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William English (d. 1891 Peterborough, Canada)
migration: Peterborough, Canada
Cedarstrip canoe built by Wm. English Canoe Company
(ca 1896)
Different Strokes
Although the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection offers special insight into the operations of early commercial canoe builders, the business founded by Daniel Herald was just one of several pioneer canoe companies. Another noteworthy firm was the Wm. English Canoe Co'y. According to company advertising, William English claimed the honour of having opened the very first canoe "factory" in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1861. English was not remembered for a signature model, such as the "Herald's Patent" or the fabled "Peterborough Cedar Rib," but he was a builder whose canoes were greatly admired for their high-quality workmanship. A very good example on display is a William English Cedar Strip canoe dating from about 1896. Today, cedarstrip construction is among the best known of the early wooden canoe types. Originally developed by J.S. Stephenson in 1883, the hull is made up of long strips of cedar running stem to stern, ship-lap joined one above the other. Near the gunwales, there is an aesthetically delightful accent strip in darker wood. The hull is strengthened internally by elegant half-round ribs fashioned from rock elm and arranged on two-inch (5-cm) centres. On the beautifully fashioned butternut foredeck, the maple-leaf logo of the Wm. English Canoe Co'y is still visible.
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American Canoes and Their Builders
Two or three of the early American canoe builders have been mentioned early in this history. Everson's advertisement appears in several early A.C.A. yearbooks, the last one in 1892. In the 1888 yearbook appears the ad. of Charles Piepenbrink of Albany, N. Y. He built Notus, the canoe that won the A.C.A. Sailing Trophy in 1886-87, sailed by R. W. Gibson, 1886 being the first year that it was sailed for. Gibson became commodore of the A.C.A. in 1888. J. H. Rushton of Canton, N. Y., seems to have been the earliest builder of stock canoes. His advertisement appears in the American Canoeist as early as October, 1883, and perhaps before that. He must have been pretty well established even then, as he lists four different models of cruising canoes, three of them decked and rigged for sailing, and offers a 6-page catalog of canoes and pleasure boats. Rushton and his son carried on the business until about ten years ago. He built fine boats and canoes many of which are still in service. Thomas Kane and Son of Chicago, the Fulton Pleasure Boat Co. of Fulton, N. Y., the Bowdish Mfg. Company of Skaneateles, N. Y., Ontario Canoe Company, and William English Canoe Company, both of Peterborough, Ont., St. Lawrence River Skiff and Canoe Co. of Clayton, N. Y., and F. Joyner, all advertised at one time or another as canoe builders. Most of them built decked sailing canoes only to order, though some kept two or three models in stock. There was good reason for this. In the early days and to considerable extent even yet, canoeists were and are as strongly individual in their preferences as ever yachtsmen were, before the days of one-design classes. Sixteen feet by thirty inches became almost a standard size, but the designs were almost endless, hardly any two being exactly alike.
Capsule History
The William English Canoe Co. was established in 1861 by William English. He died in 1891 and his brothers carried on the business. In 1914 the company was purchased by the owners of the Peterborough Canoe Co. who ran it as an independent company until sometime in the 1920's. The charter of the company was surrendered late 1932. (by Dick Persson)
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page created: 14 Jun 2004 / updated: 06 Mar 2010
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