Boating NZ - - Feature -

Synony­mous with re­fined boat­ing plea­sure and ex­cep­tional crafts­man­ship, the Chris-craft story be­gan in 1874 when Christo­pher Colum­bus Smith built his first boat at the age of 13 in Algonac, Michi­gan. It wasn’t long be­fore he and brother Hank be­gan build­ing wooden boats in earnest.

Some­thing of a speed fiend, Smith pro­duced a suc­ces­sion of in­no­va­tive de­signs, a quest that led to con­sid­er­able rac­ing suc­cess. He won the Amer­i­can Power Boat As­so­ci­a­tion Gold Cup six years run­ning, his rev­o­lu­tion­ary de­signs set­ting mul­ti­ple records. By 1927 Chris-craft was the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of ma­hogany boats.

Smith died in 1939 and the com­pany’s reins passed on to his son Jay. Con­tribut­ing to the war ef­fort, Chris-craft built more than 10,000 land­ing craft. They fea­tured promi­nently in the Nor­mandy D-day land­ings on June 6, 1944.

Af­ter WWII Chris-craft be­gan com­mer­cial boat pro­duc­tion with re­newed zest. By 1959 it had 10 fac­to­ries and more than 5,000 em­ploy­ees. Wealthy pa­trons who bought the boats in­cluded Henry Ford, Wil­liam Ran­dolph Hearst, Dean Martin, Katharine Hep­burn, Frank Si­na­tra and Elvis Pres­ley.

In its 130 years of ex­is­tence, Chris-craft has built more than 250,000 boats. The com­pany was sold by the Smith fam­ily in 1960 to NAFI Cor­po­ra­tion. In June this year, af­ter var­i­ous own­er­ship changes, the com­pany was ac­quired by Win­nebago In­dus­tries.

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