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John Stephenson

John Stephenson admired the graceful lightweight Indian canoes (while lugging his own heavier canoe) and made them the model for the cedar-ribbed basswood canoe he developed in Peterborough in 1859.  His design became known around the world as the “Peterborough Canoe”.  Stephenson’s basswood strip and later cedar strip canoes soon replaced the birch bark canoe of the Indians and the dugouts of the white settlers. His designs and those he had inspired by other canoe builders were in demand at regattas in the Peterborough area in the 1860’s and were later shipped around the world. The “Peterborough” canoe building industry was actually made up of several different businesses over time. In Peterborough, the principle canoe establishments were the Ontario Canoe Company, the Canadian Canoe Company, the Peterborough Canoe Company, the English Canoe Company as well as the Lakefield Canoe Company. John Stephenson put Peterborough on the map as world class builders of canoes.  By the 1960’s, the advent of fiber glass and aluminum canoes and motor boats, replaced the cedar strip canoe and the once proud Peterborough industry of canoe building was lost.