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Two years later, Nathaniel Holmes Bishop and an "assistant" (a New Jersey waterman hired for the trip) pressed south from Quebec in an 18-foot, 300-lb. decked wooden "canoe", propelled alternatively by two sets of oars and a single sail. Arriving in Troy, Bishop learned about Waters' paper canoes, whereupon He had his assistant return to NJ, procured a paper canoe, and after a short hiatus continued alone aboard his new canoe the "Maria Therese" eventually arriving at Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He chronicled his trip in a book "The Voyage of the Paper Canoe" which sold well both in the United States and Europe. While the illustration shows a double bladed paddle, most of the journey was actually accomplished using oars. This lead to a rather petulant review of Bishops book in the New York Times, claiming that it really was not true "canoeing" as paddles were not involved in the propulsion.

As mentioned, the paper rowing shells acquired early acceptance by major professional and collegiate rowers. Equal fame was brought to Waters products by two canoe adventurers of the day. A young reporter for the New York Herald, Julius J. Chambers, ordered a Waters canoe, to explore the Mississippi headwaters and then to continue downstream to New Orleans. The canoe reached him by rail at St. Paul in May 1872, enabling him to set off from the White Earth Indian Reservation in central Minnesota. By June 9 he had arrived at Lake Itasca and explored its tributaries to the great interest of his paper's readers. He continued downstream but grew weary of the summer heat and aborted his trip just short of St. Louis, continuing on to New Orleans by steamboat.

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The end came suddenly in 1901, when George Waters accidentally started a fire while applying finishing touches with a blowtorch to a shell destined for Syracuse University. The factory and all its contents were declared a total loss. We can thus credit George with both the birth and death of the paper boat era. George and his father, Elisha, died shortly thereafter, (in 1902 and 1904 respectively).

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Waters built a several domes thereafter. In 1881 the largest of their domes was placed on a new observatory at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was 30 feet 8 inches in diameter and contained over 2,000 pounds of paper. In 1883 Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, erected an observatory using a Waters' dome, this time of smaller dimension, and in 1885 a new high school in Taunton, MA was graced with a Waters dome. Other domes credited to Waters were at Columbia College in New York City and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. George Waters obituary in a Troy newspaper would have us believe that there were several other domes, but their locations remain unknown. For more information on Domes, see the page accessed from the home page.

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Step back briefly to Troy NY in the mid-19th century in Upstate NY. (The above illustration is from about 1840). Few towns across the United States matched Troy, New York, in prosperity. Several miles north of Albany, the town faces the eastern terminus of the then active Erie Canal on the farther bank of the Hudson. Earlier in the 19th century, Adirondack charcoal and iron ore came in by water and fueled a lucrative local steel industry. As the steel industry moved west, precision manufacturing industry sprang up. Troy also acquired a special fame as the originator and nationwide supplier of detachable paper collars and cuffs. Eventually millions were manufactured and sold every year.

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The use of paper meshed with shifts in technology at the time. More than a few historians have dubbed the latter half of the 19th century as the "Age of Paper." The Fourdrinier brothers new and phenomenally productive "Fourdrinier Machine", (invented by a Frenchman, Nicholas Robert), was for the first time providing large quantities of paper in long, continuous rolls. Before this machine, paper was made by hand on a large frame, containing a screen, dipped into a large vat of water and paper pulp. The size of the sheet was limited by the size of a frame that could easily be handled by one or two papermakers. The Fourdrinier machine overcame this bottleneck by using a rotating screen belt to receive the pulp.

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The fabrication technique followed by Waters & Sons throughout these years differed little from that presented in the original patent. A full-size convex wooden model was prepared to the exact desired dimensions. The mold was solid, but it had grooves cut into it so that a keel could be inserted along the keel line and similar strips along the gunwales. Below the gunwales, "tacking strips" were attached that enabled the paper to be stretched over and tightly fastened to the mold.

PubMed - National Center for Biotechnology Information

For lightweight boats such as racing shells, Waters & Sons used the best grade of manila paper, which in the 19th century was made directly from manila hemp. Several layers were applied, each sheet running the full length and breadth of the molding hull. The first sheet was applied slightly damp, then tacked down and coated with an adhesive to accept the next sheet. After time in a heated drying room, the paper shell - keel and gunwales attached - was removed from the mold for finishing. The boat builders completed a proprietary waterproofing process, added sealed air chambers for flotation, installed a paper deck, and fitted the hull with the proper hardware, ribs, and other woodwork. When finished, one observer noted, the racing shells were like .

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While the Waters were initially (and exclusively) known for boat manufacture, their minds apparently remained at work on other projects and other opportunities. In 1878, they built a paper observatory dome for the newly erected Proudfit Observatory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. The construction method was almost identical to that used for paper canoes; thick linen paper was formed over a mold of a dome segment that already contained a wooden framework which was removed from the mold with the paper. Finished sections were bolted together and the joints were weatherproofed with cotton cloth saturated with white lead.

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The Art:Design Project in collaboration with the Soho Beach House is pleased to announce its exhibition EVOLUTION in Miami, photographs and works on paper by artists: Casey Waterman, the photographer duo Hunter & Gatti, and Estrada-Duran

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