Anyone Know J.Morgan?

Putter King II in a frame

Fellow Woody Boater Carlton Hendricks from California, just picked up the attached photo at an antiques show…as Carlton says, “took about ½ second to decide as it is certainly rare to find images of these early speedboats… nice old frame and glass… I’d speculate it was taken from a distance…then may have been cropped by photo lab…as details are not real sharp and crisp.”

On the back

Written on the back at top right is “J. Morgan – Putter King II 1910”, And there appears to be a signature at the bottom right of the image apparently in light pencil I can’t make out….best guess looks like “J. Ditto”…but I doubt that’s what it says.

Also there is a framers sticker from Portland Oregon…so I’m guessing the photo was taken in the north west…

Portland ORE.

I took the best close-up I could of the boat’s name on the bow…best guess is “Putter King II”, someone wrote that on the back which could or could not mean anything…

Close up

The J. Morgan is the biggest mystery….

So anyway…does anyone would know anything about this boat?

9 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    My next door neighbor is an R. Morgan. He got raided by the FBI yesterday so I don’t think I will be going over to ask about west coast boat racing relatives in 1910.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    WOW, these stories sure can come off the tracks fast.

    Now lets talk about FBI raids and how that could related to classic boating.

  3. Old Salt
    Old Salt says:

    Maybe it was…
    J. P. Morgan Jr.

    Born John Pierpont Morgan Jr.
    September 7, 1867
    Irvington, New York, U.S.
    Died March 13, 1943 (aged 75)
    Boca Grande, Florida, U.S.
    Cause of death Stroke
    Nationality American
    Education St. Paul’s School
    Alma mater Harvard College
    Occupation Banker, philanthropist
    Spouse(s) Jane Norton Grew
    (m. 1890–1925)
    Children Junius Spencer Morgan III
    Henry Sturgis Morgan
    Jane Norton Morgan Nichols
    Frances Tracy Pennoyer
    Parent(s) J. P. Morgan
    Frances Louisa Tracy
    John Pierpont “Jack” Morgan Jr., also referred to as J.P. Morgan Jr. (September 7, 1867 – March 13, 1943), was an American banker, finance executive, and philanthropist.[1] Morgan Jr. inherited the family fortune and took over the business interests including J.P. Morgan & Co. after his father J. P. Morgan died in 1913.

    copied from wikipedia

  4. Dave warren
    Dave warren says:

    My X wife’s Grandmother’s Husband raced boats in Northern California and Oregon circuits . He was a pharmacist from Kaslo British Columbia. I think he drove outboards though. I have some info about him and the races buried in a pile of papers after our move. I met her and she was about 90 in 1990 and her husband was 10 years older or so. So it was about this time in history

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      mmmmmm, is it possible that it was reframed, or framed later. So the photo may not be that date? The Mystery thickens.

  5. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    There was a very active group of racers in Portland, OR around that time. Search “Vogler Boy” and you will get several Pacific Motor Boating articles on the subject. The boats look similar to this one…

  6. Carlton Hendricks
    Carlton Hendricks says:

    When you’re doing research often you just need some help to point you in the right direction. In this case I thank Matt for posting about my photo and Kent O. Smith Jr…. Kent kindly dug into his own research and brought to light what is probably the answers to all the questions about my photo…I’d say it’s a 95% chance the mystery is solved. Below is an email Ken sent Matt…and Matt forwarded it to me…


    Hey Matt,

    I might have some info on that mystery boat…

    I looked through a book I have called The Oregon Wolf (1978) which tells the story of Johnny Wolff, his boats, and racing in the Pacific NW.

    There is no mention of a boat called “Putter King II” so I started looking for any boat with a similar name based on the letters. The book rambles a bit chronologically, but I did find reference to a boat named “Potato Bug” circa 1909-191o, though no mention of J. Morgan.

    Doing some online research, I found there was also a boat called “Potato Bug II” that raced in Oregon in 1910. It was 28’ and built by local Portland shop, the Curtis Boat Company. In all the articles, there is still no mention of J. Morgan, or even who the owner was…perhaps Morgan was the driver, or later owner.

