Posts Tagged With: LL Bean

Old Town Canoes

The Bangor Daily News had a nice piece on the Old Town Canoe Company today, and while the crux of the article was regarding the now closed original factory location, there is quite a bit of information regarding the history of this iconic Maine company. There are scores and score of companies that have built canoes, and still do, but few have risen to the reputation and excellence the Old Town Canoe Company has achieved. When a sportsman thinks or talks of canoes, most assuredly the name Old Town is forefront in nearly every conversation.

Of course, the company has new digs they are enjoying which are much more accommodating to today’s modern manufacturing methods, and the canoes they build are made of synthetic materials, and not the natural wood and canvas products used in the past. Time changes all it seems.

I came across a letter to the “trouble Department” column of Power Boating magazine[November, 1914], and the writer[B.B. of Portland Ore.] says he installed a four horsepower motorcycle engine into an 18 foot Old Town Canoe, and wanted to know what size propeller he should use to get the most speed from that motor. The reply was that he should reduce the 4100 rpm speed of the motor to a third of that and mount a two-blade 14×16 propeller on the shaft for the best speed. We men were daring in those days, weren’t we?

These advertisements shown here to the left were taken from several early 1900 periodicals, and they show the range of product this company was able to provide, even in the early days of Old Town’s life. One model in particular, the “Sponson” model even included air chambers along the sides to prevent capsizing and sinking of the canoe should an unsuspecting (or reckless) paddler get too close to danger.

Speaking of the early 1900s, I believe one of the reasons Old Town has persisted for over a century is its dogged resistance to the changing times, while at the same time being able to change with those very times as they change. WWI was no exception to the rule. As the war caused many companies to fold due to retracting sales, the management of Old Town Canoe grabbed the paddle and forged ahead by increasing their advertising and reaching out for new markets to conquer. Their strategy paid off, and because of their ability to adapt and change, is still around today.

That ability to persevere in spite of the circumstances seems common in Maine, or at least it used to be. A Mainer would see that something needed to be done, and he(or she) would get it done. There was no intent to gain glory in honor in doing a job, the job was done because it needed to be done. companies failed for many reasons, but others succeed for a very few reasons. The drive to carry on in spite of the obstacles is just one of those reasons.

Some would say that Old Town Canoe achieved success in the boating world because of their name and location, but we must remember that not only was Old Town Canoe not the only canoe maker in Maine, they were not even the only canoe maker in Old Town. In the early days they also competed against the E.M. White & Co., the Carleton Canoe Company, both of Old Town, Morris Canoes of Veazie, the Robertson and Old Town Canoe Co., formerly the Indian Old Town Canoe Co., of Old Town and a score or more of other makers, just in the state of Maine.

So what were the circumstances that caused Old Town Canoe to become such an iconic presence in the outdoors world, and why do they keep selling the world’s best canoes today? There are many answers to that, of course, but I believe we can summarize by stating that this company, which essentially began as a back room extra income business has stuck to its core standards, and while changing with the times in some respects, still adheres to the age-old mantra of pride and quality going hand in hand. They know what they do well, and they stick to it.

Many age-old companies have changed with the times, but the core values of the companies have changed as well. Take Abercrombie & Fitch, for instance. Once they were the premier outfitter of the world. If a sportsman wanted hunting, fishing or camping supplies, their first choice was Abercrombie. They were so prominent; the TV show MASH had an episode where Hawkeye Pierce even ordered a portable bathtub from the company. Today, they sell clothing of objectionable taste to teeny-boppers who obviously have no taste. Relegated to a few thousand square foot sales floors in the nations malls, this company today faces a prospect of extinction because they have wandered so far from their core audience.

Not so for Old Town Canoe, and I hope they never compromise their name, nor their reputation for the sake of easy money, no matter how trying the times become. Compromise begets many negative things in some instances, but never more so than in the manufacturing and retail scenes. Remember when Black and Decker was a name you could trust and respect? Sylvania? General Electric? Or even here at home, L.L. Bean? I remember when you could get top quality merchandise for the outdoorsman. Today, they have come to compromise their own core standards in favor of catering to big city wannabee sportsman who want to look the part as they tool around town in their pricey SUVs, wanting to look rustic, but not willing to pay the real price to be rustic. Don’t get me wrong, you can still get good quality merchandise, but it isn’t like it used to be. Time changes all things (but not necessarily), remember?

