Purchased From Sears In 1952, Brand was ELGIN – But Who Actually Made The Boats?
Yesterday we had a fun day learning about Captain Grumpy and his latest wooden boat he found up in New Hampshire. We learned it was originally purchased from Sears, Roebuck & Company in 1956 as a Kit Boat – manufactured by Chris-Craft.
Now we have another interesting story of a boat from up in the Northeast – This time it’s in Maine.
Back in January we received a comment from fellow Woody Boater Rowan who was trying to learn more about a 1952 ELGIN outboard boat that his grandfather purchased in 1952 from Sears in Trenton, New Jersey. As we often do here at Woody Boater, I decided to do some research on the Elgin marque before we published the story, but I had a difficult time determining exactly who built these boats for Sears back in the day. So I guess you could say Rowan & I are in the same boat… Get it? Here’s what Rowan sent us, which is very cool.
Texx – I have a 1952 ELGIN that looks just like a Wagemaker. I am trying to verify for sure that Sears bought from Wagemaker in the early 50s. And, if I have a Wagemaker, what model? If I can figure this out, I have a great story for you – one that is 61 years old spanning 4 generations. Thanks, Rowan.
The following 4 photos are all of the same boat.
This photo is from 1953 with my dad piloting the boat. See ELGIN on stern. Back then it had a rear helm.
The next 2 photos were taken after we found the boat in 2006 at a church auction in Maine. It had been out of our family for 30+ years.
The last photo is of the boat after a complete renovation. The ELGIN was purchased new by my Grandfather in 1952 at Sears, Trenton NJ. Brand was ELGIN. Boat has no ribbing.
My question is – “Who did Sears buy this boat from? I have heard Yellow Jacket or Theakston or Industrial Shipping (Halifax) or Angler or Wagemaker or Wolverine or Fageol and one more I can’t remember the name but it sounds like marine casts and was in the midwest.”
Thanks for your help – Rowan
What a great story Rowan, it’s so cool to have the opportunity to see a boat that’s been close to your family for almost 57 years, and now see the same boat saved from the burn pile. So we are reaching out to the Woody Boater community today in an attempt to learn more about who exactly designed, built and supplied these ELGIN wooden outboards for the Sears and Roebuck Company back in the early 1950’s?
To us, the idea of simply walking in to your local Sears Roebuck store on Satuday morning back in the early 50’s and buying a reasonably priced wooden outboard (easy for us to say now) with an outboard motor, maybe with a Tee Nee trailer with teardrop fenders and all the recreational boating accessories, maybe some fishing gear, etc is so cool… I wonder if you could even buy it on the easy payment plan which Sears was famous for back then – even better! And tow it to the lake with your 51 Ford sedan the following weekend for some water skiing, fishing or just some good old recreational boating with the family.
Here are a few nice period brochures we found at elginoutboards.com – this is a good webiste for all things ELGIN.
And you could also buy a wide range of ELGIN Kit Boats from Sears back in the day. Note in the following brochure what looks like a small outboard cabin cruiser and also a lapstrake sportsman boat…
And before the days of “Cash For Clunkers” – Heck, you could even buy an Allstate car from Sears back in the early 1950’s
Let’s see if we can help out a fellow Woody Boater and as a group, learn more about the ELGIN line of outboards from the early 1950’s.
Thanks in advance,
Update from Don Danenberg – March 15, 5:00 PM
We received the following comments from our friend, restorer and noted author Don Danenberg this afternoon.
Here’s some more info for your Elgin research.
Check Vol-4 of Bob Speltz’s Real Runabouts series, Chapter 2. Lots of photos that he might use to match up a hull style?
Very good descriptions and photos of hot-molded hull construction.
I have a couple of Elgin engines, the 2-cyl (certified 8-hp, yikes!) has a Sears Roebucks tag.
The 1-cyl doesn’t have a tag but cast into the flywheel is “Wico Electric Co. – West Springfield, Mass.”
I spoke to my uncle Fred, who worked at Wagemaker in the 40’s, to ask about any Sears connection.
He vaguely recalled hearing of sales to Sears…, BUT, he worked in the furniture division (rip-saw), not the boat division, so no joy there.
Ollie Wagemaker III might still live in Grand Rapids, MI, but he’s no longer in the directory and I haven’t found his number or spoken to him in a decade, the guy might follow up on that?
I think Tommy Holmes had the best answer, MANY different suppliers?
Thanks Don – We always appreciate your insight and comments here at Woody Boater.
The big retailers such as Sears (Elgin) and Montgomery Ward (Sea King) and Gambles all sold boats and outboard motors and boat trailers. They, of course, did not manufacture those items. They sourced them from many, many different manufacturers. The retailer would make a deal with such and such boat builder for a certain number of boats. Usually on an annual contract.
Penn Yan Boats of Penn Yan, NY actually set up a seperate firm called Angler Boat Co. to make boats for Sears and Montgomery Ward, for example. Cruisers, Inc. of Oconto, WI made a bunch of lapstrake boats for Wards. Chetek Boat Corp. of Chetek, WI made boats for Wards too.
