Is This The Earliest Known Photo Of Chris-Craft Production Boat? READ COMMENTS!

Sifting through little photos to find a treasure. Can you see it?

Sitting in a pile of classic boat photos purchased in seconds in an ebay land grab, we knew this shot was special, even as a thumbnail. And man oh man was it ever. I have asked around, and this just might be the earliest known photo of the Chris Craft Company, who started making production boats in 1922 and this boat..#1 “ROSE MARY” is that boat. But the best part of this shot is the crew standing with her. Here ya go!

A Very small photo. 2″X3″ So what you see here, which is low resolution is larger than the actual photo.

So is this the shot that started it all? A C/S/S Chris Smith Sons photo of a CHRIS CRAFT. The boat was a Chris Craft, the company wasn’t trademarked until 1930 as Chris Craft. Are these names making sense. Is that really a very young Chris Smith? WOW. We did ask Mike Green who is a family member and he did not recognize him as that. And to be honest, I don’t see it either. Another Smith? I mean how many can there be?

Yes that type is so cool, my head might explode. WOW! I am working on a font as I type!

Should I gold plate this sucker, or are there others out there? Even if so, its very cool to see it in original form. I will add that the felt tip marker writing aint 1922. More like a Flair marker from the early 1980’s But who would write this stuff for any other reason than to ID who and what we are seeing.

Here is the back of the photo – WORKFORCE C/S/S Summer 1922 – 1St Chris-Craft – ROSE MARY – BUILT FOR Dr CASSIDY – DETROIT LES SMITH – MILLER -? – BOB ENDLEMAN – SHANTY DORNER – AL GRAY – JOHN ???????

The marking on the back is Spring 1923 “Building #1 AW working on ROSE MARY?  This is confirmed and also Bernard Smith in the shot by Don MacKerer. AW’s Son!

No writing on the back. But have confirmation this is Boat #1 And Bernard Smith – Don MacKerer.

Now below also appears to be the same boat with A.W. Who is A.W? This guy gets around!

A.W. and BORG (?) 1923 Single FWD Cockpit

On the back is Right Bob Purdy and yours truly. And A.W on Left. Confirmed by Don MacKerer.

Bill Clark- A.W. -And “X’ at Water Works – Port Clinton Fall 1914

Nuthn on the back, anyone know this place?


46 replies
  1. RH in Indy
    RH in Indy says:

    That pic was worth the wait. VERY cool!!
    Thank you for sharing! Glad you got the grab-a deserved new owner.

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Seriously Matt, bring those photos to Port Huron and one of the Algonac old timers may solve some of the mysteries.
    And yes, there is a show in Port Huron in September that comes after the Michigan chapter 40th anniversary show in June. Michigan will be rocking this summer!

  3. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Everything looks right in the photo, and like you say, who would write the info on the back if they didn’t have knowledge of the history. Lots of times folks get older and sit down with old family photos and write on the back so future generations will know who’s who. Only a family member could say if Chris is in it or not. I think it is number one with the crew who built her and Chris Smith is probably taking the photo. Like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Love It!

  4. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    Love the old photos and a glimpse of how things were originally done by original workmen. That “marine railway” looks positively medieval!

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      I will have to go back and read through some of the books that I have read on CC. I didn’t think that A. W. MacKerer joined the company until later in the production years.

      I don’t expect you with find a “young” Chris C. Smith in any of these photo’s as he would have been 61 in 1922. Not a “young” man for those days.

      Have you had any luck contacting Chris Smith? I would think he might know something.

  5. Floyd r turbo
    Floyd r turbo says:

    The January, 1935 edition of “Motorbiating”, “Jay W. Smith, President of the Chris-Craft Corporation announces the addition of A W Mackerer to the executive personnel immediately. Me. MacKerer is widely known throughout the boating industry as a naval architect, designer, and manufacturer… Mr. MacKerer previously was associated with the executive personnel of Chris-Craft from 1922 to July, 1931 when he resigned to enter business for himself.”

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    This is a story by Al Benton for the Chris Craft Club
    Did You Know
    By Al Benton

    A.W. MacKerer, fondly referred to as “Mr. Chris-Craft,” worked for the Purdy Boat Co., Inc. prior to being hired by Christopher Smith. He was engaged to Nellie Purdy, co-owner Gil Purdy’s daughter at the time. They were married later that year. Why did he leave his future father-in-law’s business?

    Young Mr. MacKerer began his carrier in the boat building industry in 1913 as an apprentice for Ruddock Yacht & Boat Works of New York City. He gained additional experience at Hacker and Matthews, among others, before moving on to Purdy in 1921 in Trenton, MI. There he met Nellie Purdy, co-owner Gil Purdy’s daughter, and fell in love.

