It is common these days to see or hear most small canoes referred to as "salesman's samples". In fact, the true, early factory-made samples were not meant for everyday use by sales staff; they were display pieces made for window dressings, or to be hung up as 'eye candy' in retail shops. Essentially, they were advertising and marketing items.
There are many miniature canoe models around today; some are toys while others are souvenirs; some are replica models while others are representational decoratives. A word of warning: genuine, antique factory sample canoes are both scarce and often frighteningly expensive; consequently, there are also many fakes or reproductions in the marketplace. On this page, you can view some of the finest and rarest display samples known; on the following "More Info" page, you can see examples of what to avoid if you are shopping for the real thing.
Authentic 'display' pieces made by the early N. American canoe factories are few in number, and very scarce indeed. Old Town Canoe Co. distributed the largest number, likely not much over a hundred in all, and they have been in business for almost 120 years. Kennebec Canoe Co. records suggest only 60 were made there, all between 1916-26. Old Town distributed most of its samples prior to 1935. AND, they weren't handed out to sales staff; rather, they were given as 'premiums' to the largest and best customers who ordered 40-50 (or more) canoes at a time to sell in large 'outfitter' stores. They attracted customers and stimulated sales. Detailed sales and ordering information was primarily available from printed color catalogues.
In Canada, canoe manufacturers do not seem to have produced many 'sample' canoes, though some (mostly Peterborough Canoe and Canadian Canoe, along with Chestnut) did hand out 'sample' paddles in fairly numerous supply. Very few Canadian-made sample canoes have ever surfaced - less than a handful by any one company have been found. In the US, aside from Old Town and Kennebec, the Carleton and the E M White canoe companies likely made 20 or so samples each, while both Rushton and Robertson have only one sample each currently known to exist. The photos below show examples in my collection, presently on loan to the Canadian Canoe Museum, where they are on public display. Be sure to visit.