I have been researching and collecting objects related to wood canoe and small boat manufacturers in North America for a number of years. I'll share some of my collection of advertising covers in this thread - feel free to join in.
First up is J. H. Rushton, one of North America's earliest wood canoe manufacturers. (excluding, of course, native bark and dugout canoes). John Henry Rushton started building boats in 1879 and was among the leading builders when recreational canoeing became popular in the States following the Civil War. He died in 1904, and his company survived until 1916, just on the brink of WWI.
Here is another one from my neck of the woods. A. Bain and Company was founded in 1878, a partnership between investor Alexander Bain (a dentist from down Skaneatles way) and Xavier Colon, a Clayton, NY, boatbuilder who is often credited with inventing the St. Lawrence River Skiff. In 1888, the company name was changed to the St. Lawrence River Skiff, Canoe, and Steam Launch Company.
This cover is not as interesting, but it did include an invoice, which is great because records and paper trails for many early canoe manufacturers have been lost.
John R. Robertson worked with J. H. Rushton (post 1) as a teenager before moving to Massachusetts and starting his own company. For most of his career he was in Auburndale, on the Charles River, which was a major center of recreational canoeing at the time. He also was a partner in the Old Town Canoe Company in 1902 (known at the Robertson and Old Town Canoe Company). He was active in the industry until he died in 1938.
Circa 1909 catalog page showing the canoe that was probably invoiced above
Pawtuxet, as opposed to Pawtucket - I had never heard of such a place! The Pawtuxet website does specifically mention that the Rhodes casino / dance hall development included a "canoe center".
Yes, it looks like the Rhodes Brothers ran a canoe house, which also served as a base for the Saskatchewan Canoe Club of the American Canoe Association. There was also a Pawtuxet Canoe Club in the same vicinity.
Canoe houses and canoe clubs were very popular in the 1900s into the 1930s.
Based on your moniker, gatodiablo (Devil Cat), are you Latin?
Do you have any covers from Old Town Canoe?
No, I'm not of Latin origin. The name is the name of our business, Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters, which came out of spending several winters in Costa Rica over the last few years, and is one of the places we source our beans from.
I have a few Old Town covers, here is the earliest, from 1917 (fortunately the catalog that came in it is in much better condition than the envelope):
In 1888, A. Bain & Co. hired a young naval architect named Fred Martin. To reflect the skills he brought to the company, its name was changed to the St. Lawrence River Skiff, Canoe, and Steam Launch Company. This incarnation of the company would span the years 1888-1895, after which it was moved from Clayton, NY, to Ogdensburg, NY, and renamed the Spalding St. Lawrence Boat Company. Several employees would stay in Clayton and form their own boatbuilding businesses, including L. E. Fry and Wilbur & Wheelock.
Here is a postally unused catalog request form that was given out at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
Of course, wherever two boats meet, a race is bound to happen. This photo is of the extreme racing St. Lawrence River Skiff "88" class sailing of Clayton.
Interestingly the Old Town cover has a Old Town pre-cancel. Having seen the making of an Old Town canoe, it is hard to image 42,000 canoes, all hand made. I never knew about the skiffs. Interesting and thanks for the lesson.
Referring to coffee. My wife is Colombian so it is usually Colombian Sello Rojo in the house and, believe it or not, she doesn't drink coffee.
The numbers of canoes and boats built by Old Town are indeed astonishing. Between their founding in 1900 and 1975, 250,000 were built. We are fortunate that Old Town recorded the details of every one on a build card, which survive today and have been digitized. This means that the owner of an Old Town watercraft can get the details of their boat by providing a serial number.
Here is another Old Town cover from 1938 with the same stamp. It appears there was another stamp that fell off or was removed.
Here are a couple of photos from the Old Town factory from around 1920.
Thanks for showing the covers. Living a short distance from the factory, and putting miles and miles on a Maine Guide, leaves me with a sense of nostalgia. I had a friend living in Old Town proper and one on the Penobscot Reservation in the river. A lot of his family worked in the factory and that is how I got to see how it was done. The output is mind boggling, about 3,300 / year.
I had friends in Taunton, Massachusetts (we lived there a couple of years) and the name Shurgot sounds familiar but, most probably, did not know him.
Here are a couple from the mid-west. First up is an 1894 cover from the Racine Boat Manufacturing Company. There were a number of canoe and boat builders in Racine, several of which were successors to one another. In this case, RBMCo and bought out the Racine Hardware Mfg, Co., which made canoes out of birch veneers. While period literature mentions these canoes often, they were apparently not all that successful, and none are known to survive today.
And one from the W. H. Mullins Company of Ohio. Mullins was famous for their metal boats, which they built for a long time. They got into building wood canoes around 1910, but unlike many other manufacturers, got out of the wood canoe and boat business in 1923, and concentrated on their metal boats going forward.
And back to New York we come, to the Finger Lakes region, which was another prominent region for boatbuilding. The Penn Yan Boat Company was a latecomer to the industry, getting their start in the 1920s. The famous airplane inventor Glenn Curtis was only a short distance away from Penn Yan in Hammondsport, and Penn Yan Boat Company incorporated several construction techniques for their boats that were originally developed for the aircraft industry. They were also among the very first to abandon wood boat construction in favor of fiberglass in the 1960s.
This cover is from about 1928:
and this is the front cover of the catalog that arrived in it.
Canoes, and kayaks, were meant to be paddled, not sailed Would you put a sail on a sled
Actually, the Old Town Canoe Company built a number of Sail Sled models in, as I recall, the 1930s. More to the point, the American Canoe Association was founded in the 1880s with the decked sailing canoe (the "poor man's yacht") as the standard. Here are some images taken by Seneca Ray Stoddard taken in the late 1880s from my collection:
Here are a couple more that arrived in Cape Vincent while I was down under.
That they are addressed from the Chestnut Canoe Company to the Peterborough Canoe Company may seem unusual - why send mail to a competitor? However, Chestnut and Peterborough were collected under the same holding company way back in the 1920s, and while maintaining brand identity, were in many ways one and the same company with factories in both Ontario and New Brunswick. The Canadian Canoe Company, also of Peterborough, was also part of this conglomerate.
The smaller envelope has a 1957 postmark, the larger I think is 1956, but it is hard to read. I particularly like the loon stamp.