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Rare Display Sample Canoe, Old Town Canoe Company

Rare Display Sample Canoe, Old Town Canoe Company

Item Description:

Old Town Canoe Company
Old Town, ME 1926
48 in. long
The Old Town Canoe Company of Old Town, Maine, is a historic maker of canvas-covered wooden canoes. Incorporated in 1901, Old Town is the largest and most well-known American canoe maker and they are still in business today. The individual build records for Old Town’s canoes that were built prior to 1976 still exist and can be accessed by contacting the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. A serial number is located on the upper face of the stem on the floor of the canoe at each end and is tied to the build records which contain specific information regarding construction, dates, and the final shipping destination.

The Old Town Canoe Co. build records disclose that approximately thirty-five forty-eight-inch-long samples were made between 1922 and 1927; however, very few bear the build/serial number relating to their actual production. Identification is sometimes possible by matching original paint colors to records and/or relating the locale where the canoe was found to the original shipping destination records. This particular piece is likely Old Town build #88798, shipped on 27 February 1926 to J. W. Teshune Co. in Hackensack, New Jersey, close to where it was discovered over forty-five years ago.

The Old Town Canoe Co. made approximately 100-120 samples in all over the years, including thirty-five to forty of their larger eight-foot-long models. It is believed that Old Town rewarded its wholesale distributors with a free forty-eight-inch sample if they ordered a railway boxcar load of canoes, about forty full-size canoes. Distributors received two forty-eight-inch-long samples or one eight-foot sample if they ordered two boxcar loads. Thus, the samples were really used as “premiums” to recognize favored distributors, not routinely handed out to salesmen, though they are often called such. Old Town Canoe Co. was by far the greatest maker and distributor of “display” samples, which were also often referred to as “sign” canoes. By comparison, the Kennebec Canoe Co., Old Town’s biggest competitor, built sixty recorded “sample” canoes sixty-three to sixty-nine inches in length, ten of them in 1916 and fifty more between 1922-1926. The parallels in production and distribution are striking.

Display samples were not sold to individual buyers. Most were distributed prior to the 1930s and were placed in window displays or hung prominently in outfitter stores. Given the relatively low production numbers and disappearance through attrition, they are scarce and highly sought after collectibles today.

We are grateful to Roger Young of Antique Model Canoes for supplying this information.


Please email condition report requests to Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.

$ 13000.00 ( Sold Price )



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