Span America Boat Co. and Fort Dodge Boat Co. both of Fort Dodge, Iowa teamed up to make boats for Wards in the late 1950s. These were fiberglass runabouts and fishing boats.
For the boat manufacturer this type of deal looked like a gold mine. However, it usually ended in disaster. the big retailer could set the price, they demanded lots of product, and they wanted deadlines met. Many of the small boat makers had eyes bigger than their stomach and would jump at these deals. Their entire operation would be devoted to the big retailer. They would abandon their regular dealer network and customers. Once the retailer moved on to the next boat maker, they would be left with no work, no dealer network , no sales, and would go belly up. It happened over and over.
There has been a bunch of material published about Elgin brand boats which is archved in the Glassic Library at http://www.fiberglassics.com
By the way, Fageol was a builder of engines, not a builder of boats.
Sorry I don’t know the names but I believe the hulls for alot of these boat companies with the molded plywood hulls were all made by the same outfit in Texas then sold to the diffetent builders. They were shipped without transoms so they could be stacked inside each other by train all over the country.
I see by the picture that youd dad had the good judgement to put a evinrude motor on his elgin boat. back in the 50s montgomery ward was way ahead of sears with the sea king built by evinrude a great engine far superior to the elgin a lot of the elgins were made by scott atwater a brand that sears also sold for a while after the elgin who made a good motor also until the great bail o matic debockle in 1954 where they mounted the water pump above the water line so it ran dry a few senconds every time you started it till it sucked water up to it so guess what the impellers kept burning out brilliant engineering
I used to own a wagemaker and live in Grand Rapids. One option might be US Molded Shapes, Inc. which was a major supplier of cold-molded mahogany plywood hulls. Many manufacturers such as Delta, Milocraft and Yellow Jacket used these hulls to build completed boats. Hulls were also available in kit form for home assembly. The company was a subsidiary of The Wagemaker Company, also of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I googled US Molded Shapes to get this info. More info there about them but couldn’t make the connection to sears. It’s a start though. It may be difficult to match the completed boat up with a wagemaker model given each buyer of these hulls finished them different. But the hulls you’ve shown do look alike. Good luck!
I met a guy at the Sunnyhland show last year who’s father had a significant business building kit boats in the ’50’s. He mentioned that his major competitor was CC, but I can’t rememebr the name of his manufacturing business, and whether he did this sort of “private label” thing where the boats were supplied by him but marketed under a different name by the chains. I will try to find out. I think this business was located in Florida. UNtil now I had thought Elgin was only a name used on OB’s, was not aware that it was applied to boats as well.
I had a 52 Elgin I restored. When I looked up the history I found that they were built by Penn Yan Boat Company in NY on the second floor of the plant. Tried to find my history sheets on it but think I gave it to the guy I sold the boat to
Looks like a company called Angler Boat Co. in Penn Yan NY made the boats for Sears and sourced molded hulls from Yellowjacket according to this informative article on the web.
Great brochures and history. Even Captain Grumpy’s kit boat is there.
By the way – here’s a great improbable episode of the Roy Rogers Show with Roy and bad guys duking it out in Yelowjacket boats powered by twin mercs.
Gotta luv cowboy boots on Varnish!
I would call such a boat and its construction HOT MOLDED, not cold….like a Whirlwind and all those “other” brands.
John in Va.
Hot Molded, yes, the glue was heated up. that one boat company in MD actually baked them in an oven. oh my.
The molded plywood boat industry started in Nova Scotia Canada, in the late 40’s. The technology was initially used to build wooden bodied WWII British aircraft…look up the Mosquito. Here’s a link
The Mahone Bay Co would build plywood hulls on spec and then ship them to Yellow Jacket, Wolverine, Wagemaker etc. Later Yellow Jacket aquired part of the Mahone Bay business and moved some production to Denison Texas, and built their own hulls there. Some of the Canadian boats were called Plycraft. I have an early 50’s Plycraft B Utility racer that I’m restoring now.
noticed your rebuilding a plycaft.Im restoring a 11foot Industrial shipping plycraft,After researching for months no one is able to prove the year or model of my boat.Its between 1945 and 1954.only the Swallow model was made in those years in 11foot.but there is no pictures of this model to compare with mine,Any help would be appreciated.Thanks Danny.
Elgin boats, trailers, and outboards were sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. but were built by a variety of manufacturers. The line of outboard motors were built by West Bend and later by Scott-McCulloch; boats were supplied by manufacturers such as Cutter, Whitehouse, Glasspar, and Arkansas Traveler. From 1960 on, Elgin offered only a two HP model built by West Bend, switching to a lineup primarily of outboards made by Scott. West Bend-made motors can be distinguished by a 571- serial number prefix; the Scott-made motors by a 574- prefix. In later years, the Elgin brand was dropped entirely and boats and motors were marked as Sears. — source:fiberclassics.com
My head is spinning from this story. (It has nothing to do with The Islander.)
