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"Built by Ditchburn"

View of Ditchburn runabout, Pine Bark, 1934. (CSTMC)

Another venerable Canadian builder of motor launches was Ditchburn Boats and Yachts Limited of Gravenhurst and Orillia, Ontario. The Ditchburn family immigrated to Canada in the 1860s and originally entered boat building to supply the family hotel with skiffs and other small recreational boats. Based in the Muskoka Lakes region north of Toronto, an area that was the focus of a growing tourism trade, and drawing from the rapidly expanding urban population of southern Ontario, Ditchburn Boats reached its zenith of commercial success in the boom years following the First World War. By this time, the Muskoka Lakes had become a favourite summer haven among the wealthy urban elite whose tastes and interests drew them to a new breed of powered launch. These boats had polished hulls, often made of mahogany, and featured flat transoms, flared V-form bows and increasingly powerful engines similar to, or directly derived from, those found in the automobile industry. Speed, comfort and style made these boats popular in the roaring '20s and Ditchburn was widely known as a builder of some of the finest. Indeed, the simple phrase "Built by Ditchburn" was featured prominently in the company's promotional literature.

Detail of steering wheel and dashboard of the Ditchburn runabout Pine Bark, 1934. (CSTMC)

In spite of Ditchburn's success and international reputation, the company, which at its height employed 133 workers, was hard hit by the Great Depression. This forced a reorganization in 1933, which, in turn, saw the development of a line of smaller, less expensive runabouts. The Museum's Ditchburn, named Pinebark (800508), was built in 1934 and represents this latter generation. Its 6.1-m, lapstrake hull was powered by a 65-hp, four-cylinder Buchanan engine. In its form and general arrangement one can easily see the inspiration for the now-ubiquitous fibreglass runabout, which ultimately displaced the wooden speedboat on Canada's recreational waterways.

Detail of builder's plate, Ditchburn runabout Pine Bark, 1934. (CSTMC)