The Michigan Steel Boat Company was originally located at 102 Mill Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan and owned and operated by C.G. Bullard and his brother, organized in the late 1800's. By the end of 1901 Frederick E. Wadsworth purchased the company and moved it to Detroit located at 1250 East Jefferson Ave. incorporated on December 27, 1901, in Detroit, Wayne County. Principals of the firm in 1903 were Hugo Scherer as president and Frederick E. Wadsworth as secretary and treasurer. Original literature and phone books show multiple addresses for MSBC on Jefferson Ave. 1250,1252-1270, 1300,1273,1347 and then in 1918,1919 listed at Kercheval & Conners Creek and Dubois & Guoin in Detroit. A MSBC advertisement in a Recreation Magazine of 1901 has the address listed at 102 Mill Street Kalamazoo, Michigan.

MSBC shared the Detroit plant and management with Detroit Motor Car Supply Company and several marine engine and boat manufacturers such as Detroit Engine Works, Columbia Engine Company, Detroit Boat Company.  

The firm marketed boats under the Michigan Steel Boat Co. and Detroit Boat Co. brands, and were likely also resold and marketed by third parties under other brand names. Period advertisements stated that Michigan Steel Boat Co. and Detroit Boat Co. manufactured 64 different styles of boats ranging in size from 14 to 35 feet. 

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Detroit Free Press, Sep 27, 1905 head lines read:

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"Michigan Steel Boat Co.. purchases the old Detroit United Railway car barns."

 

"Detroit Boast the largest boat plant in the world"  

"Detroit will have the largest boat-building plant in the world. The Michigan Steel Boat Company yesterday bought out the old Detroit United Railway car barns property on Jefferson avenue from Olds Motor Works. About 700 men will be employed in building steel and wooden boats and canoes. The new owners (Frederick Wadsworth & Hugo Scherer) will take immediate possession of the property and will begin moving into its new quarters this morning. A considerable portion of the machinery formerly used by the Olds people has been bought by the boat company and this will be utilized in the extended operations which will be undertaken. 
     Stock is on hand with which to build wooden canoes. About 2,000 will be turned out for the 1906 season. The Detroit corporation recently bought out W. L. Luke & Co. of Oldtown, me and the business will be moved to Detroit. Mr. Luke was formerly super-intendent of the Old town Canoe Co. and he has come to Detroit to take charge of this branch of the company's work. Another branch of industry will be the construction of wooden launches of which 2,000 will be undertaken. The plan is to build these at a popular price and put them on the market. Steel boats to the number of 5,000 will also be constructed. The old and new property will have a total of 5,000 square feet of covered floor space. The Michigan Steel Boat Co. has for some time been manufacturing Automobile bodies and a force of 300 men was employed in this work this year turning out forty-five a day. This branch of industry will be carried on to a greater extent in the new quarters"

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      Surviving advertisements indicate that Scherer and Wadsworth had been leasing space next to the former Olds Motor Works plant as early as 1902.  Although the Olds firm was originally located in Lansing , Michigan , Ransom E. Olds was prompted to relocate to Detroit in 1899 and a new factory was erected at 1308-1318 E. Jefferson Ave. , production commencing in 1900. When a the new factory burned down on March 9, 1901, the Lansing, Michigan’s Businessmen’s Association offered the firm a parcel of land in Lansing ten times the size of the Jefferson Ave facility, prompting a return to Lansing.

Above is a scan of a page from the old Sanborn fire insurance map that shows one of the Detroit factories owned by Wadsworth Mfg. Co. and MSBC at 1275-1285 East Jefferson Ave. between Bellevue Ave. and Concord Ave. The automobile factory was Wadsworth Mfg. Co., Michigan Steel Boat Co., Detroit Motor Car Supply Co., Detroit Engine Works.

The June 23, 1910 issue of the Automobile reported:

Detroit June 2, 1910 – Two new automobile companies have been formed here during the past week. They are the Hupp-Yeates Electric car Company, $100,000 capital, which will build a new type electric and a concern headed by Hugo Scherer and F.E. Wadsworth of Michigan Steel Boat Company which will have a capitalization of $250,000 and which will build a small car of more horsepower, about 100-inch wheelbase, to weigh under 1,900 lbs. This car will sell for under $1,000.

The partner’s car was to be called the Tom Thumb, and was named after Peter Cooper’s diminutive steam locomotive that ushered in the railroad age in 1830. Another news item relating to the Tom Thumb followed:

This building at the corner of Bellevue street, is for Hugo Scherer and F.E. Wadsworth, who have formed a new company to build a low-priced car.” However, there is no evidence the vehicle ever made it past the prototype stage, and even the existence of a prototype is doubted.

