Saturday, December 8, 2012

1941 Old Town Guide, Never Used

Maine Maritime Museum, in the shipbuilding city of Bath, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In an exhibit of "favorite" items from its 50 years of collecting is this fine old 20-foot Old Town Guide model canoe. Here's what the exhibit card says:
This canoe comes with an unusual story. It was purchased at the Old Town factory by Charles H. Cahill, Jr., in August, 1941. He brought it home to Bath, and never used it. Always intending to use it "soon," he kept it first in a cellar, and then for 42 years in a storage bay of the gas station he owned, under blankets. Still attached are the leather straps which held it to a rack on Cahill's pickup truck, and the red flag for the overhanging end on that trip from Old Town to Bath. This is a 1941 canoe in factory-finish condition (with a few dings). 
Old Town designed this model for stability and steadiness, for carrying inexperienced sportsmen and sportswomen. It was popular with guides and with directors of summer camps. Dark green was the stock color; this one has the mahogany gunwale upgrade. 
His children inherited the canoe about 2004, and decided it belonged here at the Museum.
Wow. The notion of a valuable old canoe stored (usually in a barn) and forgotten is a popular collector's dream. But that the canoe might be pristine and unused goes beyond the common fantasy.

Foredeck with original decal in fine condition. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Serial number on stem: 127036-20. Also shown is the forward end of the removable floorboards, held in place with a turnbutton made from a section of the same brass half-round that's used for the stembands.
Red flag used during transport.
Leather straps used during transport.
Mahogany gunwales, original seat caning, Old Town's trademark diamond-head seat hanger bolts -- nice all around.

1 comment:

  1. I have had the pleasure of restoring some wood and canvas canoes, an Old Town among them. Several points worth mentioning. What became apparent to me as I worked on these canoes was the amount of manual labor that had gone into their construction. Not surprisingly, they were superseded in the market place by the much more cheaply constructed aluminum and plastic canoes.
    The wood and canvas canoes that were built were still quite close to their birch bark antecedents in both design and construction, the main difference being the replacement of the bark skin with painted canvas and the nailing of the planking to the ribs. Wood and canvas canoes were built ribs first on a plug followed by planking followed by skinning. Bark canoes were built skin first followed by planking followed by ribs.
    One of the unique characteristics of canvas covered canoes was that the hull shape had to be such that it could be covered with a flat sheet of canvas without the need to cut and sew the canvas to conform to the hull. I think the same was true of the hulls of bark canoes although in most cases their bark skins were pieced when a single sheet of bark wasn't big enough to cover a boat.
    Anyone interested in how to restore one of these boats can do no better than read Jerry Stelmok's book, The Wood & Canvas Caroe: a Complete Guide to Its History, Construction, Restoration.