Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Canoes and Romance IV - The Honeymoon Canoe

The canoe that my parents paddled on their 1921 honeymoon on Paw Paw Lake survives. Thus it is now over 100 years old.
Continuing from my 2001"Wooden Canoe" article:
The canoe still exists. Although it has been a family tradition that it is an Old Town, the realty is that it is not. It is an eighteen-footer with the number 4971 on a brass plate attached to the left inwale forward of the bow seat. Benson Gray says he never saw an Old Town with a brass plate and that the build card for Old Town number 1471 was for a fifteen-foot HW model built in 1906. He speculates that it might be a Morris.
With that lead and a concurring opinion from Gil Cramer, I hunted up Jeff and Jill Dean's 1985 articles on Morris Canoes in "Wooden Canoe" (Issues 21, 22 and 27) and sent copies to the cousin who has the canoe (Phil Shane). He reports that the canoe has splayed stems and that except for six at each end, every rib is screwed to the keel, both Morris characteristics, but its decks do not look like any of those pictured in the Deans' articles.
This temporarily stumped me, but I remembered that I had a copy of the 1982 WCHA reprint of the Morris Canoe Catalog. The pictures and text in this reprint resulted in a positive identification of the canoe. It turns out that it is a Model A, Type 1 Morris canoe with heart shaped decks, open gunwales and five-inch "braces" (thwarts) all of mahogany. The center brace is removable to provide a space of 70 inches for a passenger in a canoe chair. A folding canoe chair in like-new condition exactly like the one shown in the catalog (Style No. 1) is stored with the canoe. Also, there are two original Style 2 Morris spruce wood paddles. The canoe still has the original floor grate.
According to the price list in the catalog the canoe was priced at $42. The mahogany open wales added $5 and braces of mahogany $1.50 more. The paddles were $1.50 each (second quality for $1.25), and the folding mahogany and cane seat was only $2.25. The grand total then was $53.75. Sometime prior to 1915 my grandfather bought it second hand so he probably got it for less. Using the modified "Dean-Brinker" formula for dating Morris canoes I calculate that the canoe was built around 1906 or 1907.
That the honeymoon canoe has been proven a Morris rather than an Old Town in no way diminishes its aura of bygone romance for me. If anything, it has been enhanced. For now in my mind's eye I can see my mother as a newlywed relaxing in that Morris folding chair while my proud father in the stern wields a Morris Style 2 spruce paddle.
NEXT: What happened to the old Pratt family canoe and the Pratt family since I wrote the article?

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