Cool story…last summer I purchased my very own 1952 Elgin outboard motor at an estate sale in Green Lake, WI. It’s a really retro-cool old motor I’ll enjoy until I can locate a Chris-Craft Challenger outboard, too. The Elgins are interesting motors for us Wisconsin classic boaters because they were manufactured for Sears-Roebuck in Hartford, WI at the former Kissel Motor Company automobile plant by Kissel employees. There’s a great motor museum in Hartford today…with a heavy concentration of gorgeous Kissel cars and a whole room-full of Hartford-built outboards!
Sunnyland is having an auction to benefit their Scampy Program for kids. I’ve donated a 100% original CC Challenger for the auction. Bid, Bid, Bid!
Another shot of the power head of the ’52 Elgin as found:
Sorta-on-topic… if you’re as into cool old stuff like old boats, old houses, old cars etc. as much as I think you are…don’t forget that Sears was also your one-stop source for these awesome imported Allstate mopeds, motorbikes, and the vaunted Allstate Cruisaire, a badge-engineered Vespa 150 from Piaggio of Genoa, Italy! Check out this page from the Sears catalog…
Ha – A 1962 Allstate Compact was my first ever motorcycle (scooter I suppose) when I was 12 years old.
I loved that little bike although it almost killed me as I learned how to ride it with those little wheels… Wish I had it here at Daytona Bike Week today, I would be King-of-the-Road with the thousands of Harley-Davidsons down here!
On the 57 14′ runabout, my father in law built, had an Elgin steering wheel. And it still does.
Does anybody know anything about Broadwater Boats? I know they were built in Prince Georges County, MD just outside of Washington DC. My dad purchased a 17′ cuddy cabin from Broadwater in 1961 and I now have that boat. I’m just wondering if anyone has any pictures or information on the old factories. THis is what the 17′ cuddy cabin looks like (1961 photo)
Great amount of info. Thanks everyone.
The restoration was fantastic and I am curious
what motor is he running on that boat
looks like it could be a lot of fun
Thanks to everyone for commenting today, all great stuff. And if you have more information on ELGIN boats & motors please let us know here.
Also, if anyone has informtion on any other Kit Boats or unusual / rare wooden boats like Walt’s Broadwater cuddy cabin, we would love to see what you have and learn more about them as a group.
With the exception of the 31′ cruiser kit, the model lineup in the Elgin kit boat list lines up almost exactly with the Chris Craft kit boat line from late 1951 to early 1952. The key is the presence of the 10′ racing pram, which was introduced at that time.The 14′ duckboat kit was added in late 1952, and doesn’t appear in the Elgin ad. The photos also lead me to believe that they are CC. I know that CC sold some boats through the Montgomery Ward catalog, as I have an MW brochure that mentions some models built by CC. I have also heard that some kits were sold to Sears.
The boats in the ads from 1952/53 all have ribs, so they cannot be molded plywood
I thing I have a 1956 Elgin
I have a 1958 Elgin boat. it was my grandfathers. I am looking to sell it because I have no where to keep it.
I am looking for a 14 plywood elgin runabout late 1050s open cockpit 1708 442 7097 joe
Joe – I will send you an e-mail re this.
I just purchased a 1952 Elgin runabout kit that was never opened it came in 3 packages I bought it from an auction in Denver Colorado I work I a large cabinet shop and I am looking foreword to the build if any one is interested in it after let me know on this forum
Jason, please keep us updated with this project, and take lots of photos. Even of the unopened crates. Very interesting!
Help. I have, what I was told is a 1959 Elgin with a sportsman windshield kit, but I can not find any information on the internet about the boat, or its manufacturer. It was registered in Kingston Ontario.The two chines and the side flare make the boat unique. The boat is a cedar strip with a plywood top. It has a serial number stamped into the wood but no serial plate. I have googled every boat builder I found in articles on the net. I Would appreciate any additional info to help solve this mystery. Thanks
Hi Ken – I sent you an e-mail re photos.
Not sure why it will not allow additional pics. Will keep trying
Ken – Send the photos and information you have to: Texx@woodyboater.com
Still have my dad’s 16 1/2 foot Elgin aluminum canoe. Just put new webbing on the seats and will put light blue line x in the bottom soon.
My Dad has a 1950’s Elgin wooden boat he built from a kit. Any idea on how to determine it’s value?
Hi Martin – It’s hard to determine the value of your Dad’s Elgin without knowing the condition and if it’s seaworthy. Also if it has an engine, and what condition it’s in. Do you have any photos you can share?
I own a new unused 1961 barn find!! Seats in plastic!
My father, the late Richard C. Cole, was a major designer for Industrial Shipping Company in Canada. They produced the hulls for Yellow Jacket, Pace, and many other companies and shipped the hulls via boxcars on trains to various locations around the US. These hulls were also produced and sold by Sears under the Elgin name.
Thanks for chiming in today Michael, great information to have and for future story reference. / Texx