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Shell Lake Canoes

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by BadgerBoater, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. garypete

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Shell Lake Canoes: Bulletproof!

    I was surprised to learn that in three years in the early 1950s, Shell Lake produced more wooden canoes than anyone else in the world--including Old Town.

    That was in the heyday of youth summer camps, and the camps bought Shell Lake canoes in record numbers. They were popular with camp directors because they were wide and flat-bottomed (and so initially felt very stable), and although heavy with the beefy construction and continuous ribbed floor, they were just about bulletproof.

    In my high-school years, I worked summers as a counselor in a Wisconsin Boy Scout camp very near Shell Lake, and the camp was just making the switch from wood canoes to aluminum. At the end of one summer, I was able to buy two of the well-used Shell Lake canoes. This was pre-Ebay and pre-WCHA, so I picked up the two very serviceable canoes for $65 total.

    A question for your father would be if he knows anyone working at the boat factory during the 1960s who may have acquired the original Shell Lake metal-clad canoe forms. I've talked to lots of old-time former employees of the boat factory in Shell Lake, but no one knows what happened to the forms.

    I'd love to find one of the old forms hidden away in some weathered barn in rural Shell Lake and take it to the new canoe museum in nearby Spooner to set up and start making canoes off it again. What a piece of working history that would be!
  2. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have never seen a "F.W. Conselman" boat. I have never seen a Shell Lake boat with the stepped bottom.

    Yes, Mr. Conselman was involved with Shell Lake Boat Company. I think he was one of the managers. And after one of the many, many ownership changes and or closures, he gained ownership of the boat works. Shell Lake Boat Company had many owners from her origins in 1904 thru 1944. There never was much stability. It was not until Stouffer and Ek became owners in 1944 that any sense of stabilty took place.

    My article on Shell Lake Boat history was published in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue of "Classic Boating" magazine.

    To Brad Koeneman: I would enjoy sitting down with your father and speaking with him about his tenure at the boat firm. I am always adding to my history file.

    I just spent two days in Wisconsin researching Rhinelander Boat; Rhinelander Marine; Hodag Boat; Oneida Boat; Mermaid Marine; Hayward Boat and all the firms in Hayward, Mercer Boat, etc...

  3. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Can anyone tell me where I can get more specifics about this? How many? What years? etc. Thanks,

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2009
  4. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I wondered where that statement originated as well.

  5. Brad Koeneman

    Brad Koeneman Maker of fine kindling

    Thank you for the interest. I just emailed my father this morning and will share what he knows as soon as he replies. He is presently traveling so it may be a few days. His tenure at Shell Lake is something we have not discussed much over the years which is odd as I make a living working on boats. He was a full time student while employed there. Perhaps that answers that! I did, however, advise him to stop wearing his Shell Lake Boat Co. apron in his home shop.
  6. garypete

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Benson and Andreas,
    I spent some time at the Washburn County Historical Society Museum in Shell Lake reading old Shell Lake Boat Company history archives. If I recall, the years cited were 1952, 1953, and 1955. Now it WAS company literature and there may have been some small-town bragadaccio involved....

    I could probably go back to the museum and read the actual numbers of canoes built for those years and email those to Benson who could compare them to Old Town's numbers. But that might burst the bubble. Do we really want to maybe destroy a tiny town's only claim to national canoeing fame for the sake of historical accuracy? :)

    I believe the museum is now closed for the winter. So until I get back there in the spring to check the numbers for Benson, SHELL LAKE BOATS RULED THE CANOE WORLD FOR THREE YEARS!!!!
  7. Brad Koeneman

    Brad Koeneman Maker of fine kindling

    GaryPete & Andreas,
    My father has responded but with nothing to add to the information already disseminated here. He did attempt to contact some of his old co-workers from Shell Lake, but sadly they have passed on. So the old forms shall remain at large for a while longer.

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