General Information

Capsule History: The Chestnut family started marketing canvas canoes in the late 1890's in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The early Chestnut canoes were modelled after a canoe built by B.N. Morris, and indeed, the early Chestnuts show the influence the Morris canoes. Chestnut incorporated in 1907 as the Chestnut Canoe Company, Limited. The Chestnut factory burned down in December of 1921, and was quickly rebuilt. Chestnut Canoe Company and Peterborough Canoe Company merged under the holding company Canadian Watercraft Limited. Canadian Canoe Company joined them in 1927. All three companies continued to maintain there own identity. Chestnut shipped its last canoes in early 1979, then closed. Most of the Chestnut molds survive, and are being used in several wooden canoe shops in Canada. For more details about the history of the Chestnut Canoe Company, see Roger MacGregor's book When the Chestnut was in Flower.

Serial Number Format - Highly variable. Most Chestnut canoes are not marked with serial numbers. Those that are may have five-digit numbers or a number starting with the letter "C". Without accompanying paperwork that provides information about shipping, it is not possible to date Chestnut canoes using the serial number. Unlike Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, Chestnut never marked a model number on their canoes.

Kissing Cousins: Following the mergers in the 1920's with the Chestnut Canoe Company, Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, all three firms marketed nearly identical lines of canvas canoes. It is often said that Chestnut was responsible for the canvas canoe production for all three companies. While canoes built in one factory were often given a decal for one of the others, for the most part, evidence indicates that each company was responsible for the production of most of its own canoes. Models that are otherwise the same in the catalogs show subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in hull shape, rib patterns, sheer lines, tumblehome, and the shaping of trim parts.

Chestnut Canoe Models

A brief description of the more common model classes offered by Chestnut:

  • Pleasure Models: These are the general purpose recreational canoes offered by Chestnut. These are excellent paddling canoes, and are the most commonly found models of Chestnut canoes. The 16' Pal is perhaps the most famous of the lot, but the 15' Twozer/Gooseberry/Chum is my personal favorite canoe yet.
     
  • Lightweight Pleasure Canoes: Built lighter than standard models. Includes the 11' Featherweight and 15' 50-pound Special (popular known as Bobs Special).
     
  • Prospector Models: These are deeper and beamier than pleasure models of equivelant length. Meant to carry lots of gear for extended trips, there is a lot of canoe packed into a Prospector. Bill Mason's hype about the Prospector aside, it is a fantastic canoe, and is perhaps the model most widely copied by modern day composite canoe builders. Prospector models were available in double-ended or transom-sterned models.
     
  • Trappers Canoes: This is a loose grouping of smaller canoes that changed over the years. This class also includes lower grade pleasure canoes and the Bantam, which is a 2nd grade version of Bobs Special
     
  • Cruisers Canoes: Designed to go fast, these models are narrower, more rounded across the bottom and have finer lines than other models. The Guides Special models are cruisers than have close-ribbing.
     
  • Freight Canoes: If the Propsector can be considered the pick-up truck of the North, the Freighters are the semi-trucks. Bigger abd beamier, they have great carrying capacity. Available in double-ended and transom-sterned configurations.
     
  • Ogilvy Specials: Named after famous guides of New Brunswick, these models are designed for shallow, fast water canoeing, like that found on the famous salmon rivers of New Brunswick.

Pre-Fire Models (1904-1921)

This table presents canoe models built by Chestnut up until the December, 1921 fire. All molds were destroyed in the fire and models changed somewhat after the factory was rebuilt. See below for details of post-fire canoes. Some of the features of canoes built prior to the fire include:

  • Grades: 1st grade canoes are closed-gunwale and finest materials. 2nd grade canoes are open gunwale and minor defects in materials allowed. (In 1904 all Chestnut canoes were closed gunwale, and grades reflect materials quality).
     
  • Heart Shaped Decks: The decks are finely shaped, have signicant crown and are sharpely undercut beneath the lobes of the heart.
     
  • Stem-head Unshaped: The last 1 ½" or so of the stem is left full width rather than being bevelled. The sheer plank is trimmed to fit around the stem-head.
     
  • Cant Ribs: Cant ribs in pre-fire canoes are the same width as the regular ribs. In post-fire canoes, the cant ribs are much wider than the regular ribs.
     
