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Learner story archives

December 1, 2008

The Legend of Chris-Craft

by Donald D'Entremont
Spring Garden Library Adult Learning Program

photo of Don and a model boat
Don with one of his own maritime creations

Christopher Columbus Smith was born in Michigan, USA on May 20, 1861. His parents moved to Algonac in 1868.

When Chris was a boy, he loved to hunt ducks. He spent a lot of time doing that. When he was only 13, he built a small boat to go hunting. Other hunters saw his boat and liked it. They asked him to build one for them and he built many boats for them. He decided to start a business and borrowed money. Eventually, he took on a partner. The Chris-Ryan partnership was able to offer his new 2.5 foot runabout complete with engine and upholstery for $475.00 FOB. (which means "free on board"?)

A new boat was considered a masterpiece of workmanship and strength. Smith used seven kinds of wood in the construction and particular attention was given to her single step planking angle so that no part of the hull back to her stern would be in the water at high speeds. The experimental engine turning a 25 pound, twenty inch bronze propeller accelerated Smith to 56 miles per hour in time trials on the St. Clair River. Chris-Craft boats broke several speedboat records.

The Chris-Craft boats became so famous that Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley both bought one.

© 2014 Copian