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The November 10, 1905
Splashes and Splurges column, Motor Boat Magazine (Vol.  2, No. 21), included the following new item:

Detroit, Mich.--The Michigan Steel Boat Company has bought the old Detroit United Railway car barns property on Jefferson avenue from the Olds Motor Works, and will employ about seven hundred men in building steel and wooden boats and canoes. 

A 1905 description of the property called it “the largest steel boat building establishment in the state.” The plant covered a space of 1,200 X 100 feet with seven separate buildings. The main factory and office building was a two-story high cement block structure, complete with show rooms. All buildings had automatic fire extinguishers and a private telephone system. Motive power for the plant was electricity, furnished by the company’s own private generating plant. The company in its new location appears to have gotten off to a good start as it reported that 1,200 boats were built in 1905. 

Michigan Steel Boat Company may have been the manufacturer of the “White Flyer” rowboats for Sears, Roebuck & Company in 1908. The boat was shipped direct from “our factory at Detroit, Mich.” and retailed at $27.50, including one pair of oars and oarlocks. A rudder cost an extra $1.75. The “White Flyer” was a 14-foot square stern steel clinker rowboat of “Apollo” steel construction, with horizontal plates. Sears advertised that the “bow, stern and seats of this boat are made of cypress, the gunwales are of oak, all finely finished in natural oak.” The boat came equipped with patented steel airtight chambers at either end for additional buoyancy. The hull was painted with white pegamoid, and imported waterproof paint, the same as that used by the United States Navy. The catalogue No. 6K8700 “White Flyer” was 14 feet in length; 43-1/2" beam amidship, and 14" in depth amidship, with the height of the bow being 22" and the height of the stern being 24". The boat weighed about 150 pounds and when crated weighed about 200 pounds.

Michigan Steel Boat Co. did retag some of the engines that were used in their boats with their own tag (See tag below). The patent number (681,363) on their tag is to the design of the boat not the engine. No mention of horse power or any other engine information is given although serial numbers were stamped on some of the tags. You cannot see the serial number in this photo but it is lightly stamped in the lower left corner.  Also shown is the Detroit Engine Works Marine engine tag. Michigan Steel Boat Company designed and manufactured steel boats and DEW, DMCSC & CEC supplied most of the engines that were installed in their boats. Other brand name engines were also being installed in the Michigan Steel Boats such as Termaat & Monahan engines which were being rebadged with Michigan Steel Boat Co. name tags.  Steel launch hulls were also being furnished by the Michigan Steel Boat Company, complete, without the engine, to those who desire to install engines of their own choice. These launch hulls were complete with woodwork, gasoline tank, engine bed, rudder, post, yoke and shoe, but did not include engine, engine fittings, shaft, propeller or stuffing box.  

The advertisement above talks about the fact that MSBC boats are equipped with the wonderful Detroit engine, guaranteed for five years, any horse power 2 to 50. Fewest moving parts of any engine made. Anyone can run it. 

Patents from inventors-engineers that worked for Michigan Steel Boat Co.  711469, 711471, 711472 ,730874, 963098.

Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._tag.JPG (53813 bytes)  DEW_Marine_09_JC.Davis.JPG (70747 bytes)

By 1915 the firm had grown to include these managers and officers: Hugo Scherer, President; Frederick E. Wadsworth, Secretary and Treasurer; H. E. Cronenweth, General Manager; W. C. Rowling, Purchasing Agent; and A. M. Ratigan, Advertising Manager. The company manufactured “Boats, Motor Boats, Row Boats, Canoes” The address and phone were listed as 1526 Jefferson Ave., Tels. East 406-407-408.


M.S.B.C. manufactures Furniture 1906


The Michigan Artisan reported in their June 10th 1906 news paper that the Michigan Steel Boat Company of Detroit was about to engage in making knock down furniture. 

 

Beeson’s Marine Directory 1908

Many pleasure boats building:

 

The past winter and during the spring every builder of pleasure vessels has been and is being kept very busy…The Michigan Steel Boat Company, one of the largest builders of small pleasure vessels in the country, have been running to their full capacity all of the past winter on work that was delivered this spring.  This company is now experimenting on a new type of motor boat 35 feet long to take the place of their regular 30-foot launch, of which they constructed so many in the past….


M.S.B.C. 1910 Catalog.

A  Michigan Steel Boat Co. catalog of 1910 states that their company manufactures over 30,000 boats annually.  

