Dee-Wite Makes Boating A National Pastime


The Dwight Lumber Company of Detroit, Michigan began building wooden boats in the mid-1920’s, by the late 1920’s they were specializing in smaller boats named Dee-Wite Boats. One of their marketing slogan’s, as shown in a small 1930 paper ad was, “Dee-Wite Makes Boating A National Pastime”, a bold statement considering the number of companies building mahogany runabouts at the time. (You can click on the images to enlarge them)

Bob Speltz best describes the Dee-Wite line of boats in his book “The Real Runabouts IV”.

By 1929 Dee-Wite boats were being sold on a national basis. Although the firm built only outboards for a couple of years (1928 & 29), one of their boats was quite unique. A double planked mahogany outboard runabout was quite an oddity in 1928. You will note that the boat is quite common in her appearance, but it was hefty, outboard-wise, for those days. The hull was 16′ long, 54″ wide. Six adults could ride in comfort in two separate cockpits aboard the craft, with upholstery for added luxury and convenience. With a large outboard of the period, the 16′ runabout was said to have reached 35 MPH with two passengers aboard.

Having “broken the ice” so to speak, 1929 saw that original 16-footer restyled with cockpit coamings raised on each side that swept upward aft, forming a covered motor box under which the outboard motor was nicely concealed. With the engine cover, the boat had the appearance of small inboard. Subtle changes were made on the model for 1930, including a semi “V” windshield rather than the original flat glass panel type.

With the Depression in full force by then, the small boat buyer was really knocked out of the market, so later in 1930 Dee-Wite totally dropped all outboards to concentrate on the more deluxe inboard speedboat of the era.

Dee-Wite continued in business at least into 1934 when sorry economic conditions finally spelled the death knell of this fine builder. Bob Speltz – The Real Runabouts IV

When we toured the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandrea, MN last fall, we had an opportunity to see one of the best examples of an original Dee-Wite Deluxe Outboard on the planet. “KEBE” is an ultra-rare 1929 16 ft. Dee-Wite with a 1929 14-horsepower Lockwood Silent Chief Outboard. This beautifully restored boat has appeared in several antique & classic boating publications and is a Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance show winner. “KEBE” was donated to the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum by Pete Allen.

And now for the rest of the story…

On Friday we received an e-mail from a fellow named Daniel who said he had an old original 1920’s 16′ Dee-Wite boat that he was interested in selling. We e-mailed him back to say that we were not in the business of selling boats, but asked Daniel to send us some photos of the boat to see just what he had, knowing that the early Dee-Wite boats were very rare. Here’s what he sent us…

Daniel’s e-mail said…

I have owned this boat since 1984 and kept in a friends barn. I bought it from a gentleman I worked with and it was his grandfathers boat. It is mahogany planked, very dry and some boards are cracked. It was made in the 20’s by a lumber company in Detroit, Michigan.

It has a very unique enclosed motor well like a traditional wooden boat from the 1920’s but is designed to facilitate an outboard motor. The bottom is double planked and in good shape. The guy who I bought it from attempted to refinish it and at one time the hull was fiber glassed. He only got as far as stripping off the brightwork and some sanding. It has not seen water since the 50’s. It is missing some hardware.

Thanks, Daniel.

And sure enough, based on the above photos of “KEBE” and the information from “The Real Runabouts IV” it looks like Daniel has a 1929 or 1930 16′ Dee-Wite outboard runabout. So we thought it would be fun to a story on the early Dee-Wite outboard runabouts and see if anyone out there has any comments, information or interest in the Dee-Wite Daniel has for sale.

In the early 1930’s, before closing their doors, the Dwight Lumber Company / Dee-Wite went on to produce larger inboard style boats in both double and single cockpit configurations. In 1930 Dwight Lumber’s Boat Division employed some 200 craftsman and produced up to 30 boats a day. In 1932 they also produced a series of Lodge Torpedo styled boats which were a hit at the boat shows in 1932.

In Bob Speltz “The Real Runabouts I” it’s noted that the new 1932 Lodge Torpedo Series of boats were available in 23′, 28′ & 32′ models capable of 50 MPH. The 32′ Lodge Torpedo ran a 335 HP Scripps V-12. In “The Real Runabouts I” Bob also shows a rare photo of a Dee-Wite 40′ Triple Cockpit Lodge Torpedo that was available in very limited production in 1934 due to it’s sheer size and high cost to build.

Dee-Wite also built the famous race boat “Miss Dee-Wite” a multiple-step hull design with a torpedo stern. The 39′-11″ boat was powered by 2, 450 HP Liberty engines capable of 55 MPH. In 1930 they also built “Miss Dee-Wite II” a 35′ torpedo with similar power, with a top speed of 65 MPH.

Writing about all these old Dee-Wite Lodge Torpedo style boats makes me wonder where they are today or if any of them survived over the years. It would sure be cool to see one if it’s out there. “Miss Dee-Wite” is listed on Antique Boat America but I’m not sure if the listing is current. You can click here to see the listing.

And if you are ever in the Alexandrea, Minnesota area, take time to stop by and visit the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, it’s an outstanding museum full of old boats and boating related exhibits from the Minnesota Lakes area.   You can click here to check out their web site and when they are opening for the 2011 season. 


8 replies
  1. Daniel Cedolia
    Daniel Cedolia says:

    Thanks Guys, I can’t believe how fast the editorial staff responded to this story. I have been trying to find a good home for this vessel for a very long time. I would ultimately like to see it refinished to the state of the other Dee Wite in the story(Kebe) and put into a museum somewhere. I am a Film Maker by profession and specialize in the snowmobile industry. We developed a Vintage and Antique documentary called “Old Iron” . In this series of documenting old sleds and museums I know how important it is to preserve the history and heritage of a unique vessel. Thanks for all the great info. You guys at Woody Boater rule. Daniel Cedolia

  2. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    What an incredible boat, Daniel.
    Thanks for running the story, Texx.

    Chris-Craft was in serious trouble the same year as Dee-Wite (’34) and almost had to close their doors. Had it not been for another “deal gone bad” 5 years earlier (1929), they would have.

  3. Dave Lyon
    Dave Lyon says:

    Great story. I have a very rare 17′ Dee Wite split cock-pit runabout. I know of only one other of this model. I have had mine 15 years and have won multiple 1st place awards at Tahoe with it.
    My Dee Wite will be available at the Mecum auction this coming August in Pebble Beach / Monterey.

  4. Dave Lyon
    Dave Lyon says:

    Great story. I have a very rare 17′ Dee Wite split cock-pit runabout. I know of only one other of this model. I have had mine over 15 years and have won multiple 1st place awards at Tahoe with it.
    My Dee Wite will be available at the Mecum auction this coming August in Pebble Beach / Monterey.

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