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Peterborough cedar strip rib spacing?

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by Michael Grace, Mar 12, 2021.

  1. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Is anyone aware of a particular point in time when the Peterborough Canoe Company may have changed the size and spacing of ribs on cedarstrip canoes? I am restoring two now, one of which appears to have been built much earlier than the other. The later one appears typical of many Peterborough cedarstrips I have seen, with 5/8” ribs spaced 2” on center. It is an Ace, Model 1438. I wonder if 5/8” ribs on 2” spacing became the standard across builders because I just measured a Lakefield and a Canadian Canoe Co. canoe, and those also have 5/8” ribs every 2”.

    So here’s the thing: the other, the seemingly earlier Peterborough cedarstrip I’m restoring is a Model 44 and it has 3/4” ribs on 3” centers. This model 44 was built without thwarts, so it has no thwart tags. However, I have two other Peterboroughs that have early-style thwart tags. One is a model 79 and the other is a model 464. These are board-and-batten canoes so rib spacing can’t be compared, but both of these canoes also have 3/4” ribs.

    Photos show ribs in the model 1438 and the model 44. In both canoes, planking is generally about 1.5” wide except for the accent strip and the top strip on the #44.

    Thanks for any input,

    B32BCC54-1EE7-4A85-BA74-3AFB1EF0A78E.jpeg 4D85ECA4-C9A1-4CBF-8FB5-E704C3602C7B.jpeg
  2. OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Well, I got back where I could look at old catalogs and they seem a little confusing. Pete catalogs by year say:

    1909: ribs 2" on center (width not stated)
    1914: 3/4" and 7/8" (wider on larger canoes?) ribs on 3" centers
    1921: 5/8" ribs on 2 1/2" centers
    1927: ribs 2" on center (width not stated)

    The odd thing is that many of the catalog cuts going back through 1914 show what appears to be cedarstrip canoe with ribs on narrower centers - looks like 2".
  3. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I have not studied Peterborough catalogs extensively but I do have some experience with the catalogs printed by a few other manufacturers which might be helpful in this situation. The processes for taking photographs and screening them for publication was relatively expensive in the early 1900s. Catalog images frequently were not updated every time something changed in the manufacturing processes. Changes to the descriptive text in a catalog would also often lag but usually not by as much as the images. Furthermore, these canoes were ultimately hand made so changes were not unusual at the whim of the builder that day or due to a customer's special request. Good luck with the rest of your research,

  4. OP
    Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Good morning Benson,

    I agree with you about lag time in canoe manufacturer catalogs, particularly regarding the use of images. Often you see images from earlier times that don’t match the more recent text in that catalog year. However in this case, what I’m seeing are canoes with narrower rib spacing while text still says that ribs were more widely spaced (and larger, more widely-spaced ribs appear to predate smaller ribs at 2” spacing). Odd...

    This could be explained by the whims of a given worker, but that seems unlikely because these old cedarstrip forms were set up to ensure proper placement of the ribs at specified intervals. Plus the worker would have to make a conscious effort to mill out ribs in a completely different size.

    This might be another one of those things that remains a mystery, at least for now.

  5. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    This poster uses a 1914 event in advertising. 5/8th Rock Elm ribs, 2" centers. I have a canoe with 3/4 inch ribs 3 inch on center. Also a hybrid canoe, UFO, 5/8th ribs 6 inch on center but it is planked and canvased like a standard canoe. I'm not referring to the wide board boats, all 6 inch centers on 5/8th ribs.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021

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