'Bushrat' presents...

antique model canoes

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welcome to my world

Rare, early, model canoes & kayaks from around the world .... vintage waterfowl decoys .... selected outdoor and sporting collectibles                           (last revised and updated 4 May 2016)
Welcome to my website; you are visitor
. Thanks for your interest in antique paddled watercraft. Here, you will find photos of collection items as well as a number of things which are currently for sale as I continue to down-size following a recent move.

IMPORTANT NEWS -- This coming July 15th, 2016, the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will be hosting a fabulous exhibit of very early North American canoe factory 'display samples'
  (aka salesman's samples) at its Annual Assembly, held at Paul Smiths, NY, in the beautiful Adirondacks. This exhibit will be unique and not to be missed. It will feature many samples, well over 100 years old, of which only one or two are even known to exist. It is unusual to see many competing samples in one room at the same time. This will be a truly rare opportunity to view and study them. Everyone is welcome to attend. If you have a sample model and would like to be part of the show, please let either myself or Benson Gray of WCHA know. 'Assembly' runs from July 12th - 17th, with many events scheduled throughout. The 'display sample' exhibit will take place on July 15th only, from 9:00 am until noon. All entries will be documented and photographed for historical records and possible inclusion in a book. We look forward to having you join us. Thank you.
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The large, world-wide collection of 160+ antique native-made canoe and kayak models I once gathered has now mostly moved on to museums and other collector friends. I am currently concentrating on researching, studying and writing about early North American factory display samples, often somewhat mis-described as 'salesman's samples'. You will find on p. 3, photos of rare models built a century ago to promote sales of full-size recreational canoes. On pp. 4 & 5, you will find 'treasures' from a lifetime of collecting for which I no longer have room. Let me know if anything interests you; I am sure we can come to agreeable terms. Enjoy your visit; always happy to receive comments or chat with new friends - just use the email link. First, allow me to give you a little background on how this all began.

I love canoes and kayaks, especiall
y smaller, older models - native-made as well as early factory-issue 'display samples'. I've been admiring, searching for and collecting them for over 25 years, but actually my love for them began closer to 70 years ago. The reasons I do this are more fully explained on the following 'Canoe History' page; but, let me briefly tell you about a few of the more fascinating pieces I have come across.

My interest began with Native American Eastern Woodlands canoes such as this lovely 32" Atikamekw birch bark model with its exquisitely etched winter bark designs and well-built, traditionally correct interior features, made in 1932. Not the first bark canoe I ever collected, but one of the nicest. A photo of it graced the cover of the Canadian Canoe Museum catalog for the "Canoe in Miniature" exhibit, 2008-2009, which I helped co-curate.

It soon spread to Arctic kayaks, from Siberia all the way to Greenland. I was fortunate to come across this fabulous 38" sealskin covered piece below from the Belcher Islands, Hudson Bay, Canada, dating to around 1910. It was brought back south in 1916 by an early geological surveyor, Dr. Elwood Moore, Dean of Mining, University of Pennsylvania and, later, the University of Toronto, who just happened to be traveling with famous film documentary director Robert Flaherty, of Canada's National Film Board.
At the time, Flaherty was shooting footage for his epic movie, "Nanook of the North".

I then moved on to dugouts from the Northwest Pacific coast. Here is an example of a 'Head canoe', a dugout style which went extinct around the time of the white man's arrival off the British Columbia coast. Because the very few remaining authentic, antique examples available are extremely rare, and prohibitively expensive when they do turn up, I had this 24" replica built for me by Native American artist Jim Keefer, of Seattle. He did an outstanding job of carving and steam bending the hull in traditional fashion, then incising and painting intricate totemic designs on its sides. A beauty!!

Soon after, I began searching for Oceanic outriggers and sailing canoes from the South Pacific. Pictured below is another very fortunate find, an extremely rare, double-hulled craft from Manihiki, Cook Islands, with its curious mother-of-pearl inlaid hulls which are lashed together so that they point in opposite directions. Yes, they actually were built this way, no mistake, and there are only a couple dozen or so similar pieces in some of the better museums. This one dates to about 1890. About 22" long, it has two masts and two identical woven fiber sails. Thanks, Doug, for sending it my way.

In between these finds, I even managed to collect a few pieces from Africa and S. America. At one point, I had gathered over 160 different examples from around the world. Plus an equal number of accessories - paddles, canoe cups, etc.