A brief piece in the April 25, 1909 issue of Motor Boat magazine perhaps says it best when it comes to the power of owning a canoe, and in particular an Old Town canoe. Those were the days when sportsmen were sportsmen, and getting away from it all was the real prize, although bagging a trophy was indeed icing on the cake.

THERE’S a great deal that might be said about Old Town canoes, a great deal more than can be spoken in this brief space. These canoes are built by the Old Town Canoe Company, at Old Town, Me. Canoes are about the most primitive craft; they were used by the early tribes of mankind, and throughout the ages the canoe has survived, until we find it, refined and perfected in the Old Town models. They are found in all parts of the world, thousands of them. To the owner of a motorboat cruiser the possession of a canoe will bring many hours of pleasure that could not be enjoyed by any other means. A canoe carried on deck enables one to explore out-of-the-way waters, to seek the beauty of shallow streams. The writer cherishes the memory of many happy hours spent in an Old Town, paddling leisurely upon almost hidden creeks, beneath the foliage of overhanging trees, in absolute peace. If you would know rest, and seek quiet, if you would meditate, would muse and dream, as you need to, get a canoe and take it with you when you cruise. The illustration shows the cover of the Old Town Canoe catalogue, and it is a book worth reading, it breathes the spirit of the thing in every line. A copy is free to any reader of Motor Boat.

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Categories: articles, history, Maine, Maine things to do, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

L.L. Bean: The stuff of legend

Headlines have been kind of sparse lately, so I have decided to add some material beyond the front pages and event listings in the next few posts. You can still email your events and news that you would like to share at the same old address: editor@remembermemedia.com though.

LL Bean in Freeport is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year and it looks like there will be lots of excitement and a good number of events to spread the pride of reaching that milestone. 100 years is a long time for a business to be open, and I extend my hand in congratulations for their success, and wish them another 100 years. The papers will be full of articles the next few months with lots of information and articles on the birth and growth of this company.

Of course, as we all know, Leo Leonwood Bean designed his first hunting shoe in 1911 because he, like so many of us, was sick and tired of having wet, cold, and aching feet when returning home from his jaunts in the woods. He had some leather tops sewn to a pair of rubbers, and the rest is history. The Bean ad here lists a service whereby a hunter could send in any old pair of boots, and LL Bean’s craftsmen would clean them up, sew on a pair of rubbers and add new laces for the exorbitant cost (at the time) of just $3.40. Bean’s 100th anniversary hunting shoe lists for $139.00 in their catalog. What a difference a century makes!

L.L. Bean: The stuff of legend

FREEPORT — In the rear of a plain-looking white house — not far from the crush of shoppers at L.L. Bean’s retail complex — reside the relics of the company’s century-long history.

Racks of vintage wool coats hang alongside antique fishing poles and knapsacks. L.L. Bean-brand dinnerware sold in the 1950s is here. So are the original paintings used for the covers of Eisenhower-era L.L. Bean catalogs…

History’s hidden in the floorboards

MAPLE GROVE – This small Quaker church just two miles from the Canadian border was likely the last stop on the Underground Railroad for many runaway slaves making their way to freedom, according to historians in the Fort Fairfield area. But it isn’t always easy to find references to it among historical accounts of the Underground Railroad, which helped tens of thousands of slaves gain freedom before slavery was abolished in 1865.

Those who helped the slaves faced jail and heavy fines, so they didn’t tend to leave written records of what they did…

Family history workshop offered at Counting House Museum

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — A public workshop called Researching and Writing Your Family’s History will be held on the second floor of the Counting House Museum at 1 p.m. March 4.

Presented by author Joseph Hardy with genealogist Beth Tykodi, the event is free for members of the Old Berwick Historical Society, and new members are welcome to join at the door. A one-year membership donation is $20 per person or $30 for a family.

Hardy, whose book, “Four American Stories: Emigration and the Lure of the West,” was published this year, will explain how he discovered and developed the stories of his and his wife’s grandparents and their ancestors. He describes his book…

County man collects chain saws of all shapes, styles and colors

ALLAGASH, Maine — Anyone who has spent any time at all in the Maine woods is familiar with the sounds of a gas-powered chain saw. The constant buzz of a saw is the soundtrack to timber operations, woodlot maintenance and firewood gathering. It’s also music to the ears

 

From the Maine Historical Society

Friday, March 2, 5-8pm

First Friday Art Walk: Take to the Streets

Join us for a festive evening at MHS! Exhibits on display include Take to the Streets! in the Shettleworth Lecture Hall, Dressing Up, Standing Out, Fitting In: Adornment & Identity in Maine in our main gallery, and fantastic work by students in our Local History, Local Schools program in the Showcase Gallery.

