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A Venerable Chestnut

The Chestnut Canoe Co. Ltd., named after its founding family, the Chestnuts of Fredericton, New Brunswick, began operation in 1904. Although the canvas-covered canoe became popular in the market almost half a century after the wooden canoe was first commercially produced in Ontario, it proved to be more commercially resilient to the introduction of new materials during the latter half of the 20th century. Chestnut canoes remained in production right up until 1978, almost two decades after the demise of the last of the old Ontario firms, the legendary Peterborough Canoe Co.

In the lead up to the centennial celebrations of 1967, the Chestnut Canoe Co. was commissioned to build 12 voyageur-type, canvas-covered canoes, one for each of the provinces and territories. In 1966, as a promotional event, these canoes travelled down from Montreal to New York, following the ancient north-south corridor of rivers and lakes. Each canoe was 26 feet (8 metres) long and was painted to resemble the original birchbark hulls used by the voyageurs and made famous by the paintings of Frances Anne Hopkins. One of these centennial canoes is preserved in the Museum's national collection and is included in this exhibit (680445).