Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘peterborough ontario history’

So I says to myself, “Self, what’s the least helpful thing I could do right now, given that I have a lot of boat projects on the go? Probably it would be to bring home another boat project. OK, let’s do that.” So I did. But what a boat!

OCC 4

This might be the prettiest canoe I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. What have I brought home? well, I’m pretty sure it’s a late 1890s Ontario Canoe Company decked canoe. Constructed from white cedar planking with Spanish Cedar decks, it was build in the “raised batten” technique by one of the pioneering canoe companies in the Peterborough, Ontario area. Incorporated in 1883, the OCC built a variety of cedar and basswood canoes using the techniques originally developed and patented by John Stephenson. The company flourished until May 9th, 1892 when it was completely destroyed by fire. Despite having lost everything and having no insurance, the founders decided to rebuild and on February 15th, 1893 a new factory opened at the intersection of King and Water Streets in Peterborough. This time, the sign on the building read “Peterborough Canoe Company.”

I think my new boat is a Model 200 “Ontario Canoe” as depicted in a late 1880s OCC catalogue.

occ catalogue profile view with rig

occ catalogue model 200

The dimensions and specifications match perfectly, as does the fabulous shape of the coaming, with its long, raking forward end. There are some interesting things about this boat, though, not the least of which is that it was never completely fitted out to sail. As you can see from the catalogue illustration above, it was intended to be sailed with a two-masted “Mohican”-style lug rig. The mast holes are there in the deck caps, but I can’t find the screw holes that would have been left by the deck hardware, and nor is there any sign on the keel of mast steps or mast tubes having been fastened in place. There is also no indication that a rudder was ever fitted to the sternpost. Most tellingly, there is no centreboard!

The catalogue says “Centre-boards fitted to any of these canoes at extra cost.” The OCC offered two choices for folding fan centreboards: the Brough, which used 5 overlapping plates of brass, and the much more complex Radix, whose leaves telescoped inside each other when retracted.

occ catalogue radix and brough

Along with the canoe, I was also able to acquire a #2 Radix, though I did pay slightly more than the 1880s price of $20.

radix 1

Stay tuned over the coming months as I work to bring this beautiful little canoe back to life. Should keep me out of trouble for a while.

Read Full Post »

 The history of the canoe building companies that were a significant part of the economic life of Peterborough, Ontario, for more than one hundred years is as rich and tangled a story as you’re likely to find in Canadian business history. Invention, entrepreurship, patents, lawsuits, rivalries, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and catastrophic fires: it’s a tale that has all this and more. It is also a complicated story, and those who are interested in canoeing history, Canadian history, Canadian business history and the story of how the city of Peterborough, Ontario came to be synonymous around the world with the canoe will have a much easier time figuring it out after they have read Peterborough author Ken Brown’s new book: The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories.

This isn’t Brown’s first crack at the subject. In 2001, The Canadian Canoe Museum published published his book The Invention of the Board Canoe: the Peterborough stories from their sources, which compiled primary source material to explore competing claims for the origin of the Peterborough area’s unique wide-board method of canoe construction. This first book was a modest pamphlet, which did invaluable service in clarifying an important part of the local canoeing story. It wasn’t, however, a book that you would be likely to leave out on your coffee table, or give to anyone but the most hardened canoe-head as a Christmas or birthday present (don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism. I’ve read and enjoyed and used it, and I’ll be forever grateful that he wrote it.) With the publication of this new volume, which has been more than fifteen years in the making, Brown has really raised the bar. Now we’re definitely in gift and coffee table territory, and several people I know will be getting one for Christmas.

Reading through this book and learning about the challenges that faced these entrepreurs as they developed their businesses, we are reminded that although the canoes they built are revered today for their craftsmanship, they were originally made in an un-romantic, hard-headed commercial environment. Brown has done an excellent job with the business history of this industry, not surprising considering that his working life was spent as a chartered accountant. This is an aspect of maritime history that is often neglected, and it is refreshing to see it treated in such detail. It also helps to bring the story out, for we see both the sucesses and the failures of these companies, both the good decisions and the bad.

The book is amply illustrated and visually sumptuous, and publisher Karen Taylor and graphic designer Louis Taylor have done a fine job bringing the story to life. The 16 pages of colour plates at the end are a real treat, as is the back inside cover, which identifies the sites of companies connected with Peterborough’s canoe industry from 1858-1961. This map is particularly valuable because few of these structures are still extant today and these industries which were such a prominent part of downtown Peterborough for so many years are now invisible.

Highly-recommended and just in time for Christmas, The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories is available from Cover to Cover Publication Services and from The Canadian Canoe Museum, which also carries The Invention of the Board Canoe: The Peterborough stories from their sources.

Read Full Post »