Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Love, Sex and the Development of the Small, Recreational Boat

My good friend, Tom Price, sent along this 1904 cover illustration from Puck magazine (don't comment about the steering - realism is not the point of this painting). This cheesecake magazine cover is a good segue into a blog topic I've kept on the back-burner for a while; how romance and sex in late 19th century and early 20th century, that ever-present animal sex drive that spans all human history, pushed forward the design of recreational small boats.

The late 19th century was marked by increased urbanization, this combined with chaste Victorian mores on dating, left city couples with a suffocating romantic environment.  Enter the small craft, first the canoe, then the rowboat (and in Europe, the punt). Entrepreneurs set up boat rentals in city parks, along languid rivers, in protected bays. Boat-builders were re-designing the more utilitarian working hull shapes to accommodate neophyte boaters (but ardent couples). Canoes became wider, rowboats became shorter and more intimate. In this era, long before mass boat ownership, the boat rental business was hammering out the sizes that work for recreational small boats.

Article on canoes and love by Hunter Oatman-Stanford.

Marine historian John Summer organized a show at the Canadian Canoe Museum on love and canoes, featuring postcards he had collected over the years.

From a French postcard, a longer, rather skinny sharpie rowboat set up for two couples.

"Madame" a French rowboat from the 1880's (not sure if this is a reproduction or restoration) shows how the size had shrunk in this "courting" rowboat to somewhere around 4 meters, ideal for an intimate outing for one couple.

A risque postcard (for that time) of "Canoedling". With the lean of this canoe, the illustrator has subtly shown how tricky romance in a canoe could be.

From a postcard, a fleet of identical rowboats; Rod and Gun Club, Omaha, Nebraska. In what seems to be subliminal advertising, all the comely young women are manning the oars in this photo.


JP said...

Not sure if you saw this but it's another example of boating, romance and art:

Tweezerman said...


That would be an interesting gig as a performance artist; row around some, kiss some, row around some, kiss-some. I would think it would get old after three hours though.