Wagemaker Offered Everything In The 1950s – Including Aqua Planes


Wagemaker Ad - 4

Wagemaker Lapstrake brochure courtesy www.wagemakerwolverineboats.com

BACK IN THE DAY THE WAGEMAKER COMPANY from Grand Rapids, Michigan produced boats that seemed to keep pace with the ever-changing, always-evolving recreational boating market. Wagemaker produced cedar-strip boats, to molded plywood boats, to aluminum boats, to fiberglass boats and even lapstrake clinker designed models to satisfy the needs of their customers, and huge network of over 500 dealers across the country in the mid 1950s.

During that period, they were producing 10,000 boats per year from their plants in Michigan and New York. Many of those boats are still around today.


Vintage 1957 Wagemaker Wolverine sales brochure – Courtesy www.wagemakerwolverineboats.com

In September 2011, with fellow Woody Boater Brian Fogarty (at wagemakerwolverineboats.com) Woody Boater published a feature story on the history of the Wagemaker Company and the (then) launch of Brian’s new Wagemaker Wolverine Boat Club website – a story we called The Wagemaker Company, Builder Of Wolverine Boats – Both Past & Present. (You can see that original story in the Woody Boater archive by clicking on the link above)


1954 Wagemaker Wolverine brochure courtesy www.wagemakerwolverineboats.com

Here’s an excerpt from that story, quoting Bob Speltz from The Real Runabouts IV:

Grand Rapids, Michigan always has been and still is the center for making wood furniture. Naturally enough, wooden boat building sprung up in the same general area based on advantages such as good skilled work force, excellent supplies of seasoned lumber, as well as varied types of transportation facilities for shipping and deliveries.

The Wagemaker Company was founded in 1896 by Isaac Wagemaker. The firm concentrated on making wooden cabinets, many of which were sold by the famous Macy Company of New York City. As conditions began to change and competition increased, Ray O. Wagemaker, one of Isaac’s sons, came into the business and in the year 1931 the firm started building wooden boats to complement their furniture division and keep their skilled wood workers busy during slack times. – Bob Speltz


Vintage 1954 Wagemaker Marine Accessories ad which shows they offered water skis and Aqua Planes – Courtesy www.wagemakerwolverineboats.com

Since that Wagemaker Wolverine story was published in 2011, along with some help of our friends at Google, we have received a constant stream of Wagemaker Wolverine inquiries, many from owners wanting to know more about their particular boats or looking for more information on the marque. We always try to respond and help with the inquires when we can.

Last week we received a different inquiry that caught our attention – from our new friend Patti. She was asking if we had any information about vintage 1950’s Wagemaker Wolverine Wakeboards (then referred to as Aqua Planes). We asked her to send us some photos and any more information she had on it, and we would try to help. Here’s what came back from Patti.

Wagemaker Board 4

Hi Texx,

Thanks for your interest! My father purchased a cottage in Waterford, Michigan in about 1957. The previous owners left the Wagemaker board when they sold the cottage to him. I don’t know any more than that. I vaguely remember using it when I was a kid (I am 47 now).

My dad would pull us on it behind his boat. It’s ridiculously heavy and is 2 feet wide and about 6 feet long. I searched the Internet and found nothing resembling this type of board, except on Pinterest. Someone refinished a similar one and turned it into a kitchen table in a beach house. I thought that was a nice idea but wanted to see if it had any type of value to anyone before I altered it. I attached more pictures.

Thanks for your help! – Patti

Wagemaker Board 1

Although I have seen a few different versions of these Aqua Plane boards over the years (Full disclosure – I actually remember using one behind the boat when I was a kid growing up at the lake) but have never seen a Wagemaker Wolverine version until now.

After seeing these photos of Patti’s, my first thought was that it was a standard home made wooden Aqua Plane board that maybe someone just applied a Wagemaker Wolverine transfer sticker on to match their Wagemaker boat.

