Although over 73 years have passed since the last Ditchburn boat left the Gravenhurst factory, their products continue to set the standard for the glory years of wooden pleasure-craft construction in Muskoka. Survivors are treasured reminders of a time when craftsmen built boats by hand, using the finest materials, creating a custom product uniquely suited to its purpose and its owner.
The final collapse of the company in 1938 was a calamity for many people - the workers, the community, the boating public, and especially Herb Ditchburn, the genius who had guided the company to its domination of Canada's boating industry. Progressing from simple fisherman's rowing skiffs to luxury cruisers of 100 feet in length, Ditchburn products had penetrated unexpected markets in New York, Montreal and Western Canada, far from their home waters.
Today, as we try to make sense of a world that is changing dramatically; these wonderful reminders of the past have assumed a new importance - reminding us of the impact of beauty, function, design, integrity, and craftsmanship on our daily lives. Synthetic materials, mass production, and standardized design largely replaced traditional wooden-boat construction after the Second World War, but the desire to maintain the beloved products of the Ditchburn Boat Co. is increasing each year. Owning a vintage wooden boat has become a status symbol as well as a pleasure, and is now also a responsibility.
To Canadians, the importance of preserving the remaining examples of Ditchburn production is clearly demonstrated by the zeal and dedication of Ditchburn owners. Fully aware of their special status, they have devoted time, money, and the skill to maintaining these important vessels, and they have been generous in sharing their good fortune by cooperating to the fullest extent in the production of this volume and site. Through their efforts, we may share the glory of Ditchburn excellence for many years to come.
We Canadians are famous for our modesty, often the last to recognize that some of our products are indeed world-class. In the first three decades of the twentieth century no pleasure-craft builder anywhere surpassed the Ditchburn Boat Company.
Harold D. Shield
1928 - 2008
We encourage you to send your story about a Ditchburn adventure or ask a question and we will do our very best to get the answers for you - but most of all enjoy the tremendous wealth of Canadian marine history told in this marvelous story.
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