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Old Town color chart circa 1920

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by Benson Gray, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Well, eBay has proven me wrong again. People have been asking about the exact colors used on their Old Town canoes for years and I have been advising them to pick a color that they like since no one will probably ever know what precise shade was originally used. The undated Old Town Canoe color chart shown below was described by the seller as circa 1920 which seems about right. It only shows 12 colors so this will not help with the more than 150 others mentioned in the build records. These colors may still not be accurate but it should provide a better approximation than anything I've ever seen before. Hopefully this will not lead to significant numbers of people to wanting repaint their canoes.


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  2. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Ah the fun of ephemera! I love it, not only for the help it may provide some people, but knowing that just about anything could turn up suggests there are more exciting things out there, yet to be placed on eBay and craigslist!
  3. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    What a coup. This is a really neat find!
  4. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    color chart

    Benson --

    On my computer, the two reds look very similar, both a bit brownish and the "bright red" not very bright. The dark green certainly looks dark, but the "medium or brilliant green" seems nearly as dark, and not at all "brilliant."

    Is this just a distortion of color by the computer, or have the chip colors changed in the 90 years since the chart was printed?

    Other colors seem to fit their descriptions quite well.

  5. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I snipped this photo and edited it in MS Photo Editor to pull up the colors. Here is the result. I'm not sure that the reds are more crisp as a result, but the greens are now a bit more distinct.

    Attached Files:

  6. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I was hoping that you were the buyer on that color chart. Nice!
  7. Rollin Thurlow

    Rollin Thurlow member since 1980

    Hello Benson,
    I thought you had several paint charts from over the years. I have one that I belive is from the mid 60's. It has 207 zip code in the telephone number. Maybe you can tell from the style of printing. I was given the chart by Morris Brinker back in 1989. I always assumed that this was a fairly common chart. Would you consider these colors one accurate for the older canoes? Copy of Old  Town color chart.jpg Copy of Old  Town color chart.jpg
  8. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Merged Charts

    This may make it easier to see the differences between charts.
    I revised this to add a comparison of the Greens and Blues.
    I added the Pantone for Yale Blue. Draw your conclusions about the charts from that.
    The Marsh Green is a bit odd, more like Marsh Brown......
    I can't decide how the greens should progress. Let me know and I'll revise it....

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  9. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Even though the colors on the 1920's chart may be slightly different than when it was new, it still puts us closer than we were before. I remember a discussion on this form about Yale blue. Now we at least have an idea of what it was.
    The comparison chart is very interesting.
  10. OP
    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    That chart is probably from the 1960s as described at since is has a zip code and may not be accurate for the older canoes.

    The information at and indicates that the older chart was probably made between 1905 and 1932. The "bright red" and "medium or brilliant green" are both darker than I would have expected from their names. I appreciate that Dave and everyone else who saw this on eBay did not bid me up. Thanks,

  11. normsims

    normsims Morris canoe fan

    You have to remember that the way these jpeg images show up on the computer screen or from a printer varies from computer to computer. The only accurate color matching system is the PMS or Pantone Matching System. It's pretty much impossible to get an exact match off a computer image.

  12. crosscuts

    crosscuts LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Perhaps we need a color engineer who has been in the business awhile. The very cooperative people at Kirby's might describe (and have early color cards) if what early colors and shades looked like. They may be able to describe the early pigments and how the mixing of paints has changed with modern solvents and chemicals. It appears that early samples are quite a bit duller than modern choices. Was this because of fading with age or was this what they were truly able to produce?

  13. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Have you given any consideration to approaching Kirby about computer matching the colors. They could be the source for "Original Old Town Colors" for build record appropriate paints....
  14. OP
    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Not really since Old Town used many different paint vendors over the years and there is not much consistency of colors originally as MGC demonstrated. I'm also not convinced that these paint chips haven't faded since they appear quite dull as R.C. pointed out. My usual advice is to encourage people to pick colors that they like rather than worrying about originality in this case. Anyone including Kirbys is welcome to computer match these colors if they wish and I'm happy to share this information.

  15. Canoeal

    Canoeal Canoe/kayak builder/resto

    Now if someone could find a color chart with Macy's green...
  16. Mike Heines

    Mike Heines Upstate Canoe Sailor

    brown Japan oil

    Hi - the build record for a canoe I picked up yesterday lists "brown Japan oil". Any ideas on how to achieve that color, or where I might see it? I'm guessing that the 1920 color chart Benson posted has a pretty close brown for my 1922 canoe. Thx, Mike
  17. Terrya957

    Terrya957 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Has anyone seen a reference to special purple?
  18. OP
    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

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