A Dip into our Boat Collection

Adirondack Journal

The Adirondack Museum is known for its large and varied collection of boats used to navigate the many lakes and rivers of our region. The collection includes an inboard launch named Vic, a 1933 Hickman Sea Sled, a Grumman aluminum canoe owned by Homer Dodge, a Raider model Adirondack guide boat built by H.D. Grant, an Adirondack guide boat built by Theodore Hanmer, and a 1910 William Vassar guidebook, among many others. These boats are examples of the region’s rich boating history and add to the story of watercraft used in the area.

Inboard Launch Vic

In 1918, John Otto Betz purchased “Battleship Rock,” property at the outlet of Seventh Lake, New York. In the same year, he also purchased a small inboard launch and named it in honor of his wife, Victoria. Vic was built by Moxley Motor Boats in Cos Cob, Connecticut. It is a 14-foot long inboard launch with a two-cylinder engine from the Lockwood-Ash Company of Jackson, Michigan.

Moxley Motor Boats began building wooden hulls to go with small gasoline engines during the first few decades of the twentieth century. In the 1930s the Great Depression, in combination with competition from large factories in the Midwest, but most small boat companies out of business, including Moxley.

1933 Hickman Sea Sled

Elizabeth Betz received a very special gift from her father, John Otto Betz, on her sixteenth birthday; a 1933 Hickman Sea Sled. The brand new, 16-foot long boat was intended for her use at “Battleship Rock”.

  1. Albert Hickman designed the Sea Sled in the early 1920s. They were fast, stable outboard boats with a revolutionary design that forever changed the small boat industry. The bottom shape of Hickman’s boats completely altered the conventional displacement-type hull: this boat had an inverted vee-planing hull instead. The design was the precursor of the modern high-speed catamaran and the Boston Whaler, common on many inland lakes.

Homer Dodge’s Aluminum Canoe

Homer Dodge, considered “dean of American Canoeing” in the 1960s and 1970s, owned this aluminum canoe. It was built by Grumman Boats, Inc. in Marathon, N.Y., and measured 16 feet in length. It has a mast step, but the rig has not survived.

Dodge ran the Long Sault Rapids in a boat similar to this in 1956. The Long Sault Rapids were a section of the St. Lawrence River west of Cornwall, Ontario that existed before the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Dodge also competed in the 17th annual Whitewater Derby on the Hudson River at the age of 87 in this boat or one just like it.

Raider Model Adirondack Guideboat

  1. Dwight Grant of Boonville, N.Y. built this Raider in 1899 for William G. DeWitt, a New York City broker who had a camp at Little Moose Lake, N.Y., part of the Adirondack League Club.

Adirondack guide boats are generally thought to be most effective and fast when they are a certain length, generally 16 feet long. Raider guide boats are shorter and considered more maneuverable. The Raider is 12 feet and 8 inches long. Raiders were commonly used by one or two men to make a “raid” on distant, hard-to-reach lakes or rivers that had the best fishing.

Adirondack Guideboat

Theodore Hanmer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. built this boat between 1890 and 1910. It belonged to Henry “Hank” Blagdon who owned and ran Camp LaJeunesse, a summer camp for boys at Fish Creek Pond near Saranac Lake.

Theodore Hanmer moved to the Saranac Lake area in 1890. When he first arrived, he worked in Will Martin’s boat shop — but after a few months opened his own shop. He was still building boats into his eighties and finished over 200 in his lifetime. This Adirondack guide boat is 12 feet, 10 inches long, and weighs 59 pounds.

Camp LaJeuness operated between 1916 and 1956. The camp grew rapidly and had campers from many prominent New York families, including Sterling and Nelson Rockefeller. Influenced by the First World War, the summer program also included military training.

1910 William Vassar Guideboat

The 1910 William Vassar guidebook was an award winner in the Clayton Antique Boat Show at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y.  William Vassar was a well-known boat builder from Bloomingdale, N.Y. He was listed in the Saranac Lake business directory in 1902 and built boats through 1920.

Vassar’s boats were known for their extreme ram bows, which made them easy to spot from a distance. Many of his boats also had elaborate decks, commonly having alternating stripes of dark and light wood.

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