 
M.S.B.C. Moves to Conners Creek 1916.

By 1916 Michigan Steel Boat Company had moved its office and factory to the corner of Kercheval Avenue and East Jefferson Ave. (Conners Creek area), and was still associated with The Wadsworth Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of auto bodies, auto tops and auto parts. Frederick E. Wadsworth was president of the firm, Mary M. Wadsworth, vice-president and H. E. Cronenweth, treasurer.

M.S.B.C. out of business Dec 8, 1920.

December 8, 1920, Michigan Steel Boat Company filed a notice of dissolution. The reason; the firm’s plant and headquarters had just been purchased by the American Motor Body Company.


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A Special Michigan Steel Boat

A fine example of a steel motor-boat in popular demand back in the early 1900's is this Special 18-foot model built by the Michigan Steel Boat Company, of which four photographs are shown, This has a beam 4 feet 6 inches and the cockpit is 11 feet 7 inches forward, and 1 foot 10 inches aft. Equipped with a 3-1/2 hp Detroit engine, the boat makes a speed of 10 miles an hour. It seats ten persons in all, the forward cockpit seating six, having seats 4 feet 6 inches wide. The net weight of the boat is 650 pounds. The measurements boxed are 18 feet 3 inches by 4 feet 8 inches by 3 feet 4 inches, or 284 cubic feet. The price of this model in 1910 complete with engine installed ($147.00, crated, f.o.b. cars at Detroit) brings it within the reach of the most moderate incomes of the time period. In materials, workmanship and power, this 1910 boat is fully up to the well known standards of the Michigan Steel Boat Company in every respect.

The launch could be equipped with an engine as large as 12-14 hp if desired. With such an engine installed it has made actual speed over a measured course of 19 miles an hour. The price with the larger engine was comparatively higher.

  

1908 Michigan Steel Boat 18ft, Owner of the Boat is unknown.
Photo's taken by Miro Forest at a local boat show.

  


Michigan Steel Boat Construction

One of the leaders in steel boat construction back in the late 1800's and early 1900's was the Michigan Steel Boat Company, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who turned out thousands of boats annually. These boats were built clinker fashion of heavily galvanized steel, cut in regular pattern strips, lock seamed and welded together by pneumatic hammers. The builders said they have never believed in the modern wash tub as a boat, as there is to much risk about it, so each strip is cut from a regular pattern and conforms without strain to the beautiful curves which distinguish their boats and give them a distinctive poise in the water. The lapping, seaming and grooving of the steel strips is by a special process, and the seams running from stem to stern have each four thicknesses of steel, which gives the hull great strength. The steel is then treated on the exposed surface with a special adhering aluminum paint which the United States Government used at that time period to perfect the steel clad monsters of our navy. This in addition to the galvanized steel renders the boats equally immune from the effects of salt and of fresh water. Each boat is fitted with air-tight compartments, and the water-tight compartments are thoroughly tested before they are put in the boat. For the amateur builder the construction of a steel boat is practically out of the question. The prices at which these steel boats could be purchased, however, place them within the easy reach of the general public.

The Michigan Steel Boat Company was originally located at 102 Mill Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan and owned and operated by C.G. Bullard and his brother, organized in the late 1800's. The steel hull boats could be purchased with any brand engine you wanted installed ready to put in the water and run. Some of the engines that are known to have been installed and retagged with the MSBC brass name tag was DEW, DMCSC, TMC. The steel hull boats could also be purchased with out a engine for those who desired to save a little money and do it themselves. The launch hulls with no engine came with woodwork, gasoline tank, engine bed, rudder, post, yoke and shoe, but did not include engine, engine fittings, shaft, propeller or stuffing box. By the end of 1901 Frederick E. Wadsworth who owned Detroit Engine Works purchased the Michigan Steel Boat Co. and moved it to Detroit located at 1250 East Jefferson Ave. After the purchase there was more emphasis put on selling the boats with their on brand engines installed.


Original photo taken at the Michigan Steel Boat factory in 1911. Photo courtsey of the
Burton Historical Collection, Detroit public Library.
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Specifications of Steel Boats


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16 foot Regular Launch

Dimensions :  Length, 16' ; Beam, 4' 2" ;   Draught loaded about 12".   Seating capacity, 6 to 7 persons.  Speed, about 6 to 7 miles an hour.  Weight, crated 700 pounds. Measurement boxed for export, 16'x5'x3' = 240 cubic feet. Gross weight, boxed, 900 pounds.

