Before he founded Chris-Craft, Christopher Columbus Smith of Algonac, Michigan, built some of the first gasoline-powered boats as well as the earliest speed boats. In 1915 his Miss Detroit won the Gold Cup.
Garfield “Gar” Wood bought Miss Detroit and Smith’s company, and for six years, Smith built race boats under Wood’s direction. By 1921 they had won five more Gold Cups and two Harmsworth Trophies.
Racing tested the boats’ hull designs and mechanical issues, allowing Smith and Wood to develop cutting-edge marine technology.
In 1922 Chris Smith formed Chris Smith & Sons Boat Co., with Chris-Craft becoming the brand name two years later. Chris-Craft would soon become the world’s largest builder of mahogany powerboats.
During World War II, Chris-Craft built patrol boats, utility launches and rescue vessels for the U.S. Army and Navy. Recreational boating revived after the war, and by 1950 Chris-Craft offered 139 models of boats. In 1955 it manufactured its first fiberglass boat.
Under new ownership, the company moved to Florida in 1960 and was renamed Chris-Craft Industries Inc. Completing the transition to fiberglass, Chris-Craft built its last mahogany boat in 1971.
Today Algonac Harbour Club marina sits on the former site of Chris Smith & Sons Boat Co., which once produced many of the world’s finest wooden boats. –Peggy Schwaller
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