• Happy Nature Photography Day! 📷🦌🦅🐟🌄

Looking at Stem Curves and Geometry

A 20’ Old Town Guide,

78F044B5-3C7B-455C-AA7E-2BB722E9B50F.jpeg

The Old Town Guide seems to preserve what I've called the circular radius stem seen in Old Town's OTCA and 50 Pounder.
 
I wonder if that English originally had all thwarts and no seats.
If you look closely, this canoe has no inwales. In my opinion, it's a transition model from narrow ribbed and batten or tongue & groove plank construction to conventional flat rib and plank/canvas construction. With no inwale there is no way to hang seats as we currently use them. The (apparently original) thwarts are somewhat wider than current thwarts so are more comfortable to kneel/lean against or perhaps sit upon, presumably for day use rather than extended trips. The thwarts rest on and are attached to short cleats which are through-screwed into the ribs from the exterior- 3 screws at each cleat.

With regard to the stem profile, I have no idea why the shape. Perhaps any stem projection beyond the waterline is simply aesthetic.
 
The fall 2022 issue of the WCHA's Wooden Canoe journal makes a strong case that: E.H. Gerrish in 1875 was the first to commercially make canvas canoes, but using the same outside-in construction as native birch bark canoes, just substituting a canvas skin for bark; and that B.N. Morris in 1887 was the first to commercially make the modern inside-out "solid-planked shell" wood-canvas canoes we know today.

This article has some great research but there isn't universal agreement with the conclusions. My thoughts about early canvas canoes are summarized in the link below. I'm not sure that we have enough details to ever know exactly who did what and when. Sales literature is often not the most reliable source of historical information.

Benson



 
Here are a couple that have come through my shop.
A 15’ Robertson.
E7CEC91A-A16D-45A7-93DA-EC578D35BE93.jpeg
A 16’ Old Town HW model with sponsons.
27627612-1FB1-4C2F-AB96-FE44BDB1500F.jpeg
An 18’ Old Town HW Model.
DB64871A-701E-43E1-8D44-6F5037DECD70.jpeg
A 17’ Peterborough
2EF9A6F0-3699-48FA-B1F2-F5703D139A05.jpeg
And last for now is a 17’ Kennebeck.
7F969C14-2BA5-4E16-96D5-5CF41304A2F0.jpeg
Sorry some of the pics are not great, they are hasty phone pics of old slides.
Jim
 
I thought I wanted a 20' OT Guide, but Jerry Stelmok talked me out of it. He said they were made more for being used with a motor and that the 20' White would be a much better paddling boat. It's 20 lbs. lighter too.
 
It's just aesthetics Glenn. The stems look like big wind catchers to me, but I think that is due to the sheer line. I prefer the look of a flatter sheer and lower profile. I can't complain about how it paddles though.
 
This article has some great research but there isn't universal agreement with the conclusions. My thoughts about early canvas canoes are summarized in the link below. I'm not sure that we have enough details to ever know exactly who did what and when. Sales literature is often not the most reliable source of historical information.

I'd agree that self-interested statements, such as those found in sales literature, should be viewed with some skepticism. But that skepticism is less warranted when a person is making what evidence law calls an "admission against interest", which in the case of sales literature would mean giving credit to a competitor. Morris clearly gives credit to Gerrish as the first to commercially produce canvas covered canoes, except he says those canoes were simply substitutes of canvas for birch bark in a traditional outside-in construction.

I see nothing in the sources you cite on your forum, including The Way of the Woods book excerpt, that contradicts the thesis that Gerrish's canvas canoes were just substitutes of canvas for the bark of Indian canoes. Ranco's obituary, which is another self-interested source, to the effect that Ranco "conceived the idea of using canvas in place of birch bark and was the builder of the first canvas covered canoe", is completely consistent with a conclusion that Ranco built the same thing as early Gerrish—i.e., NOT a canoe with transverse ribs tacked to longitudinal planks covered with canvas, not a modern "solid-plank shell" canvas canoe.

As candidates for the first maker of solid-plank shell canvas canoes, the only documented candidates seem to be Gerrish, Morris, Ranco and Stephenson in Canada. Gerrish and Ranco have been addressed and reasonably rejected. Other men, such as a "Yankee" up by Moosehead Lake and some guides, supposedly produced canvas canoes in the late 1870's to early 1880's, but the slim evidence for them is that they, too, were early Gerrish/Ranco types of construction (canvas substituted for Indian bark).

Stephenson's 1879 Canadian patent and the Peterborough Review newspaper article seem to describe a canoe with transverse planks, no ribs, and a covering of "paper or cotton or other textile fabric". This is NOT a canoe with internal ribs tacked onto longitudinal planks at all, much less definitively covered with canvas, plus no example of one covered by canvas is known to have been found. Hence, Stephenson fails as the father of the modern rib-longitudinal plank-canvas canoe. As does the 1871 Canadian patent to John Herald, which was only for a machine to clench nails.

Notwithstanding that some of the affirmative evidence comes from his own catalogs, this history all leaves Morris reasonably standing as the first commercial producer of rib-longitudinal plank-canvas canoes somewhere between 1887-1889. No one disputes that Morris in fact produced such canoes somewhere in this time period, and the positive evidence for the other candidates falls far short or is affirmatively contradictory.
 
Back
Top