CHAPTER V. THE AMERICAN PAPER BOAT AND ENGLISH CANOES.
THE PECULIAR CHARACTER OF THE PAPER BOAT. - THE HISTORY OF THE ADOPTION OF PAPER FOR BOATS. - A BOY'S INGENUITY. - THE PROCESS OF BUILDING PAPER BOATS DESCRIBED. - COLLEGE CLUBS ADOPTING THEAM. - THE GREAT VICTORIES WON BY PAPER OVER WOODEN SHELLS IN 1876.
Inquiries regarding the history and durability of paper boats occasionally reach me through the medium of the post-office. After all the uses to which paper has been put during the last twenty years, the public is yet hardly convinced that the flimsy material, paper, can successfully take the place of wood in the construction of light pleasure-boats, canoes, and racing shells. Yet the idea has become an accomplished fact. The success of the victorious paper shells of the Cornell College navy, which were enlisted in the struggles of two seasons at Saratoga, against no mean antagonists, - the college crews of the United States, - surely proves that in strength, stiffness, speed, and fineness of model, the paper boat is without a rival.
When used in its own peculiar sphere, the improved paper boat will be found to possess the following merits: less weight, greater strength, stiffness, durability, and speed than a wooden boat of the same size and model; and the moulded paper shell will retain the delicate lines so essential to speed, while the brittle wooden shell yields more or less to the warping influences of sun and moisture. A comparison of the strength of wood and paper for boats has been made by a writer in the Cornell Times, a journal published by the students of that celebrated New York college:
"Let us take a piece of wood and a piece of paper of the same thickness, and experiment with, use, and abuse them both to the same extent. Let the wood be of one-eighth of an inch in thickness - the usual thickness of shell-boats, and the paper heavy pasteboard, both one foot square. Holding them up by one side, strike them with a hammer, and observe the result. The wood will be cracked, to say the least; the pasteboard, whirled out of your hand, will only be dented, at most. Take hold and bend them: the wood bends to a certain degree, and then splits; the pasteboard, bent to the same degree, is not affected in the least. Take a knife and strike them: the wood is again split, the pasteboard only pierced. Place them on the water: the wood floats for an indefinite time; the pasteboard, after a time, soaks, and finally sinks, as was to be expected. But suppose we soak the pasteboard in marine glue before the experiment, then we find the pasteboard equally as impervious to the water as wood, and as buoyant, if of the same weight; but, to be of the same weight, it must be thinner than the wood, yet even then it stands the before-mentioned tests as well as when thicker; and it will be found to stand all tests much better than wood, even when it weighs considerably less.
"Now, enlarging our pieces, and moulding them into boats of the same weight, we find the following differences: Wood, being stiff and liable to split, can only be moulded into comparative form. Paper, since it can be rendered perfectly pliable, can be pressed into any shape desirable; hence, any wished-for fineness of lines can be given to the model, and the paper will assume the identical shape, after which it can be water-proofed, hardened, and polished. Paper neither swells, nor shrinks, nor cracks, hence it does not leak, is always ready for use, always serviceable. As to cost, there is very little difference between the two; the cost being within twenty-five dollars, more or less, the same for both. Those who use paper boats think them very near perfection; and surely those who have the most to do with boats ought to know, prejudice aside, which is the best."
An injury to a paper boat is easily repaired by a patch of strong paper and a coating of shellac put on with a hot iron. As the paper boat is a novelty with many people, a sketch of its early history may prove interesting to the reader. Mr. George A. Waters, the son of the senior member of the firm of E. Waters Sons, of Troy, New York, was invited some years since to a masquerade party. The boy repaired to a toy shop to purchase a counterfeit face; but, thinking the price (eight dollars) was more than he could afford for a single evening's sport, he borrowed the mask for a model, from which he produced a duplicate as perfect as was the original. While engaged upon his novel work, an idea impressed itself upon his ingenious brain. "Cannot," he queried, "a paper shell be made upon the wooden model of a boat? And will not a shell thus produced, after being treated to a coat of varnish, float as well, and be lighter than a wooden boat?"