Wagemaker Board 2

So I went back into the Woody Boater Archives and found a few of Brian Fogarty’s Wagemaker brochures from the 1950s and sure enough (as shown above in the brochures) they produced a line of marine molded plywood water skis and aqua plane boards which were offered in their line of marine accessories.

wolverine1955a - Copy

This 1955 Wagemaker ad describes the water skis (and Aqua Plane boards) as being available in either mahogany or painted enameled finish. Courtesy www.wagemakerwolverineboats.com

The water skis and aqua plane boards were offered with either a mahogany or enameled finish. Patti’s family was lucky to have a mahogany finish version, which is in surprisingly great condition considering it’s age. In terms of value, I’m not sure what it would be worth today, but would probably be of interest to a Wagemaker Wolverine boat owner to compliment his classic boat.

Wagemaker Board 3

If anybody out there in Woody Boater land has any idea what the aqua plane is worth, please let us know. I would hate to see this wonderful piece of boating memorabilia be turned into a kitchen table.

These old Aqua Plane boards take me back to a time when there was no boom boxes or loud music required to get towed around the lake on warm summer days – the only sound was the old outboard purring along and the sweet smell of two-stroke oil.

iPhone Photos 657

This is an old but very well preserved Aqua Star board that Dane Anderson and I found in his family collection at Bay Lake, Minnesota in 2013. The Aqua Star brand was sold through Sears at the time.

For more information on the Wagemaker Wolverine marque you can visit Brian Fogarty’s Wagemaker Wolverine Boat Club website by Clicking Here.


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

    Ahhh, the good old days when parents would tow their kids behind the boat with nothing but plywood and some rope. No need for life jackets, foot straps or handles. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    I remember these Aqua plane boards. When I was a kid my dad made one to tow behind my 23′ cruiser, he painted a great big foot on it, it looked real cool. We lost that one when someone fell off and the driver didn’t slow down and it submerged sticking it in the mud on the bottom of the canal and broke the tow line. It’s probably still down there.
    I found this Thompson board at a swap meet, I forgot how much I paid for it. I have not had the chance to use it.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Since this is a Wolverine story, GO BLUE…

    (note: the absence of a Woodyboater SoV flag)

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      I’m taking my mint-original Sons of Varnish black hoodie to the boat show in Muskoka later this week. Not sure what the reaction will be… Hopefully not rejection.

      • Greg Lewandowski
        Greg Lewandowski says:

        Texx, we can not make the Muskoka show this year, but several Michigan chapter boats will be there. Look for Cracker Jack, Hers, Classmate and Canada Goose, and say Hi to the gang from Michigan.

      • Phillip Jones
        Phillip Jones says:

        Sorry Texx, that hoodie will not hold a candle to the ORIGINAL “baby S^%T yellow” WoodyBoater shirt, if you go, go big:)

        • Texx
          Texx says:

          Good point WoodyGal – I may have to reconsider flying the SoV colors. I also have a vintage Vespa hoodie, that might work better. Thanks.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      m-fine, some of us Michigan WoodyBoaters fly the green and white colors of that other great school. You don’t want to give the out of staters the idea that the maze and blue is universal in our great blue water state!

      • m-fine
        m-fine says:

        We had a boat full of people stop off the dock today to sing Hail to the Victors. Sometimes it is those green and white people who stop by, usually with something less supportive to say. That is OK, they don’t bother me, they come from a great state and it is not their fault they went to the wrong school. We do however keep a cannon loaded for the Scarlet and Gray types from that place to the south.

  4. Steve Lendzion
    Steve Lendzion says:

    I’d love to get my hands on that wolverine aqua plane, we live in Commerce Mi out on Long Lake and used to have one growing up getting towed behind our boat in the early 70’s. The comment made about it diving straight down is so true, you had to slow down RIGHT AWAY when someone fell off or it dove! I now have a 1941 Chris Craft that I would love to compliment with one of those so if Patti is interested in making a deal I’m not far from Waterford!

  5. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    My dad’s first boat was a 1949 Wolverine. Here is a picture of me at 10 years old paddling on Belleville Lake, Belleville, MI.

  6. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    I remember having a painted one. When you fell off the driver had to stop and be sure the board was upright otherwise the front lip would cause it to dive for the bottom.

