbers or work orders. But I have a Peterborough Sportsman and a Nomad waiting to be worked on this summer at the cottage, so I will keep my eyes open.

    To keep this on a canoe topic.. I just bought a 1936 OT HW 17' which will be my winter project. It has no seats left so new ones will need to be made. Being a CS grade, what wood were these made out of.

    Also while I have you, What does the HW stand for. I have heard 'Heavy Water' but in the 80's I visited The Old Town factory with an HW and they said it stood for Henry Wickett ?? Do you know which is correct?
    Thanks
    Terry
     
  11. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  12. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Hw

    Henry Wicksteed.
    Right Benson?;) come on , give the credit to the Canadian from Cobourg.
     
  13. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I have traded messages with Roger MacGregor about the Wicksteed implication in his book and he can offer no documentation to support the claim. Can you or anyone else provide something more specific? Another common part of this theory is that J. R. Robertson provided the link between Wicksteed and Old Town but the HW model had been advertised in the Indian Old Town catalog for at least a year before Robertson was documented as having anything to do with the Old Town Canoe Company. It is presumed that Robertson may have helped get B. B. Crowninshield's dinghy added to the Old Town product line but the source that design was very well advertised.

    Everyone I ever knew at the Old Town factory always thought that the HW model was named for Henry Wickett. All of the references in the early catalogs describe this model as being good for heavy water use in the same way that the IF or Guide's model was identified as an Indian design that was an ideal fishing canoe. They also had an FB model that was described as having a flat bottom.

    There have been many debates about which country or person deserves more credit for various aspects of the modern wooden canoe but I prefer to consider it all a shared heritage and will refrain from taking this bait.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2008
  14. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    There have been many debates about which country deserves more credit for various aspects of the modern wooden canoe but I prefer to consider it all a shared heritage
    Certainly cant argue with that. No bait was offered, I just found the detail in Rogers book fascinating and some of his theories entertaining. Had no idea about Kruger, Cronje and Bobs before I read it either.
     
  15. TEP

    TEP Curious about Wooden Canoes

    HW Model

    Thanks Benson,
    It seems like Old Town kept records like everyone else back in the day. We have a cottage near Geisler boats in Ontario and I know that all their record keeping is in Pete Geisler's head, and he's in his 80's. Lots of good info has been lost. Thanks to you guys and forums like this one, hopefully we can filter there all the junk info.
    So Benson, when was the first HW model made at Old Town?
    Thanks
    Terry
    PS
    We're heading up to the cottage next week for the summer. Can't wait to wake up and have coffee by the lake and a morning paddle every day.
    Peace!
     
  16. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    This is another case where no one knows for sure. The HW model was first advertised on page one of the Indian Old Town catalog that is presumed to be from 1901 as shown in the image below. Old Town did not start the serial number record cards until several years later. One of the earliest dates on an existing build record is December 5th, 1902 when the Charles River Model with serial number 2599 was "Built" and as shown below. This canoe shipped on July 2nd, 1906. One of the earliest documented HW models was "Built" on July 13th, 1904 and shipped on June 22nd, 1906 with serial number 2265 as shown below. It is interesting to note that the lowest serial numbers do not have the earliest dates.

    Benson
     

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  17. OP
    OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    At the risk of seeming selfish, let me bring this thread back to Peterborough canoes. I'm surprised no one has expressed an opinion on the ages of the different tag styles (see photos above). I would imagine that the simpler one with text only would be fairly early, and that the prettier one with the Peteroborough logo would be later. Any thoughts? And what might "earlier" and "later" mean??? Surely someone out there has looked at Petes long enough to have an opinion. Not me- you don't see many Canadian canoes in south Florida!

    Now, back to "HW"... what about that old canoe master and inventor of left-handed dental floss, Hartoonian Winklebauer? Benson, any comment? And please admit your bias: are you right- or left-handed?:D

    Michael
     
  18. jchu

    jchu LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I was putting on a coat of varnish and had a rag with some mineral spirits, just happened to pick up the old decking and wiped it down, what a surprise remnants of the old decal came to life. I have seen pictures of decals on the front of peterboroughs, and their catalogs show them in the front, this decking was from the back as their is no hole for the mast ring.

    So did they have decals at both ends? When did they start using decals?

    I did purchase a few but wasn't sure I'd put one on until now.

    If anyone has a brass thwart tag like mine and would like to sell it, I'm missing one.
     

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    Last edited: May 25, 2008
  19. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    Michael and Jeff,

    The tag on Jeff’s canoe, the trademark tag, is different and was used after the company got their trademark in 1911. It is clear that the company used this tag for awhile, but for some reason or other, several other models of tags were in use about ten years later.

    To go back to your canoe, Michael, the combination of a stamped model/serial number in the coaming, the thwart tags and that it was exported to France narrows down the building date to sometime between the mid 1890’s and 1911.

    Tags are interesting, but I don’t put too much value in them alone, as an indicator of a canoe’s age or its pedigree. It is a well-known fact that many canoes over the last twenty years have been equipped with aged new tags or the wrong tags some to make the canoe look older, or with a better pedigree some in the name of profit.

    Friday cheers:)
    Dick Persson
    Headwater Canoe Company
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2008
  20. OP
    OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply, Dick. Related to your last point, Dan and I were just discussing the notion that reproduced parts should be best marked as reproductions. Even with the best intentions and the best craftsmanship, historical accuracy will likely be compromised in reproductions. But even with all these good intentions, you are correct- there will be cases where historical accuracy is altered either inadvertently or purposefully for deception.

    In any case, thanks for the information.

    Friday cheers to you also!
    Michael
     

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