FrameRibs of best selected white oak, 7/8x1/2 spaced 4" centers. Hull of galvanized steel cut in strips and lock seamed, making it impossible to pull apart. Boat has six water-tight compartments.

WoodworkBest selected matched material, finished in natural color. Launch fitted with heavy iron shoe under rudder to protect rudder and propeller should boat run into obstruction.
    
MotorThis launch is equipped with latest design 2 hp, two-cycle Detroit reversible engine, with speed controlling lever.  Launch can be run from about 1/2 to 7 miles an hour. Boat and engine undergo thorough test before being shipped.

   

18   Foot Automobile Boat

Dimensions Length, 18' : beam, 4' 6" ; draught, about 14"; seating capacity, about 10 to 12 persons; depth amidship, 2'  2" height of bow, 2' 4" ; height of stern, 2' 5" ; length of cockpit, 10'  3" ; width of cockpit, 3' 6". Speed with 2 hp engine, about 7 miles per hour.  Shipping weight, 1,000 pounds.  Capacity gasoline tank, 10 gallons. Measurement boxed for export, 18' 3" x 4' 8" x 3' 4" = 284 cubic feet.  Gross weight, boxed, 1,125 pounds.

FrameRibs of best selected white oak, 7/8 x 1/2 every 3 inches apart; hull of galvanized steel, lock seamed , making the staunchest boat possible. 

DeckingFore and aft decks of wood, covered with paint canvas, ecru color, same as up-to-date yachts are finished.

CockpitSealed up in a narrow strips of cypress ; seats extend fore and aft full length of cockpit.

Fittings : Woodwork filled and finished with spar varnish; each boat fitted with heavy shoe under the rudder to protect rudder and propeller should the boat run into an obstruction. It also has brass and cherry trimmed steering wheel in bow, and chocks and cleats on forward deck.

Engine2, 3, 3-1/2, 4, or 5, 6 H. P. two-cycle reversible high speed Detroit engine, with all latest improvements. All engines thoroughly tested both before and after they have been put in the boat.



 21  Foot Cruiser

Dimensions : Length 21'; beam, 5'8"; draught loaded, about 20"; speed, about 8 to 12 miles per hour. Shipping weight, crated, about 1,500 pounds. Measurement boxed for export, 21' 6" x 5' 3"x 4' = 538 cubic feet. Gross weight, boxed, 1,900 pounds.

Frame : Ribs of best selected white oak, 1-1/2x7/8 inches, spaced 5" centers. Keel, keelson, stem, stern-post, dead-woods, floor beams and deck carlings best quality clear white oak. Hull of galvanized steel cut in strips and lock seemed, making it impossible to pull apart. These seams running from bow to stern are like steel girders encircling the boat, making it the staunchest boat possible.

Decking : Fore and aft of cypress, covered with heavy canvas, painted ecru color, set in white lead, the most serviceable deck known to up-to-date builders. Length forward deck 4' 7"; length aft deck, 4' 6".

Cockpit : Ceiled up inside with narrow strips of pine. Solid matched flooring. Seats running fore and aft full length of cockpit, with an extra wide seat athwartships, aft. Length of cockpit, 12' 3"; width, 4' 10". Coaming, best quality white oak, 6" high forward and 4" aft.

Fittings : All woodwork finished in natural color. Metal painted with silver steel aluminum paint, the paint adopted by United States Government in painting the new navy. All Michigan steel launches are fitted with a heavy shoe under rudder to protect entirely the rudder and propeller, should the boat run into an obstruction. Riveted to this shoe, just forward of the propeller wheel, and bolted through the keelson, is a solid brass shaft hanger, which, besides strengthening the shoe, relieves the shaft of vibration. A brass steering wheel is fitted regularly forward with steel cored cable running under half to quadrant on rudder post under aft deck, thus leaving the decks and cockpit entirely free of all running gear. Chocks and cleats on forward deck are also included.

Motor : 5-6hp and 7 to 8 Detroit single cylinder reversible engine, or 10hp double cylinder, or 12 to 14hp double cylinder.

 

25 Foot Launch

Dimensions : Length, 25'; beam, 6' 6"; draught loaded, about 22". Seating capacity, 18 to 20 persons. Speed, with 5-6hp engine, 8 to 9 miles per hour. Shipping weight, crated, 1,900 pounds. Measurement boxed for export, 27'x 6'x 4' = 720 cubic feet. Gross weight, boxed, 3,000 pounds.

Decking : Fore and aft of wood, covered with painted canvas, ecru color, set in white lead, same as most modern launches are now finished.

