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Nessmuk's Adirondack Letters

By George Washington Sears ("Nessmuk") (1821-1890), 1880-3

Nessmuk's Canoes

J. Henry Rushton, of Canton, N. Y., made five light canoes for George Washington Sears. Here is the data from Dan Brenan's book, page 24.

The Susan Nipper was named for a character in the novel Dombey and Sons, by Charles Dickens. The Sairy Gamp was named for a character in Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, (spelled "Sairey Gamp" there), who "never took water". The Sairy Gamp was returned to Rushton, who sold many of the Nessmuk models after the Forest and Stream publicity. Rushton exhibited the canoe at the Forest and Stream offices in New York, an 1884 exhibition in New Orleans, and the 1893 Colombian Exhibition in Chicago, after which she was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution.

It is of some interest that these wood canoes were so light and strong. They seemed to prove that clinker (lapstrake) construction had merit, even without thwarts or bracing. Rushton placed the frames close together. The planks were actually planed less than 3/16ths of an inch thick. But after 1914 Rushton had difficulty obtaining good cedar lumber for his craft and sold a lot more canvas-covered canoes at half the price and twice the weight.

Year Name Length Beam Rise at center Weight Finish Use Disposition
1880 Nessmuk No. 1 (also, Wood Drake) 10' 26" 8" 17 lbs, 13 3/4 oz. Green paint 1st Adirondack cruise, 1880 Sold to Fred Perry, 1881
1881 Susan Nipper 10 1/2' 28" 8" 16 lbs. Oil and shellac 2nd Adirondack cruise, 1881 ?
1883 Sairy Gamp 9' 26" 6" 10 1/2 lbs. Oil and shellac 3rd Adirondack cruise, 1883 now in Smithsonian Institution
1884 Bucktail 10 1/2' 26" 9" 22 lbs.? Oil and shellac Penn. streams, Florida sold to Commodore Phinney, Fla.
1885 Nessmuk No. 2, or Rushton-Fairbanks 8 1/2' 23" 8" 9 lbs, 15 oz. Oil and shellac Florida ?

Some other canoes made by J. Henry Rushton and his company from the 1870s to 1916 are in museums, including the Mystic Seaport Museum, Conn., and the Adirondack Museum, New York. Besides light cedar canoes, Rushton made many canvas-covered wood frame canoes and small craft of several types. Manley provides a great many interesting and helpful construction details.

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