  7. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Terry Fiest recently did a story on aquaplanes for The Brass Bell. When I was managing the Chris Craft Club I bought one from a guy in mid America…You know…one of those square states out in the middle of he country—I’m not sure but I think I paid $250 plus shipping but that was 10/15 years ago. It went with the club stuff to Bill Basler and Terry acquired it and I think he still has it. We are pretty sure that one was made by Chris Craft.

    I remember back in the late thirties learning to use one on Lake Winnipesaukee where our neighbors had a place. It was a mahogany, I guess…what does a 9 year old kid know about kinds of wood ?…It was towed behind a big ole GarWood…Lotta fond memories of that summer and a few others like it up there.

  8. Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    AquaPlanes were fairly common. Many boat builders offered them as accessories with the boats. Many of the boat builders actually manufactured the boards themselves. Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. had several models. Thompson Skis, Inc. also made them. These were two completely independent firms. Thompson Skis, Inc. was the largest maker of wooden water skis in the world for many years, making up to 80,000 annually. I have a Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co. aquaplane from the 1920s. I have two made by Thompson Skis, Inc. – probably from the late 1950s-early 1960s. I have twenty or more water skis made by Thompson Skis, Inc., including those on which I learned to water ski at about age 6.

  9. Tom F.
    Tom F. says:

    This is my mother “Aqua Planing” behind her fathers 1938 Chris Craft 17′ runabout on the St. Clair River…I’m guessing maybe 1946. Notice the “spotter” sitting back in the engine bay or on the rear deck.

  10. Bill Anderson
    Bill Anderson says:

    On the right is an aluminium Aerocraft with floatation built in it, left is an exercise rowing machine that I don’t use much,, this is stuff hanging in back room. Bill

  11. Shell-Point
    Shell-Point says:

    I made a sort of an aquaplane for the kids last weekend using a rigid foam snow toboggan and some rope. We had a home made plywood aquaplane when we were kids and it was the most fun. Much more fun and participatory for children than “tubing.”

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      The bacon is curring. It needs another 6 days, then some time in the smoker. It should be ready next Sunday morning.

  12. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Aquaplanes could be very dangerous to the “planer” if you had a careless boat captain. Because you pulled the ‘plane with the boat instead of pulling the skier like a conventional water ski. When the ‘planer went down the captain had to pull the ‘plane back to the downed skier and if either of them weren’t paying attention the skier got smacked in the head (or ribs), especially if the captain accelerated too fast and submerged the ‘plane, it would “pop up” out of nowhere and you better have quick reaction time to avoid the “mahogany missile”.

  13. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    As a kid, my nephews and I rigged up a pulley on a post at the end of the farm pond. A loooong rope was run through the pulley to the bumper of the ’52 chevy pickup. The other end went to the toboggan on the far side of the pond. The truck took off on the road perpendicular to the pond with yours truly on the toboggan. We should have measured where the truck should stop before plowing the toboggan (and yours truly) into the post. That was fun. Once.

  14. Bob Ulrich
    Bob Ulrich says:

    My grandfather bought a 1960 Wagemaker Empire Clipper 18′ brand new. It was the fiberglass lapstrake style hull with Mahogany top and bench seat. It had an Evinrude Golden Jubilee “Fat Fifty” on it but I upgraded to a ’62 75hp. I restored her a couple of years ago and is my user boat, and she’s staying in the family. Here’s a pick

  15. Texx
    Texx says:

    Thanks to everyone who commented today, made for a fun Aquaplane / bacon / post July 4th party. We need to have more of these Sunday gatherings where anything goes… Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.

    Tom F – That shot of your mother aquaplaning behind the 1938 Chris-Craft 17′ is pure gold!

    Floyd – the “mahogany missle” comment was hilarious.


  16. Clif Ames
    Clif Ames says:

    I surely do remember Wolverine and the Aquaplane. I had one in 1954 pulled by a Whirlwind.. I first skied behind a Wolverine. A wood Wolverine will be in the Reedville Show Sep 12th and hopefully Delbert Hancock will bring his ’59 aluminum Wolverine again.

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