Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum Receives Nine Boats From The Carlson Family Collection

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Like taking a step back in time, the private Carlson Collection was wonderful to experience.

Today is shaping up to be one of the coldest days in recent history across Minnesota, a good day for a story that first began in August, when temperatures were in the 90’s and we were wearing shorts. – Texx

During our two-week tour of Minnesota last August, we experienced some incredible people, unbelievable lakes, traditional and exotic cabin life, a great cruise down the St. Croix River, some of the most significant classic boat collections in the country, and a truly remarkable wooden boat show at Bar Harbor on Gull Lake. (If you missed those 8 reports, just key in “Classic Minnesota” into the search box in the top right and scroll down to the series of stories).

Towards the end of the trip, we were treated to a tour of a private collection by the Carlson family. Bruce Carlson started this collection in 1990 and in a relatively short period of time, amassed a significant number pieces, which included Chris-Craft inboards, outboard runabouts, canoes and row boats, outboard motors, water skis, gas cans and even frog boxes.

Bruce called his collection “The Museum of the American Outboard” and he was especially interested in pieces that had a Minnesota connection. Sadly, Bruce Carlson died in 2006, however the families collection is still completely intact, like a time capsule, frozen in time.

At the time of the tour, the Carlson family was in contact with the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum (MLMM), discussing the possibilities of sending a few of the boats to the museum – so we were not in a position to report on the collection at the time. Late last fall, nine boats went to the MLMM in Alexandria. The boats that were selected are boats that are important to the MLMM and satisfying to the Carlson family to honor Bruce’s memory. The family recognized that some of these boats come with a strong Minnesota connection, and should be where people can appreciate them.

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The private collection was made up of a series of well constructed buildings, which grew as the collection grew. As we went from building to building, we were amazed by the depth and diversity of collection, and it was easy to tell that Bruce had a keen eye for originality.

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Included in the collection was an all original 1961 Carver 18′ Commuter.

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The interior of the1961 Carver Commuter was amazingly original. More on the Carver later.

The assortment of vintage Minnesota water skis and recreational gear from the 50’s & 60’s was fantastic, and conjured up many childhood memories of spending summers at the lake with the old wooden outboard. When I am invited to tour a private collection like this, I respectfully leave my camera behind, but with approval did manage to grab a few photos with my iPhone.

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A pair of original White Bear wooden water skis from White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

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Another great example of a vintage White Bear Water Ski Company logo.

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In another corner I come across a vintage Sears Aqua Star aquaplane board. I remember using these as a young boy – rare to see today.

Fast forward to November 2013.

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A rare Hugo G16 fishing boat is first out of the shed.

Once the deal was finalized between the Carlson family and the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, a team representing the MLMM was assembled extricate and transport the boats to their new home in Alexandria. Bruce Olson, Jim Eidsvold, Darin Erlandson and Dave Bortner were on hand during the thanksgiving weekend and reporter Dane Anderson was also there to assist and shoot some photos.

Below, an excerpt from the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum newsletter announcing the news. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the museum, you won’t be disappointed. This is a world class facility operated by a very special group of boating enthusiasts. The museum’s focus is also to present the rich history of boating in Minnesota and these new additions from the Carlson family collection will further enhance an already spectacular collection.

MLMM Newsletter

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Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum Director Bruce Olson digging the frozen turf to get a shed door open, and gain access to one of the classics.

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Bruce Olson exposes the bow of a Hugo G16 fishing boat after many years of storage.

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The rare Hugo is comes out of the boat shed to see the light of day.

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Jim Eidsvold, Dave Bortner and Bruce Olson wheel the Hugo G16 out to the driveway.

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Hugo built these models with a lot of freeboard to handle the rough waters of Lake Mille Lacs.

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Sturdy construction of the Hugo G16 with her period correct vintage Johnson outboard.

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A beautiful example of a 12′ Bemidji Row boat – a fine example of a Minnesota strip built row boat used to fish the northern Minnesota lakes.

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Another angle of the rare 12′ Bemidji Row boat.

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The interior of the perfectly preserved 12′ Bemidj strip built boat, now off to the museum.

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14′ Hugo Easy row. Hugo Gross from Onamia built a line of solidly constructed strip boats this rowing model is from the 40s.

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The interior of the classic Hugo Easy Row.

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Jim and Darin carefully remove the Penn Yan dingy from the barn.

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Another gem – this time it’s a 8′ Penn Yan dingy.

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The 8′ Penn Yan dingy from the side.

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A beautiful 18′ Old Town sailing canoe.

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The 18′ Old Town sailing canoe comes as a complete package with sails and rigging.

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Also a Minnetonka Boat Works 18′ Cedar strip row boat from the late 40s.

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An 18′ Birchbark canoe is introduced to the outdoors for the first time in many years.

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Bruce Olson and Darin Erlandson prepare to load the 18′ Birchbark canoe to the waiting trailer, for the trip to the museum in Alexandria, MN.