Tuesday, March 6, 12pm

Longfellow’s Shadow: A reading of poems by Wesley McNair and Betsy Sholl

Join us to kick off our Richard D’Abate program series with readings by two Maine Poet Laureates. In his tenure at MHS, D’Abate, himself a poet, has embraced MHS’s Longfellow legacy as an opportunity to incorporate literature, the arts, and culture as vital elements of a Maine history that is broadly told and understood. The poets’ readings will reflect themes in Longfellow’s poetry, his stance as a poet, and his attitude toward the social issues of his time.

March Programs at Old York (From their March 2012 newsletter)

2nd Curator’s Potluck. Join us as we thank last year’s donors to our collections. Bring your appetite and a favorite dish to share. 5:30 p.m. at the Parsons Center. FMI and to RSVP to 207-363-4974 ext. 20 or email Cynthia Young-Gomes.

13th Stories, Stones and Superstitions — Author Talk at York Public Library. New England’s burying grounds are often called outdoor museums – full of history, art and chronicles of religious beliefs, genealogy, sometimes tragedy and scandal – even humor. Author Roxie Zwicker’s presentation will provide an explanation of the symbolism and special language of gravestones and further explore the attitudes and customs about death that these historic artifacts reflect. Focusing on early New England grave markers and their carvers, this illustrated program promises to be informative as well as entertaining and should make you look at area gravestones with new insight and appreciation. Books and artwork will be on sale after the presentation. Program co-sponsored by York Public Library and Museums of Old York. Noon at York Library, 15 Long Sands Road, York. Call 207-363-2818

18th Blue Grass Jam with Kevin Dyer and Friends. Join this lively bunch on the third Sunday of (almost) every month from 1-4 p.m. at The Parsons Center at Museums of Old York, 3 Lindsay Road, York. $4 donation appreciated. FMI: email or call 207-363-4974

25th Andrea Quartet at the Parsons Center. Come listen to beautiful classical music by Haydn, Dvorak and Grainger at the Remick Barn. Learn about the composers and their work from violinists Augusto Salazar and Theresa Carr; violist Katie Backus; and cellist Michael Danielski. 3 Lindsay Road, York; 2 p.m. Ticket Prices: Adult $10, Student $5, Family $25.To purchase tickets stop by the museum office or call 207-363-4974 ext. 14.

31st Tap, Tap, Tap….. A Special Jefferds Tavern Dinner Fundraiser! Celebrate the very end of winter and help us raise funds for the winterization and restoration of Jefferds Tavern. A much beloved historic building, the Tavern continues to be a focal point in York Village and is used year-round for the Museum’s educational programs, Tavern Dinners and the annual Christmas Tea. The building stands as a shining example of how a group of concerned people can protect history while at the same time making a building relevant to the community. Today the tavern needs insulation, new clapboards, and “buttoning up” so that it can be used throughout the winter months with energy efficiency. Once this work is completed, there will be no better or more charming location for bridge parties, sewing groups, poetry readings, book clubs, tavern dinners, and the new educational programs for both children and adults. Watch for your invitation in the mail in early March. At the Parsons Center, 3 Lindsay Road, York Village, 6:30 p.m. for wine and hors d’oeuvres, 7:30 p.m. for dinner; $125 per person; RSVP by March 23, 2012; FMI call 207-363-4974 ext. 13 or email Laura Dehler.

Collecting a Hero for the Ages: A Look at Flash Gordon
Long before “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” captivated audiences with their imaginative tales of heroes, villains, alien creatures and travel to other galaxies, science-fiction fans were enthralled by the gallant exploits of the fearless space adventurer, Flash Gordon. Created by artist and cartoonist Alex Raymond, the dashing, blond-haired hero has been traveling to the strange planets, meeting a host of unusual beings and bizarre creatures, and battling the planet Mongo’s evil ruler, Ming the Merciless, for 78 years. As one of the science-fiction genre’s earliest and most popular creations, Flash Gordon was also one of the first…

Categories: antiques, articles, headlines, history, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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