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Powerboats - The American Classics

The Owens Yacht Company

by George S. Nammack

These good-looking recreational boats were built from 1930 to 1965. Charles Owens, Sr. began building the boats that bore his name on Spa Creek in Eastport, Annapolis , Maryland and did so from 1925 to 1930. When he passed on in 1933, he left a small boat-building business to his teenaged children, who pitched in and ran the operation. In 1936, their boat orders increased, so three of his sons, Charles, Jr., Norman and John B. bought eight acres at Dundalk, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore , in a move to expand by building new plants. At this location, they chose to employ the new auto industry production control systems and applied them to boat building. This move started them on their way to becoming one of the largest manufacturers of high-quality boats and yachts in the industry. The 1937 New York Boat Show starred their new 32-foot cruiser model and thereafter, in the early 1940s, their business picked up rapidly because boating, particularly pleasure boating, reached its peak before World War II. The three brothers were outstanding sailors and spent their leisure time racing sailboats and winning. At this happy time, they introduced their first 40foot sailboat, the Owens Cutter. They sold the design rights of that boat in 1950 to one Henry Hinckley, who proceeded to build the Cutter for the next five years. The War years saw them convert their shop to production boats. They built man rescue boats and landing barges. When the Korean War exploded, they bid and won contracts to build 75-foot minesweepers for the U.S. Navy. Their growth continued. By 1959, they were producing 500 boats a month. With sales up markedly in 1958-59, they decided to hire Campbell-Ewald Advertising to push their marketing communications efforts. At this point, Cornelius Shields of Shields & Company, a well-known stockbroker and sailor, urged them to offer 20 percent of their company's stock to the public. In 1959, it opened on the New York Stock Exchange at $8 per share, which quickly oversold and climbed to $12 per share. The Owens Company was very possibly the only boat company offering stock on the open market at this time. The Owens Company stopped making wooden boats of less than 20 feet in 1957, opting to producing fiberglass hulls. Their Baltimore operation produced two, 28-foot boats a day, which cost $8,500 to $12,000 or three, 35-foot boats a week priced and sold for from $18,000 to $20,000 per boat. They were also building their own engines called Flagship Marine Engines. These were being turned out at a 500 per month rate for their complete line of boats, 18foot outboards to 35-foot cruisers and runabouts. In peak years, Owens had 500 employees working at the Baltimore plant. When the 1960s arrived, the Owens brothers had retired, so Owens Company became Brunswick Corporation division for the ensuing 10 years and then sold the boatbuilding division to Test Concorde, Inc. It was renamed the Concorde Yacht Division-Brunswick Corporation, but retained the Owens name for the boats. They ran into money troubles in the 1970s. Maurice Test didn't file income taxes on company profits for several years, so the IRS foreclosed and at public auction it liquidated the entire production facility. Most of the Owens historical materials were lost, although a man named Lyle Gray, who used to work as Chief Engineer at Owens from 1964 ­ 1972 gave researchers a 40-pound box of original Owens materials. The sailboat cutter plans survived and are at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. In June of 1996 there was an Owens Reunion in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Chapter's annual classic boat festival on the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at St. Michaels , Maryland . There was a large tournout for the event with guests of honor Jack, Norman and Molly Owens, and Lyle and Shirley Gray. Since then, with a little advertising push, a number of Owens owners in the U.S. and Canada have been able to acquire original brochures, engine and owners' manuals, photos, articles and polo shirts and caps .

The Owens: Charles, Sr; Charles Jr., John and Norman.

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Page 6

www.liboatingworld.com

August 2009

Powerboats - The American Classics

The Owens Yacht Company

by George S. Nammack

Classic Owens Boats

40' Owens Tahitian 1963. 30' Owens Express Cruiser 1958.

28' Owens Flagship 1964.

39' Owens Cruiser 1949.

August 2009

www.liboatingworld.com

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