Frame : Ribs of best selected white oak, 1-1/2"x 7/8" every 6" apart; hull of galvanized steel, cut in strips and lock seemed, making it impossible to pull apart. These seams running from bow to stern make it the staunchest boat possible.

Cockpit : Ceiled up inside with narrow strips of pine. Arranged for 6 to 10 wicker chairs, if desired, in place of locker seats. Launch fitted with locker seats unless otherwise specified.

Fittings : Woodwork finished in natural color. Metal painted aluminum. Steel rudder and galvanized tank in boat. Brass steering wheel in bow.

Motor : 5 to 6hp single cylinder, 7 to 8hp single cylinder, or 10hp or 12-14hp double cylinder Detroit engine. The above covers a complete outfit ready to run, but does not include awnings, cushions, etc. These are not necessities, but add to the comfort.

          

Resources:   Collected from a 1910 book written by Thomas H. Russel
(Motor Boat Construction & Operation).

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Photographer Bill Schaller from Minnesota.
MSBC_Termaat_Monahan_001.jpg (76192 bytes)
MSBC_Termaat_Monahan_003.jpg (89293 bytes) MSBC_Termaat_Monahan_002.jpg (58124 bytes) MSBC_Termaat_Monahan_004.jpg (91567 bytes) MSBC_Termaat_Monahan_005.jpg (80475 bytes)
Engine manufactured by Termaat & Monahan Co.  Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


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MichiganSteelBoat01.jpg (29551 bytes)
        MichiganSteelBoat02.jpg (9371 bytes)       MichiganSteelBoat03.jpg (19532 bytes)
Not sure who the owner of this engine is?   If you know please e-mail me.

                                                                        
                                  
                                                                                    


Owner & Photographer Bill Schaller from Minnesota.
Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._06.JPG (264204 bytes)  Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._07.JPG (176250 bytes)  Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._01C.jpg (26433 bytes)    Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._05.jpg (36083 bytes)  Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._08.JPG (235774 bytes)  Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._09.JPG (215241 bytes)  Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._03.jpg (286565 bytes)
Engine manufactured by Termaat & Monahan Co.  Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

 


Michigan_Steel_Boat_Co._10.JPG (315341 bytes)




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Sources:

Detroit Free Press (1858 - 1922); Sept 27, 1905.


Beeson, Harvey C.  Beeson’s Marine Directory of the Northwestern Lakes, 1908  (Chicago, IL:  Harvey C. Beeson, 1908.)  p. 157.


Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1903-1904 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1903.) pp. 674, 1810.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1905-1906 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1905.) pp. 842, 1973.

State of Michigan. Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics. Twenty-third Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics (Lansing, MI: Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics, 1906.) pp. 373, 375.

Penton Publishing Co. The American Boating Directory--1906 (Cleveland, OH: Penton Publishing Co., 1906.) pp. 10, 351.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1907-1908 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1907.) pp. 783, 2330.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1909-1910 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1909.) pp. 669, 2318.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Detroit City Directory, 1909 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1909.) pp. 1548, 2825.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1911-1912 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1911.) pp. 662, 2167.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1913-1914 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1913.) pp. 575, 1839.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1915 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1915.) pp. 575, 1852.

Polk, R. L. & Co. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1919-1920 (Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., 1919.) pp. 578, 685, 1941.

Rudder Publishing Co., The. The Rudder Marine Directory (New York: The Rudder Publishing Co., 1920.) p. 216.

Earley, Helen Jones and James R. Walkinshaw. Setting the Pace: Oldsmobile=s First Hundred Years (Lansing, MI: Oldsmobile Division of General Motors, 1996.) p. 51.

Schroeder, Joseph J., Jr. Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1908 Catalogue No. 117 The Great Price Maker (Northfield, IL: DBI Books, Inc., 1971.) p. 756.

Michigan State Archives, RG 61-11, Abstracts of Reports of Corporations, Lot 3, Vol. 4 (1903-1909). p. 340.

Michigan State Archives, RG 61-11, Abstracts of Reports of Corporations, Lot 3, Vol. 5 (1910-1914.) p. 378.

Fisher, Robert D. (ed.) Marvyn Scudder Manual of Extinct or Obsolete Companies, Vol. III, 1930 (New York: Marvyn Scudder Manual of Extinct or Obsolete Companies, Inc., 1930.) p. 944.

University of Michigan Library & Burton Historical Collection.   Photos.

Research for Michigan Steel Boat Co. done by:

Scott M. Peters,
Collections Historian Michigan Historical Museum.

John C. Davis, Davis Antiques & Scale Models.



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