  • Tapered Inwales: The inwales are tapered in their length moreso than post-fire canoes.
     
  • Other: Canoes are copper-fastened. Stem bands are thicker than usual.
     
ModelLength x Beam x DepthWeight (lbs)Other
Pleasure Canoes
Little (1st Grade)
Peach (2nd Grade)
14 x 30 x 11
14 x 33 x 10¾ 1
55 
Twozer (1st Grade)
Gooseberry (2nd Grade)
15 x 31 x 11½
15 x 32 3/8 x 11 5/8 1
55Catalog states bottom not as flat and has more tumblehome than other Pleasure Models.
Ajax (1st Grade)
Moonlight (2nd Grade)
16 x 31 x 11
16 x 34 1/8 x 11¾ 1
65 
Aster (1st Grade)
Winter (2nd Grade)
17 x 31 x 11½
17 x 35 1/8 x 11½ 1
70 
Alpha (1st Grade)
Evening (2nd Grade)
18 x 32 x 12½
18 x 37 x 12¼ 1
75 
12-foot Canoe
Teddy (1st Grade)
Trapper (2nd Grade)
12 x 32 x 13
12 x 34¾ x 14  1
55 
Fifty-Pound Canoes
Bobs (1st Grade)
Bantam (2nd Grade)
15 x 34 x 11½
15 x 37 5/8 x 12 1
50Introduced 1916
Featherweight
Featherweight11 x 34 x 11¾34½Introduced circa 1919
Cruisers
Premier (1st Grade)
Kruger (2nd Grade)
16 x 32 x 11½
16 x 33 7/8 x 11¼ 1
65 
Primus (1st Grade)
Cronje (2nd Grade)
17 x 33 x 11½
17 x 35 ¼ x 11¼ 1
70 
Leader (1st Grade)
Stoessel (2nd Grade)
18 x 34 x 12
18 x 35 5/8 x 12½1
75 
Guides' Special
Boone (2nd Grade)16 x 32 x 11½
16 x 33 7/8 x 11¼ 1
70close ribbed
Crocket (2nd Grade)17 x 33 x 11½
17 x 35¼ x 11¼ 1
75close ribbed
Moses (2nd Grade)18 x 34 x 12
18 x 35 7/8 x 12½ 1
80close ribbed
Salmo Model
Salmo22 x 37½ x 14½140Introduced in 1918
Freighters
Hudson17 x 40 x 16120 
Bay18 x 42 x 17135 
Company19 x 46 x 19160 
Traffic20 x 42 x 19180 
Canadian Northern Railway Canoes
Canadian14 x 32 x 13  
Northern19 x 42 x 18½  
Notes

1In 1920, Chestnut changed the way they reported dimensions in the catalog. From the 1920 catalog: "In the past we have measured our canoes for catalogue purposes as follows: - for width from inside to inside of ribs and for depth from top of rib to top of gunwales. We are now changing that method to agree with that in use elsewhere and in the future measurements will be for width, from outside to outside of canvas at widest point, and for depth from top of gunwales to outside of canvas.

Data for this table comes from the following catalogs: circa 1904, 1913, circa 1916, 1920


 

 

Post-Fire Models (1922-1978)

Features of post-fire Chestnut models include:

  • Grades: No. 1 Grade has clear stock (ribs, planking gunwales) and a varnished finish on the canvas. No. 2 Grade allows small knots in the woodwork, painted finish on the canvas, and one less coat of varnish on the interior.
     
  • Inwales: not tapered.
     
  • Cant Ribs: cant ribs are wider (3" approx.) than regular ribs.
     
  • Decks: usually shallow semi-circular cut-out.
     
