The Willits Brothers and their Canoes
Patrick F. Chapman
For half a century Earl and Floyd Willits built some of the world’s finest canoes, first near Artondale, Washington, then on Day Island, right off of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Turning out approximately twenty canoes a year, carefully logging and numbering each one, the brothers emphasized quality and design rather than volume. Willits Brothers Canoe Company earned a reputation that enabled the tiny company to compete successfully with businesses much larger, leaving a name and legacy which is still admired by canoe aficionados today. Carefully researched and documented, this combination biography and company history tells the story of Earl and Floyd Willits and their unique canoe company. Beginning with their family’s westward migration from Illinois, it follows the brothers as they set about starting the business that would become their lifelong work. Close attention is given to the Willitses’ business management and construction techniques as well as their personal lives. Interviews with surviving contemporaries and family members add a personal dimension to the Willitses’ story. Appendices include a detailed company logbook, instructions from the Willits brothers on various areas of canoe use and maintenance, a price list of canoes from 1928 to 1964 and a list of serial numbers and dates of manufacture. In addition, a price comparison with the Old Town Canoe Company, a listing of museums exhibiting a Willits Brothers canoe, two Willits Brothers Canoe company catalogs and various plans of Willits canoes are provided. Contemporary photographs from the Willits family collection are also included.