    Gill and his brother Ned were custom boat builders of cruisers and race boats for wealthy New Yorkers. MacKerer wanted them to expand into builders of a standard production line of boats but the brothers were not interested. The ensuing discussion of the subject ended with Bill MacKerer looking for a job.
    The timing was impeccable, as Chris Smith and his sons were about to embark into a business that fit MacKerer’s ambitions perfectly. Smith hired him on a trial basis in March, 1922, only a month after beginning Chris Smith & Sons Boat Co, Inc. The rest is history.
    So why did MacKerer leave Purdy in the midst of becoming family? All indications suggest that he was fired!

  7. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    really great stuff and good detective work all around!!

    Like Troy I thought AW joined the company later…but today’s research proves he was just promoted later….seem we have solid case for that is he in the pics! Love the background stuff….
    John in Va.

  8. Speedboy
    Speedboy says:

    Definitely Bill MacKerer sitting with Bob Purdy. Bill left the Purdy boat company based in Trenton Michigan at that time about 1921/22. He was also married to Bobs cousin Dorothy Purdy.

  9. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    Great Pics!! It make you feel part of the early experience. Its really neat that you guys have done research and have backstories on some of the people in the pictures. An old man told me once “time fades away but pictures stay and stay”. These photos prove that.

  10. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    Bill is the same as A.W.

    John Allen in MN has the earliest Chris-Craft, hull IV (#4) and it is the rear control model shown. Chris-Craft seemed to alternate between forward control and rear control styles on the first dozen or so boats in 1922-24.

  11. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but the tall guy on the left looks like Brian Robinson and the shorter guy next to him is a dead ringer for Mike Green.

    Too bad the next generation(s) behind us won’t have photos to look at like this. They’ll find old hardrives, thumb drives, CD-Roms and won’t know what to plug them into. So sad.

  12. Matt
    Matt says:

    NEW UPDATE – From Don and Blair MacKerer. That guy on the left is LES SMITH- We are getting more info, stay tuned! This is great.

  13. Denis D
    Denis D says:

    Any chance of finding out who owned the storage unit where these photos were found? That could really be a fascinating story.

    It feels like we are witnessing our own Da Vinci Code!

  14. Matt
    Matt says:

    It is, these were all part of a story about Hull Registration Cards never seen on ebay. Then photos started popping up. We were buying all we could while others were doing the same. It was nuts. now the seller has some larger more generic photos for 300 bucks that he thinks are treeasures while these little ones are the gold. I think he is a guy that buys storage units. And this was in there. Said it was from a family mamber that worked at Chris Craft. but who knows?

  15. Speedboy
    Speedboy says:

    Looks like the boat on the railway was powered by a V engine. Note dual exhaust. Probably a Smith converted OX5.

  16. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    I just had a pleasant and Informative conversation with Don MacKerer. He has no doubt that the first photo in this story is the first Chris Smith and Sons hull. The gentleman first on the left Don identified as Les Smith. Two men are shown in sitting in two different boats, Don’s dad A. W. is in both photos. The photo of three men in front of the fountain, shows A.W. in the middle. Don was thrilled to see these photos!

  17. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    In this photo from yesterday, Don identified his Dad, A. W. , as a 19 yr old in 1915 when he worked for Hacker.

  18. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Sorry I just tuned in, been messing with a boat all day….Looks like you all have been having fun.

    I’ll ask Chris Ann if she has been watching today….I think you have covered it but she may know more.

    No doubt from what you found and what Don says, A.W. is Mac…I never heard of him called “Bill tho.

  19. don danenberg
    don danenberg says:

    Wilson, might the ‘W’ in A.W. mean William (AKA Bill?), …?

    Yeah.., it is soo warm there..; You think quicker?

  20. Bob Braaf
    Bob Braaf says:

    We have Mark Smith on it and Chris Smith will probably take a look if Mark can get him to. Will let you know. Thanks, Wilson.

  21. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Don: Not sure what I was thinking…I now recall of references to A.W. “Bill” MacKerer. But more often A.W. “Mac” MacKerer.

  22. jim g
    jim g says:

    The history of Chris Craft book I have says A.W. was laid off during the depression years. Then rehired as things got better.

  23. Kathy Muller
    Kathy Muller says:

    Here’s my contribution to the quest– a page from A.W. MacKerer’s notebook, “Chriscraft First – “Rose Mary”. I have only a few pages, poor copies, but you can appreciate the detail he included in his notes. He lists the engine as a Hall Scott A-7-A which had a single exhaust pipe and the boat on the railway has dual exhaust–likely an OX-5 powered boat built the same year. I’m working on hull number IV– these photos are truly great!!!

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