The American Rowboat Motor

by Arlan Carter
Fall Creek Trading Co.
Fall Creek, WI

© 2010 Arlan D. Carter
400 pages

ISBN  978-0-578-04986-1 (hard cover)

Price $34.95

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Foreword to The American Rowboat Motor -

The period between the 1890ís and the 1920ís was an exciting time. During this relatively short period of time the country saw remarkable technological advances in communication and transportation. The telephone kept us connected, the radio kept us informed, and we went from a horse drawn society to a motorized one, all in the span of thirty short years.

Marine transportation was no exception: motorized pleasure boats were seen in all the major waterways. However, unlike the automobile, which became a near necessity, the pleasure boats with inboard engines were an expensive luxury. The average fisherman, or weekend boater, had a small rowboat and propelled it with a pair of oars. This did not go unnoticed. As far back as the 1880ís individuals were experimenting with portable electric and gas engines that could be adapted to the rowboat. In this country, the "Salisbury-Allen" electric motor appears to be the first outboard motor put into actual production. It was followed closely by the gas powered "American." But it wasnít until 1906, when Cameron B. Waterman of Detroit, Michigan introduced the Waterman "Porto" that the industry really took off. By 1910, Waterman claimed to have sold 4000 motors, and in that same year, Evinrude entered the market and the race was on.

This book is about these motors and the motors that followed. The term "Rowboat Motor" describes those motors manufactured before the mid 1920ís. These motors were generally one cylinder, made of cast iron and brass, and were started by turning the flywheel, either by hand, or with the help of a knob positioned on the edge of the wheel. There were over 40 companies manufacturing these motors between 1895 and the mid 1920ís. This may seem like a large number, especially considering there are only a few companies manufacturing outboards today, but this was a small number compared to the automobile industry. During this same time frame there were several hundred automobile manufacturers. As in the outboard industry, only a few of these would survive.

In 1921, The Johnson Motor Co. of South Bend, Indiana introduced a two cylinder outboard that produced 2 horse power and weighed only 33 pounds. The motor was started with a rope wrapped around a pulley that was attached to the top of the fly wheel. The motor was light weight and reliable. Soon other manufacturers would follow suit and the heavy, awkward, rowboat motors would become a thing of the past.

Rowboat motors, a least in my eyes, are things of real beauty. Unlike their cousins, the stationary farm engines and other utilitarian motors whose only job is to spin a pulley, rowboat motors were designed to propel and steer a boat through the water. This required the addition of gracefully curved brass propellers and artistically designed rudders and gear housings; all polished to better slide through the water, or perhaps catch the eye of a potential buyer.



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