THE CHRIS-CRAFT HERITAGE
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.