1908 Detroit Motor Boat Show

The First Annual Detroit Motor Boat Show

O. E. Sovereign

The "effete East" had no place in Detroit at the first annual round-up of power boatmen. From conception to brand every exhibit was corn fed and proud of it. This, of course, with the proverbial exception.

"Meet me at the lighthouse" was the slogan that brought some fifteen thousand person from Michigan and Ohio during the week of March 2, 1908, to the Light Guard armory for the first Detroit Motor Boat show. And a glance at the record of results shows that they came, saw and were conquered.

Everybody was skeptical about the success of the affair from the very first announcement of its being. For five months A. B. Moulder, its manager and promoter, had worked against this handicap and skepticism is a big handicap. "Nobody would like to see its success more than I, but I am afraid of it," was the remark that met the promoter many, many times, and as a result when the doors opened Monday evening it was Moulder's show, and to him is due the credit for its success. Every foot of ground space was sold during the week for the show next year, and at a price over 30 per cent in advance of this year's prices. It was feared that Detroit was not large enough to furnish attendance or business for its success. However, enough consideration was not given to Mr. Moulder's advertising abilities and resource as a press agent. Instead of its being a purely local affair, large parties attended from Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and smaller places in Ohio, as well as all points in Michigan. Several sales were recorded to New Yorkers and shipments will be made as a result of the show to many points in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

From the view point of the spectator, it was one of the prettiest affairs of the year and measured by debit and credit, every exhibitor left the show eminently satisfied, and some more so. One engine exhibitor, whose goods were first in the hall, made a sale before his booth was decorated Monday morning and a boat builder was called to telephone as he was leaving for his train Saturday night and informed by an Ypsilanti man that check was being sent to the office that night and "please hurry it along."

Forty-two separate exhibits representing everything in the sport from a pillow top to a 60-horsepower rapid fire motor were shown. It is safe to say that there was not an individual who entered the armory, from the veriest novice to those satiated by attendance at every show this winter, who did not find several "new ones" to interest him.

A huge lighthouse rising well into the dome of the armory was the first beacon that greeted the visitor, and a succession of life buoys, paddles and flags used in the decorations thoroughly saturated everyone with the proper atmosphere. a committee appointed by the Detroit Motor Boat club, under whose sanction the show was held, received visitors in a room especially set aside for this purpose and handsomely decorated with trophies and emblems of the club. This committee consisted of Commodore C. W. Kotcher, Harry Boggs, W. S. Reynolds, Carleton Wilby, H. Still and W. J. Gordon.

In point of general interest the Scripps Motor Co.'s exhibit probably drew the pennant. Their newest speed boat Unome, which has not yet touched the water, was shown complete and ready for the starting gun. She is 36 feet over all, 3 feet, 10 inches water line beam and carries a six-cylinder, 75-horsepower Scripps motor. While the hull is built along established lines, no pains or expense was spared to make it the best possible. The planking is of white cedar 5/16 inch above the water line and 5/8 inch below. The keel is built of one piece of Canadian fir and the ribs of rock elm. The interior is of butternut. The engine pit is lined throughout with copper. While no prophesies are being cast by the builders, the Unome is certain to be a factor in the events of the coming season.

The Scripps company showed six motors, one, two, four and six cylinders from 4 to 75 horsepower, of the four cycle type. A perfect four cylinder working model rated at one-half horsepower and turned during the show by a small electric motor, created much interest. An exact duplicate of the Unome, 8 feet long, is being built for the "little fellow" and she will be open to all comers in her class.

To satisfy the man who wants to "see `em run," the DuBrie Motor Co. utilized an empty store next to the armory. The DuBrie company occupied a large space in the hall displaying their one, two and three cylinder kerosene and gasoline motors. However, Mr. Commons is an advocate of the demonstration and took many interested persons to the store where two DuBrie motors were kept alive and doing all kinds of stunts with either kerosene or gasoline.

"I don't believe we're getting full measure from the motor boat shows as at present conducted," said S. A. Commons, secretary of the DuBrie company. "If a man buys an automobile at the show, he has an opportunity to see it run -- has had a demonstration. The exhibitors at the auto shows have cars for this purpose, and I believe the marine engines should be made to show up their metal in the same way. The average man cannot look an engine over and understand its various features of design and construction. I believe this will be a necessary adjunct to boat shows in the near future."

The only eastern engine shown was that of the Stratton Engine Co., of Fitchburg, mass. The Stratton is a rotating and reciprocating steam engine that works "any side up," and involves such original and striking features that it attracted intense interest among all visitors. It was the only engine operating under its own power in the hall. The Stratton is a single acting engine giving power around the axle. Forty-eight pieces comprise the entire engine, counting every nut, bolt and screw, its construction being so simple that a novice can take it apart and assemble it easily. it is claimed that friction is reduced to 2 per cent and that a saving of 25 per cent in fuel is secured. Franklin Stratton, inventor, demonstrated that one lever operates its speed, forward, reverses and stop while there are no dead centers, no cranks, no back pressure, no clearance or stuffing box. Experiments are now being made with gasoline as the power.

Particularly noticeable in the Roberts Motor Co. exhibit was the large carburetor used in their four cylinder forty. Mr. Roberts explained that by the use of a large intake and exhaust he was able to increase the power of this motor 25 per cent at 1,000 revolutions. The Roberts motors were well represented, seven models of the line being on exhibition. Their many excellent features attracted much attention, particularly the accessibility and interchangeability of parts being highly appreciated by visitors. E. W. Roberts was most prominent during the week, his advice on questions of power and designs being much sought for.

