Fonds F 2191 - Ditchburn Boats fonds

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Ditchburn Boats fonds

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Reference code

CA ON00009 F 2191

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  • 1804-2001 (Creation)

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Physical description

42 centimetres of textual records
48 architectural and technical drawings
161 photographs
16 maps
1 postcard
1 lithographic print

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Administrative history

Ditchburn Boats Limited of Gravenhurst, Ontario was a prominent boat building company that made a series of popular speed boats called "runabouts" during the 1920s.

In 1869 Henry Ditchburn, along with his three brothers Arthur, John and William, immigrated from England to Canada, attracted by the Free Grant Lands available to settlers in the Muskoka region. They settled in Gravenhurst and started building canoes, rowboats and small sailboats for vacationers in the region.

In 1880 they opened a boat repair and manufacturing shop in Port Carling and shortly after established the Muskoka Boat House at Gravenhurst. They also opened boat-making and boat-renting branches at Lake Joseph and Rosseau Bay to service the luxury hotels.

In 1900 a Ditchburn Boat factory was established by Henry Ditchburn on the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst, which was seen as the centre of future tourism and development in the region. In 1904, Herbert Ditchburn, the son of William, bought the boatmaking business from his uncle Henry and started making power boats. In 1907, it was incorporated as H. Ditchburn Boat Manufacturing Company Limited with Herbert Ditchburn as president and Alfred Ditchburn and Thomas Greavette as directors. The company was commonly called the Ditchburn Boats Limited.

During the 1920s, Ditchburn 'runabouts' with their vee-shaped design, gained international recognition and racing success. The Rainbow series of racers was used by Harry Greening to win several motorboat racing competitions, including the Fisher Gold Cup and the New York Boat Show in 1920. The Rainbow I was called the 'best runabout ever built' and the Rainbow III and IV shattered world records for 24 hour endurance, being the first boats to break 1000 miles in 24 hours.

In 1932 due to the troubled economic times, Ditchburn Boats Limited declared bankruptcy and was reorganized a year later as the Ditchburn Boat and Yachting Company. They focused on a line of smaller boats, rather than the luxurious earlier models. Continuing economic problems, however, led to the company re-organizing once again as the Ditchburn Boat and Aircraft Limited in 1936. During this period, several large vessels were built for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In 1938 the company declared bankruptcy again and closed for good. Herbert Ditchburn moved to Trenton, Ontario and during the Second World War started Aero-Marine Crafts Limited with Gar Woods to produce liberty engines modified for aircrafts, build hospital ships, and other products to be used in the war effort.

Herbert Ditchburn died in Trenton in 1950.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records related to the ship-building heritage of the Ditchburn family, in particular Ditchburn Boats Limited, a boat building company owned and operated by Herbert Ditchburn in the Muskoka region of Ontario.

Fonds includes correspondence, notes and designs related to patent applications for boat parts invented by Herbert Ditchburn and for boat designs as well as general business documentation for the Ditchburn Boats Limited and its predecessors.

Fonds also consists of historical records and information about various shipbuilding companies owned by the Ditchburn family, including the Ditchburn and Mare Shipbuilding Company, which operated in England and built ships for Queen Elizabeth I to defeat the Spanish Armada as well as records related to Ditchburn family members.

Also includes material related to particular boats built by Ditchburn Boats Ltd. including boats built for the RCMP, the RCAF, raceboats that competed in the America's Cup and other speed boat races, in particular a series of boats built for Betty Estelle Carstairs.

For a more detailed description, use this link to the Archives of Ontario's descriptive database:

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

These records were donated to the Archives of Ontario by Mrs. Irma Ditchburn in 2002.


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No restrictions on access.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Copyright has been transferred to Archives of Ontario by the donor. Fonds also contains material owned by various other copyright owners. To find out more about the copyright status of the particular material you wish to use, consult a reference archivist through the reference desk. There are no restrictions on reproduction for research and private study. Permission of the Archives of Ontario is required for publication; submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit and Broadcast Form.

Finding aids

For a more detailed description, use this link to the Archives of Ontario's descriptive database:

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No further accruals are expected.

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Added Apr/12.

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