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Work and Play

This collection profile concerns itself with small watercraft intended for use solely or primarily in leisure activities. The distinction between a work boat and a recreational boat was not always as evident as it may seem today. This is partly because small vessels designed for work could also be used for recreation; in addition, designs and techniques developed within a work-boat tradition have sometimes inspired or influenced the construction of pleasure craft.

Illustration from Herald Bros. Canoe Co. catalogue, 1892. (CSTMC)

From about the middle of the 19th century, there was a strong correlation between the increase in leisure time among a growing urban middle class and the development of watercraft intended exclusively for recreational use. In this respect, the history of recreational small watercraft in Canada is a significant part of a larger social and economic transformation: the early industrialization and urbanization of the nation. As a result, many of the boats described here originated in central Canada where industrial activity was most concentrated.