Chestnut Canoe Company

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, these early canoes clearly show the influence of 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 after the merger, and 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 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.

Identifying Features (1922-1979):

  • Inwales: not tapered.
  • Cant Ribs: cant ribs are wider (3″ approx.) than regular ribs.
  • Decks: usually shallow semi-circular cut-out.

Identifying Features (1904-1921):

  • 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.

 

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.

Chestnut canoe models:

  • 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 so far.
  • 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.

Specifications for Post-Fire (1922-1978) Chestnut Models

Model
Length x Beam x Depth
Other
Pleasure Canoes
Little (1st Grade)
Peach (2nd Grade)
14 x 32 x 11¼
14 x 32 x 12 (1956)
Peach dropped 1959.
Little dropped circa 1960.
Playmate14 x 32 x 12
14 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Fox14 x 32 x 12
14 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
Introduced 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)
Gooseberry dropped 1959.
Twozer dropped circa 1960.
Chum15 x 32 x 12
15 x 34 x 12½ (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Doe15 x 34 x 12
15 x 34 x 12½ (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)
Ajax retired circa 1954-56
Moonlight 1st Grade from 1954-56
Moonlight Deluxe16 x 36 x 12Introduced 1966.
Pal16 x 34 x 12
16 x 36 x 12¾ (1967)
Replaces Ajax circa 1954-56
1½" Ribs
2 3/8" ribs (1967)
Deer16 x 36 x 12
16 x 36 x 12¾ (1967)
Introduced 1966.
1½" ribs
PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
New Champion (1st Grade)16 x 34 x 12In 1953 catalog.
Glider Sponson16 x 33 x 12In 1956 catalog. (Sponsons available since 1905 on any pleasure model.
Aster (1st Grade)
Winter (2nd Grade)
17 x 35 x 12Dropped circa 1954-56.
Alpha (1st Grade)
Evening (2nd Grade)
18 x 36 x 12¼Dropped circa 1954-56.
Indian Maiden (circa 1923-ca1955, 1961).
Indian (1st Grade)16 x 33 x 12Mahogany gunwales, decks, trim
Maiden (1st Grade)16 x 33 x 12Spruce gunwales, cedar decks, hardwood trim
Indian Maiden16 x 33 x 12Reintroduced 1961.
12-foot Canoe (1922-circa 1955)
Teddy (1st Grade)
Trapper (2nd Grade)
12 x 34 x 14 
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)

Bantam PVC coated canvas 1977-78.
Mermaid (1973-1978)
Mermaid12 x 40 x 12¾ 
Featherweight
Featherweight11 x 34 x 11¾
11 x 34 x 12 (1956)
 
One-man Canoes
Robinson (1st Grade)
Crusoe (2nd Grade)
15 x 28 x 12Introduced 1921
Dropped circa 1955.
Solitaire13 x 26 x 11¾Introduced circa 1926-1934.
Dropped circa 1955.
Cruisers
Premier (1st Grade)
Kruger (2nd Grade)
16 x 34 x 12
16 x 33 x 13¼ (1967)
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)
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)
Stoessel retired circa 1954-56
Guide Special
Boone16 x 34 x 12br>16 x 33 x 13¼ (1967)close ribbed
Crocket17 x 35 x 12¼
17 x 35 x 12 (1956)
17 x 34 x 13 (1967)
close ribbed
Moses18 x 36 x 12½
18 x 37 x 12 (1956)
18 x 35 13¼ (1967)
close ribbed
Prospector Models (Introduced 1923)
Forest12 x 32 x 12
12 x 32 x 11¾ (1967)
Introduced between 1926 and 1934
Retired 1972 (replaced with similar Mermaid)
Fire14 x 34 x 13
14 x 33 x 13¾ (1967)
Introduced between 1926 and 1934
Elk14 x 34 x 1314 x 33 x 13¾ (1967)Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Ranger15 x 35 x 13½ 
Bear15 x 35 x 13½Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Fort16 x 36 x 14
16 x 36 x 14½ (1967)
 
Fawn16 x 36 x 14
16 x 36 x 14½ (1967)
16'3" x 36 x 14½ (1976)
Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Sectional16 x 36 x 14Introduced 1957
Same design as 16' Prospector Fawn
Garry17 x 37 x 14½ 
Marsh17 x 37 x 14½Introduced circa 1954-56
V-Stern
Voyageur18 x 38 x 15 
Birch18 x 38 x 15Introduced 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)
 
Bay18 x 46 x 18
18 x 46 x 18½ (1967)
 
Company19 x 51 x 19
19 x 51 x 19½ (1967)
 
Traffic20 x 52 x 20
20'2" x 52 x 20 (1976)
 
Daddy22 x 62 x 243" ribs, vee or flat stern
Rupert25 x 50 x 23Introduced circa 1934
Retired circa 1954-56
Giant24 x 67 x 283" ribs, vee or flat stern
Salmo Model (Fishing Models)
Trout18 x 33 x 13Introduced circa 1934.
Retired circa 1954-56.
Grilse20 x 36 x 14Introduced circa 1934.
Retired circa 1954-56.
Salmo22 x 37½ x 14½
22 x 38 x 14½ (1934)

Retired circa 1954-56.
Salar24 x 41 x 15Introduced 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)
 
Parr16 x 36 x 13
16 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Dave18 x 36 x 13
18 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
 
Grilse18 x 36 x 13
18 x 36 x 13½ (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Jock20 x 37 x 13
20 x 37 x 14 (1967)
 
Pool20 x 37 x 13
20 x 37 x 14 (1967)
20'5" x 37 x 14 (1976)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Alex22 x 39 x 14
22 x 38 x 15 (1967)
 
Trout22 x 39 x 14
22 x 39 x 15 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Joe24 x 40 x 14Dropped circa 1974-76.
Salar24 x 40 x 14Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Chief26 x 40 x 14
26 x 41 x 14 (1967)
Dropped circa 1974-76.
Salmo26 x 40 x 14
26 x 41 x 14 (1967)
Introduced circa 1954-56.
V-stern
Group Paddling (1967-1978)
Centennial25 x 51 x 19 
Selkirk22 x 38 x 18 
Nestable19 x 51 x 19 Same as Nest (See Nestable Canoes)
Nestable Canoes
Chicken14 x 32 x 12Retired circa 1954-56
Yolk15'3" x 36½ x 13½Retired circa 1954-56
White16'6" x 41 x 15Retired 1959
Egg17'9" x 46 x 17Retired 1959
Nest19 x 51 x 19Retired 1959
Labrador (Offered 1929 - circa 1953)
Manitou15 x 34 x 15extreme rocker
Mingan16 x 38 x 16extreme rocker
Moisie18 x 40 x 17extreme rocker
All Purpose Canoes (1961-1977)
Northman16 x 39 x 13
16'2" x 39 x 13 (1976)
 
Northland18 x 41 x 16
18 x 42 x 16 (1967)
Dropped circa 1974-76.