ModelLength x Beam x DepthWeight (lbs)Other
Pleasure Canoes
Little (1st Grade)
Peach (2nd Grade)
14 x 32 x 11¼
14 x 32 x 12 (1956)
55
60 (1957)
Peach dropped 1959.
Little dropped circa 1960.
Playmate14 x 32 x 12
14 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
60Introduced circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Fox14 x 32 x 12
14 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
60Introduced 1966.
1½" ribs
PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
Twozer (1st Grade)
Gooseberry (2nd Grade)
15 x 33 x 11½
15 x 33 x 12 (1956)
60
65 (1957)
Gooseberry dropped 1959.
Twozer dropped circa 1960.
Chum15 x 32 x 12
15 x 34 x 12½ (1967)
65
68 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Doe15 x 34 x 12
15 x 34 x 12½ (1967)
65
68 (1967)
Introduced 1966
1½" ribs
PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
Ajax (1st Grade)
Moonlight (2nd Grade)
16 x 34 x 11¾
16 x 34 x 12 (1956)
65
70 (1957)
Ajax retired circa 1954-56
Moonlight 1st Grade from 1954-56
Moonlight Deluxe16 x 36 x 12 70Introduced 1966.
Pal16 x 34 x 12
16 x 36 x 12¾ (1967)
70
72 (1967)
Replaces Ajax circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Deer16 x 36 x 12
16 x 36 x 12¾ (1967)
70
72 (1967)
Introduced 1966.
1½" ribs
PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
New Champion (1st Grade)16 x 34 x 1265In 1953 catalog.
Glider Sponson16 x 33 x 1290In 1956 catalog. (Sponsons available since 1905 on any pleasure model.
Aster (1st Grade)
Winter (2nd Grade)
17 x 35 x 12 70Dropped circa 1954-56.
Alpha (1st Grade)
Evening (2nd Grade)
18 x 36 x 12¼ 75Dropped circa 1954-56.
Indian Maiden (circa 1923-ca1955, 1961).
Indian (1st Grade)16 x 33 x 1275Mahogany gunwales, decks, trim
Maiden (1st Grade)16 x 33 x 1270Spruce gunwales, cedar decks, hardwood trim
Indian Maiden16 x 33 x 1275Reintroduced 1961.
12-foot Canoe (1922-circa 1955)
Teddy (1st Grade)
Trapper (2nd Grade)
12 x 34 x 1455 
Fifty-Pound Canoes
Bobs (1st Grade)
Bantam (2nd Grade)
Bobs Special (1956)
15 x 37½ x 12
15 x 37 x 12 (1956)
15 x 37 x 12½ (1967)
50
55 (1953)
58 (1967)

Bantam PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
Mermaid (1973-1978)
Mermaid12 x 40 x 12¾ 52 
Featherweight
Featherweight11 x 34 x 11¾
11 x 34 x 12 (1956)
34½
35 (1956)
40 (1967)
 
One-man Canoes
Robinson (1st Grade)
Crusoe (2nd Grade)
15 x 28 x 1255Introduced 1921
Dropped circa 1955.
Solitaire13 x 26 x 11¾45Introduced circa 1926-1934.
Dropped circa 1955.
Cruisers
Premier (1st Grade)
Kruger (2nd Grade)
16 x 34 x 12
16 x 33 x 13¼ (1967)
65
70 (1956)
Premier retired circa 1954-56
Primus (1st Grade)
Cronje (2nd Grade)
17 x 35 x 12¼
17 x 35 x 12 (1956)
17 x 34 x 13 (1967)
70
75 (1956)
Primus retired circa 1954-56
Leader (1st Grade)
Stoessel (2nd Grade)
18 x 36 x 13¼
18 x 37 x 12 (1956)
18 x 35 13¼ (1967)
75
80 (1956)
79 (1967)
Stoessel retired circa 1954-56
Guide Special
Boone16 x 34 x 12br>16 x 33 x 13¼ (1967) 70
75 (1956)
close ribbed
Crocket17 x 35 x 12¼
17 x 35 x 12 (1956)
17 x 34 x 13 (1967)
75
80 (1956)
close ribbed
Moses18 x 36 x 12½
18 x 37 x 12 (1956)
18 x 35 13¼ (1967)
80
90 (1956)
85 (1967)
close ribbed
Prospector Models (Introduced 1923)
Forest12 x 32 x 12
12 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
50Introduced between 1926 and 1934
Retired 1972 (replaced with similar Mermaid)
Fire14 x 34 x 13
14 x 33 x 13¾ (1967)
60
63 (1967)
Introduced between 1926 and 1934
Elk14 x 34 x 1314 x 33 x 13¾ (1967)70
75 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Ranger15 x 35 x 13½70 
Bear15 x 35 x 13½80Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Fort16 x 36 x 14
16 x 36 x 14½ (1967)
75
76 (1967)
 