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Bruce Olson with the 18′ Sea Kayak. He was happy to see the newest members of the museum being carefully extracted from the buildings and finally being loaded up for the trip to their new home at the museum.

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Bruce and Jim with the Penn Yan, the rowing scull on top of the truck.

Although the Carlson family has no intentions of liquidating Bruce’s private collection any time soon, they did decide to cut loose the all original 1961 Carver lapstrake from the collection.

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The all original 1961 Carver 18′ Commuter being pulled out of her home for many years.

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The 1961 Carver 18′ Commuter is in remarkable condition on the original Tee Nee trailer, has much of her original paperwork, with a known history from day one. The Carver lapstrake has a new custodian – Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service in Mound, MN.

Special thanks to Dane Anderson for sharing these photos with us today, and congratulations to the MLMM on their newest additions to the museum. For more information on the MLMM you can Click Here to go to their great website.

Thanks also to the Carlson family for allowing me to tour Bruce’s private collection in August – it was wonderful experience. There’s something about Minnesota that is very special, and the Classic Minnesota tour was two weeks I will never forget.


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21 Responses to “Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum Receives Nine Boats From The Carlson Family Collection”

  1. Troy says:


    What a great collection, and how generous to donate so much to the museum.

  2. John D says:

    Great story and pictures. Question: what is a frog box?

    • Dane says:

      A frog box is for carrying live bait while fishing. The old ones were wooden with screen sides. They often had a rubber top with a slit to reach through to retrive a frog. As kids we would walk the shoreline to catch frogs and drop them in the box for Bass fishing.

  3. Randy Rush Captain Grumpyr says:

    Nice to see a Carver getting some respect!

  4. Alex says:

    I’ll say that Hugo has some freeboard! (There, just said it.) It’s neat to see a wooden boat of that size that useable in chop.

    I’ve wondered for some time about collectors of small boats. Purchase prices are so low — typically under $5,000– so they won’t break the bank. They are readily available, so supply is not constrained. Low cost makes them cheap to insure too. They don’t get heavy use, if any, so operating cost is next to nil. Plus, they can be stacked, hung, upended, raftered, and otherwise shoehorned into modest spaces, thereby minimizing storage costs.

    So if one gets this strain of bug, how on earth does one stop buying them? I’m serious.

    • Troy says:

      Heck, I’m challenged with self control issues in not buying another Cruiser or a Sportsman.

      Talk about storage issues.

      Hope I never get that little boat bug.

    • Dane says:

      Real Runabouts Vol 4 has a nice section on Hugo boats. Mille Lacs is a round lake and covers over 200 Sq Mi. Hugo was very pround of his boats abilities to handle the rough water of that lake.

      As far as the small boat bug. Since you’ve already identified the major rationalization points, it’s too late for you. You might as well just embrace it and start buying.

      • Alex says:

        I just got Vol 1 as a Christmas present. Looking forward to adding the others. Something to look forward to. Thanks Dane.

  5. Larry M says:

    What a wonderful addition to the MLMM It is great to see these in the museum

  6. John Rothert says:

    Another great story to start the week!!

    WENT BOATING yesterday in the cruiser…..due to me single digits in Va. tomorrow morning….weird….

    John in Va.

  7. Jim Staib says:

    It’s in the double digits up here! -16

  8. Grant Stanfield says:

    A gorgeous collection of splendid small boats and marine antiques…and a generous donation to the museum. Hopefully, many more boating enthusiasts will visit to see and appreciate them.

    Interesting that the boats all have steam-bent rib construction- a personal favorite and always beautiful to behold! The patterns of bowed ribs remind me of fish bones-

  9. RiverRat says:

    Lapstrake and strip built love. Beautiful!

  10. Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    very groovy maritime items!


  11. Gotta Luv a Lapstrake!

  12. Cobourg Kid says:

    Fantastic article Texx and super photos Dane. Its a treat to have something tasty to digest for a change and to the Carlson’s “Takk for innsatsen !” (Excellent work!)

  13. Cobourg Kid says:

    In 1961 you too could snap-up a base Carver Commuter lap strake (less outboard mind you) for the low-low price of $1395 US . In comparison a Ford Fairlane two door had a $2263 list price that same year .

    • Sean says:

      Wow. My Dad bought a 1969 2 door Fairlane off the showroom floor for $3,200 (discounted price)… 30% increase in 8 years!

  14. Ken Miller says:

    AnderSon, CarlSon, OlSon, ErlandSon, Eidsvold, Bortner—-it’s Minnesota doooontchaknow! :) Oh ya! There’s gonna be some Minnesota goin’ on here in the South tonight—possibly as low as 4 degrees. Now I understand why all the north half of the country so looks forward to Tavares each March. Brrrr!

    • Alex says:

      Ken, not just “look forward” to it. We yearn for it. We thirst for it. We pine for it. We ache for it. We die for it.

      Get us out of here!!!

  15. John Baas says:

    So all I gotta do is build a shed around/over every new boat I drag home!

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