    Anyhow, attached is a pdf of an article The Morning Oregonian that mentions “Potato Bug II”. If you search that newspaper, there are other mentions of the boat back in 1910, but nothing with photos. Looking at the photos in this article, the boat looks similar in design…

    And here are easy to read reprints from that paper mentioning the same boat.

    So that’s my theory…


    Thanks to Kent, I permanently unhooked from the Putter King II dock floated my boat down Potato Bug avenue to see what I could see…That is I started Googling Potato Bug II…I confirmed what Kent said…that Potato Bug II was 28 feet, and built by the Curtis Boat Company…HOWEVER…I must have spent at least two hours trying to learn more and got nowhere…Well…yes I did find a story that gives an account of Potato Bug II winning a trophy called the Jaeger Trophy…But that’s about it…I never learned who piloted it…or anything about the Curtis Boat Company and their principles. Except for a quick note in a March 1911 Motor Boating magazine that the Curtis company had apparently landed a U.S. government contract to make boats for eight heavy duty boats for delivering mail and supplies to isolated Lighthouses in Alaska.

    I found two articles on Potato Bug II that covered races she was in…a January 10th 1910 one from Motorboat Magazine…and a September 6th edition of The Oregon Daily Journal…from these I got the impression Potato Bug II was well a part of the Portland motor boat racing community…but apparently not news worthy enough to get it’s picture in the articles…

    I did however manage to find a few references to a boat called “Potato Bug”…and “Potato Bug III”…From the beginning I figured if there was a “II” there must have been a “I”…But it got confusing…the references I got for the “Potato Bug” were for a 1911 race…and the references I got for “Potato Bug III” were for 1911 also…being a magazine print advertisement for Columbia brand propellers that references “Potato Bug III” as using their propeller…Heck I’m getting confused just trying to explain this…But anyway there you have it…Providing the boat in my photo is indeed the Potato Bug II, I think I’ve got enough to satisfy me…

    The only thing that could make it concrete would be a photo of Potato Bug II to compare to my photo…and boy did I try to find one on the internet…to no avail…There may well be a historian out there somewhere with one in their collection…

    According to the Portland Yacht Club history page the club started off being called the Willamette Motor Boat Club in 1908… then in May 1910 the club changed its name to the Portland Motor Boat Club…then in 1925 their name was changed to its present moniker Portland Yacht Club…Below is a description of its beginnings taken from the October 1908 edition of Pacific Motor Boat Magazine:

    Portland has a Motor Boat Club that is yet in it’s infancy, being but four months old. A number of attempts have been made by numerous men to start a club on the Willamette river, but every previous attempt has failed. At the beginning of this season just closing a number of boys got together and decided that they must have a club. a meeting was called and everything looked bright for the launching, but a lot of talk will not produce results, so it became necessary for someone to step to the front and take the proposition on his own shoulders. This was done by George J. Kelly and James B. Welch. They had a little private meeting and decided to finance the club when the proper time came. A small houseboat of three rooms was purchased and 600 feet of waterfront was leased. The little house was towed up to a little lonely spot on the upper river, a postal was sent out announcing a meeting of the Willamette Motor Boat Club, and a good large crowd turned out in one of the centrally located public halls to see what was doing. At that meeting fifteen members were secured and arrangements were made with a machinist to move his shop to the location the next day. This was done and then the members began to come in. Before the first week was gone there were five houses and twenty-eight members. Finally the racing blood began to boil and a meeting was held to decide if a few races could be pulled off. The first races were off before anyone could stop to think, and the membership kept climbing, and today the club has more than 100 active members, and prospects of many more before the opening of next season. The officers of the club are George J. Kelly, commodore; James B. Welch, manager and treasurer; E. Von Der Worth, rear commodore; Gus Fleming, fleet captain. The club, during the season just closed, pulled off three sets of races, and some very fast boats were entered. The motor boat interests on the Willamette River have just begun to grow, and in fact the whole Pacific Coast is fast becoming as great motor boat country. More boats were built in Portland last year than in any three previous years put together, and next season will see many new ones plying up and down the river.

    From the above story it seems motor boat racing was in full throttle in Portland then…and from that, it seems no surprise someone would have snapped the photo I have…

    Thank you again Matt and Kent.

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