Fawn16 x 36 x 14
16 x 36 x 14½ (1967)
16'3" x 36 x 14½ (1976)
85
82 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Sectional16 x 36 x 14115Introduced 1957
Same design as 16' Prospector Fawn
Garry17 x 37 x 14½80
85 (1957)
82 (1967)
 
Marsh17 x 37 x 14½95
97 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Voyageur18 x 38 x 1590
88 (1967)
 
Birch18 x 38 x 15100
110 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Note: V-Sterns available from circa 1926-1934, model names not given until circa 1954-56.
Freighters
Hudson17 x 45 x 17
17 x 45 x 18½ (1967)
115
125 (1956)
124 (1967)
 
Bay18 x 46 x 18
18 x 46 x 18½ (1967)
130
135 (1956)
132 (1967)
 
Company19 x 51 x 19
19 x 51 x 19½ (1967)
150
165 (1956)
170 (1967)
 
Traffic20 x 52 x 20
20'2" x 52 x 20 (1976)
180
195 (1956)
230 (1967)
 
Daddy22 x 62 x 24310 (1956)
257 (1967)
3" ribs, vee or flat stern
Rupert25 x 50 x 23250Introduced circa 1934
Retired circa 1954-56
Giant24 x 67 x 283103" ribs, vee or flat stern
Salmo Model (Fishing Models)
Trout18 x 33 x 1380Introduced circa 1934.
Retired circa 1954-56.
Grilse20 x 36 x 1495Introduced circa 1934.
Retired circa 1954-56.
Salmo22 x 37½ x 14½
22 x 38 x 14½ (1934)
140
Retired circa 1954-56.
Salar24 x 41 x 1595Introduced circa 1934.
Retired circa 1954-56.
Ogilvy Special (Introduced starting 1932)
Henry16 x 36 x 13½
16 x 36 x 13 (1956)
16 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
80
84 (1967)
 
Parr16 x 36 x 13
16 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
85
92 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Dave18 x 36 x 13
18 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
85
95 (1967)
 
Grilse18 x 36 x 13
18 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
90
106 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Jock20 x 37 x 13
20 x 37 x 14 (1967)
105
108 (1967)
 
Pool20 x 37 x 13
20 x 37 x 14 (1967)
20'5" x 37 x 14 (1976)
110
118 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Alex22 x 39 x 14
22 x 38 x 15 (1967)
130
125 (1967)
 
Trout22 x 39 x 14
22 x 39 x 15 (1967)
135
185 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Joe24 x 40 x 14150Dropped circa 1974-76.
Salar24 x 40 x 14155
240 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Chief26 x 40 x 14
26 x 41 x 14 (1967)
160
175 91967)
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Salmo26 x 40 x 14
26 x 41 x 14 (1967)
165
275 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Group Paddling (1967-1978)
Centennial25 x 51 x 19235 
Selkirk22 x 38 x 18155 
Nestable19 x 51 x 19150 Same as Nest (See Nestable Canoes)
Nestable Canoes
Chicken14 x 32 x 1255Retired circa 1954-56
Yolk15'3" x 36½ x 13½75Retired circa 1954-56
White16'6" x 41 x 1595
75 (1956)
Retired 1959
Egg17'9" x 46 x 17125Retired 1959
Nest19 x 51 x 19150Retired 1959
Labrador (Offered 1929 - circa 1953)
Manitou15 x 34 x 1565extreme rocker
Mingan16 x 38 x 1675extreme rocker
Moisie18 x 40 x 1795extreme rocker
All Purpose Canoes (1961-1977)
Northman16 x 39 x 13
16'2" x 39 x 13 (1976)
95
100 (1967)
 
Northland18 x 41 x 16
18 x 42 x 16 (1967)
110Dropped circa 1974-76.
Notes
Data for this table comes from the following catalogs: 1922, 1923, 1925, circa 1934, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978.

Further Reading

All of the catalogs referenced in the above tables are available on The Canadian Wood Canoe and Boat Company Catalog Collection CD-ROM from Dragonfly Canoe Works. See http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/cdrom.htm for more information.

Chestnut Canoes. Reprint of 1950 Catalog. Roger MacGregor, publisher, 1994.

When the Chestnut was in Flower by Roger MacGregor. Plumsweep Press, 1999.

The Story of the Chestnut Canoe by Ken Solway. Nimbus Publishing, 1997.