What did I just pick up for free?


New Member
Yesterday in a neighborhood group someone was offering a free canoe. It was listed as an old town wooden canoe and I figured it was worth a shot. I don’t know much about wooden canoes other than they are beautiful. The person giving the canoe away said it was their grandfathers And I hadn’t been used in 40+ years. The canoe is located in a shed behind a summer vacation house which was near salt water. I think that’s where the white corrosion powder came from. My question to the group is is this really an old town canoe or is it something else? And the follow up to that is what are some good resources to look at before I start down the restoration path? Any good book or website recommendations? I figure this will be a winter project for me.

The only serial number I could find is on the bow stem which looks like "74858 17". It definitely has been repainted in its lifetime. It is about 17 feet long and 35 inches wide in the middle.


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Last edited:

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
Welcome and congratulations, my guess is that you have the Old Town canoe with serial number 74858. This is a 17 foot long, AA (or top) grade, Ideal model with red western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, mahogany decks, mahogany thwarts, mahogany seats, and a keel. It was built between November, 1922 and February, 1923. The original exterior paint color was dark green. It shipped on June 9th, 1923 to New York City. A scan showing this build record can be found below.

This scan and several hundred thousand more 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 http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/records/ if you want more details. I hope that you will donate, join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/about-wcha to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/store/membership to join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer this description doesn't match the canoe. The books at https://www.woodencanoe.org/product-page/the-wood-canvas-canoe-a-complete-guide and https://www.woodencanoe.org/product-page/this-old-canoe-how-to-restore-your-wood-canvas-canoe are a good place to start learning about canoe restoration. These forums can be a great resource for specific information as well. Feel free to reply if you have any other questions. Good luck with the restoration,




New Member
Thanks so much Benson. It looks like the canoe had some repairs along the way as the rub rails look more like oak to me as do the seats. Maybe there was a major repair sometime in its history?

Thanks again.

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
It looks like the canoe had some repairs along the way

I agree, the deck shape and rush seats don't look original either. It is not unusual for a canoe to get some repairs over a century. See http://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?threads/15095/ for an example that is probably closer to how your canoe looked when it left the factory. The 1916 catalog page describing it at http://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?attachments/4282/ has more details. Good luck,