This is yet another selection from the Paddlers' Reading List. The Voyage of the Paper Canoe, by Nathaniel H. Bishop (351pp., 1878, Lee and Shepard, Pub., Boston) was reprinted by a number of publishers. It can also be found on the internet by just typing in the title. As the title states, Bishop started his trip from Quebec on the 4th of July, 1874. He arrived at the Gulf mouth of the Suwanee River, just north of Cedar Key, Florida, at the end of the following March.
The paper canoe plays an obvious large part in the story. He started with a wood on frame decked Rob Roy canoe that weighed 300 lbs. He hired a man to travel with him solely to help get the canoe ashore and launched again. As he got to New York, he heard the story of a man from Cornell University that had experimented with paper rowing shells. Becoming intrigued, when he reached Troy, NY, he paused long enough to have one built, which weighed 54 lbs. including its wood keel and gunwales. The greatly reduced weight enabled him to let his hired hand go and finish the trip solo. Such a trip was unheard of just a few years after the end of the Civil War, and people turned out en masse to hear his story and inspect the canoe. Many dug their fingernails into the hull, and a few even dug into the hull with their pocketknives to insure the story of the paper boat was true. Like any canoe on such a trip, it was grounded, dragged through brush and needle grass, oyster shells, and saw other hardships, but saw Bishop safely through.
Besides the boat, there’s a glimpse into our nation’s culture and commerce nearly a century and a half ago, as well as the story of Bishop’s unusual experiences.