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Building A Business

While the mould and the canoe itself most obviously embody the physical fact of production, commercial canoe manufacturing required skills and investment in a variety of areas: design (ideas and plans), construction (tools and techniques), promotion (catalogues and exhibitions), and business operations (infrastructure, record keeping). This exhibit offers material insight from the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection in all of these areas.

Certificate awarded to Herald Bros. at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. (CSTM 940332)

For example, the collection includes a fine lines drawing of a canoe (940328). Such drawings were used in developing designs. They served as two-dimensional, scaled-down plans of the intended shape. Notable among the tools in the collection are various patterns, including a set of four very fine basswood plank patterns used to trace out the boards that formed the hull of the canoe (940393). Patterns were also used for a variety of other pieces, including paddles, and a selection of these is on display.


Herald Bros. canoe catalogue, ca 1892. This and other canoe catalogues were illustrated by John David Kelly, a well-known artist and graphic designer who grew up at Gore's Landing. He was a good friend of the Heralds as well as an avid canoeist. (CSTM L31537)

The all-important promotional component of the canoe-building business is well represented by a series of Rice Lake catalogues, and by two large diplomas from trade fairs, including one from the celebrated Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 (940332). (Because of the fragile nature of these documents, high-quality photographic facsimiles are used in the exhibit.)

The participation and success of Canadian canoe companies at these events underline their proprietors' desire to develop a national and international clientele. Evidence of just such a market for this quintessentially Canadian product can be found in a small sample of order books preserved in the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake Collection.