Shown below is another recent acquisition - an exceedingly rare 4-hole baidarka (sealskin covered kayak), 42", from the Norton Sound area of Alaska, dating to about 1900. It is one of a handful currently known to exist; a smaller 3-hole version can be found in the Alaska State Museum. This piece belonged at one time to legendary Kirk Wipper, Founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Fabulous!!!

For the past ten years, I have concentrated on gathering the finest, most diverse collection of early North American canoe factory 'display samples' to be found. Here is a photo of some at
the Canadian Decoy & Outdoor Collectible Association annual show (2011). Many were exhibited at the Canadian Canoe Museum (2008-09), and at the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association 'Annual Assembly' (2012). More recently, they were on display at the 'Muskoka Boat Show', Gravenhurst, ON,  July 2014, during the ACBS annual gathering. They range in date from the 1870's to 1946, with most falling within the 'golden age' of recreational canoeing - 1880's to 1920's. Individual high resolution photos are on the 'Display Samples' page. I am interested in acquiring more such examples; if you have, or know of one for sale, please contact me. I am also creating a data file concerning the identification/authenticity of such pieces. You are most welcome to contribute.

I have written articles for'Wooden Canoe' magazine, Feb. 2011, and 'Hunting & Fishing Collectibles' magazine, Mar./Apr. and May/June 2011 issues, giving extensive background history on 'salesman's samples'. Color photos can be viewed on the Wooden Canoe Heritage Assoc. website: http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?7202-feb-2011-display-canoes-color-photos. The
WCHA is a non-profit organization devoted to "preserving, studying, building, restoring and using wooden and bark canoes". It is a wonderful, friendly group whose members share a passionate interest in all types of wooden canoes. Please consider joining: www.wcha.orgYou can follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/219179608982/.

OF SPECIAL INTEREST... a large exhibit of antique sample canoes is currently planned for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's 'Annual Assembly', held at Paul Smiths College, in New York state's beautiful Adirondacks, on the morning of Friday, July 15, 2016. The 'Assembly' takes place from Tuesday through Sunday; the model exhibit is available on Friday morning only. This should be an exceptional gathering, with entries from museums as well as private collections - it will probably be unique in its breadth and depth of examples on display at one time and place, and not likely to be repeated. If you ever wanted to witness such a wonderful display, this is your opportunity. Should you wish to participate in placing a model on exhibit, please contact either myself or Benson Gray of the WCHA.

Over the years, I was fortunate in meeting collectors who willingly shared their experience and knowledge, as well as steering me toward helpful reference sources. I managed to gain insight, and believe in passing this along. I hope to encourage you to share my collecting passions. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Part of my efforts have involved helping museums and collector clubs put on displays, do identifications and
appraise significant donations for charitable tax receipts. In 2012, I had the wonderful experience of being a guest on two highly popular tv programs: "Pawnathon Canada"  and "Canadian Pickers". Repeats of those episodes are still currently showing; I hope you will enjoy them. Below, 'Pickers' Scott and Sheldon discuss the purchase of kayak and canoe models from my collection. The episode can be viewed at: www.history.ca/canadianpickers/video/full+episodes+s3/eye+spy/video.html?v=2298115851&p=1&s=dd#video. I also collect things related to canoeing, such as the 103-year old Royal Doulton trophy cup from the Toronto Canoe Club, these miniature 'sample' paddles, and other outdoor sporting items like vintage waterfowl and ice fishing decoys. Often these are found at antique shows and auctions. You might wish to visit some great sites like: midwestdecoy.org and www.canadiandecoy.com. Come out and enjoy one of our shows.

Collecting decoys and canoes has brought me deep friendships. These items have had not only historical and cultural lessons to teach, but provided memorable tales of how they came into my life and the truly amazing characters I have met. Even my dog was responsible for bringing two of the finest pieces into my possession; not by retrieving but, rather, by finding their owners and introducing me to them.

Please feel welcome to offer information which adds to my knowledge base or corrects any mistakes I may have made. I am primarily a collector-acquirer rather than dealer-seller, but do occasionally 'thin down' my findings to make room or pay for something new. See my 'For Sale' pages. My prices are fair and in keeping with the rarity and quality of the item. Your satisfaction is completely assured; return privileges and
authenticity absolutely guaranteed.


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