The Strelinger Marine Engine Co. showed an unusually complete line. Besides their "old reliables" the Strelinger one, two, three and four cylinder four cycle engines, they exhibited a 12-light electric lighting outfit equipped with a 1½-horsepower engine; semi-portable outfit for spraying purposes and an out-board motor. Orders were booked during the show for Los Angeles, Dauphin, Man., Honduras, C. A., Sturgeon Bay, Wis., Waterloo, Ia., and Detroit, surely a remarkable record for both Strelinger and the show.

The general design of the United Manufacturing Co.'s Little Giant motors has not been changed for the past two seasons, although the distinguishing feature of the present years consists of a positive force lubricating system, patent for which has been filed. This system forces the oil under pressure to all the internal working parts of their motors, after it has left the lubricators. Instead of using 30 to 40 drops of oil per minutes, as in the splash or gravity systems, this system thoroughly lubricates on 10 drops which makes for economy and effectiveness. Little Giant models in sizes 1 to 16 horsepower were shown.

"Four cycle economy with two cycle design" is the claim for the Claus, which made its debut at the show. Proof of the assertion was offered by the International Motor Co., which has just moved into its large new factory in Detroit. The distinguishing feature of the Claus engine is that the exhaust is through a head of the cylinder, a design that secures a greater port area and a more rapid and cleaner clearance of burnt gasses. Another new feature of the Claus engine is the lubrication of piston pin and crank pin bearings, this being secured from a large hollow connecting rod which is filled with "dope" of sufficient quantity to last six weeks. P. S. Claus, designer of this engine, is well known in Detroit, having been assistant superintendent of the Cadillac Automobile Co.

One of the "new ones that secured an unusual amount of attention was the B. & B. reverse gear, manufactured by Bryant & Berry Co. This gear was shown for the first time here and is probably the most compact gear yet designed. The Bryant & Berry Co. also showed a complete line of their famous speed propellers.

The "Pope Special" attracted many laudatory comments, which boiled down, resulted in six actual sales, five of the 24-foot models complete and one 36-foot model. The Pope line of boats are notable for handsome design and speed consistent with comfort.

The Racine Boat Co., of Muskegon, Mich., showed three complete launches, a 25-foot, with double opposed engine placed under the seat, a 21-foot, a 16-foot, and two canoes. They also displayed a Regal four cylinder engine.

Two models of the outing Boat Co. attracted favorable attention, particularly their new underwater exhaust which is "drawn out through the propeller shaft by the partial vacuum created by the propeller and not retarded."

The Detroit River Canoe Works displayed their new 20-foot semi-speed runabout, equipped with a 2-horse- power motor. Two of their famous Indian bow Pa-Hak-Ha canoes were also on exhibition.

The new segment valve which insures a full charge of gas entering the cylinder at each impulse, regardless of the speed of the engine, was the chief feature of the Premier motor shown by the Wittmaak Machine Co. This engine also has a removable brass water jacket.

George A. Lisk, of Detroit, showed one, two and four cylinder models of the Lisk four cycle engine. Accessibility of parts is apparent in the design of the Lisk engine as well as compactness and strength.

Lockwood-Ash motors were represented by one. two and four cylinder sizes of 2 to 10 horsepower and this company was the first to record a sale at the show.

The Dingfelder Motor Co., of Detroit, exhibited a six cylinder 60 horsepower, a four cylinder, 30-40 and a two cylinder 15-20.

The Buffalo Gasolene Motor Co. displayed their heavy duty 12 horsepower; a 15 and 5 with reverse propeller, a 2 with generating outfit, a 10 with reverse gear and a 40 with reverse propeller.

"Michigan" storage batteries were proved to give just as good service under water as above as was shown during the week when one of their stock batteries was placed in a large jar of water and left there all week giving steady service. Michigan storage batteries are manufactured by the Michigan Storage Battery Co., of Detroit.

A particularly attractive exhibit in the accessory line was that of the Gies Gear Co., of Detroit. The stern section of a launch equipped with engine, shaft and propeller was shown in motion with a Gies gear installed. Practical demonstration was afforded visitors to operate the gear in the proper surroundings.

The exhibit of the Michigan Wheel Co. was very attractively arranged and secured for itself due quota of attention.

Gies Bros. demonstrated their new reverse gear showing it properly attached to a Gray motor.

The exhibit of C. N. Johnson was a veritable bazaar of accessories showing every need of the power boatman from the smallest chock to a complete electric lighting outfit and several models of the Ferro engine.

The National Carbon Co., of Cleveland, gave a complete display of things electrical in the power boat line.

Other exhibitors were the Triumph Gear Co., Chas. P. Sieder Co., spray hoods, etc.; the Reade Boat Co., Juwel Stove for the launch galley; the Vim Motor Co., the Sherman Spark Plug, the Sintz Motor Co., the Waterman Outboard Motor Co., D. J. Healy, launch and canoe pillows; the Shug Electric Mfg. Co., batteries, switches, etc., and the Frontier Iron Works, of Buffalo, cylinder castings.

As an evidence of esteem and appreciation of his efforts manager Moulder was presented with a handsome, solid gold watch, by the exhibitors at the show Saturday night. The presentation was made by Commodore C. W. Kotcher, of the Detroit Motor Boat club.

(Transcribed from PowerBoating, April, 1908, pp. 183-189.)

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. — LF]