The Legend of Chris-Craft by Jeffrey L. Rodengen

The Legend of Chris-Craft (3rd edition) authored by Jeffrey L. Rodengen is a great book. I had a first edition copy and am very happy that I bought this 3rd edition when it came out. It is now a rare book on the used book marketplace. One book that every boater needs to have in his collection about boats and boating.

It (the 1998 edition) sells for about ten times the price of the first edition. Get your thinking about the price to pay for an excellent copy to a dollar figure north of $100. It is that much in demand. That is for a used copy that is in better shape than what most book stores sell as a “new” book. What I am talking about is a book that looks as if it just came out of a shipping carton and has had no “floor time”.

What is the book about? Chris Craft power boats. From its origins, when Christopher Columbus Smith carved his first small rowboat out of a log in 1872 (as the story goes) to the first planked boat in 1874, to his first power boat in around 1894 and the story continues.

There were several companies and partners for Chris Smith in the early times and those details are fascinating to me. Gar Wood, Ryan, brothers, and sons all helped shape this success story. Race boats and runabout pleasure boats all were a part of the quality reputation that developed around Chris Craft power boats. Boat production went from 24 power boats in 1922 to 946 in 1929, for instance.

How the boat builder made their fine runabouts covers several sub issues, like owning their own rail road to how they dealt with the wood in early Chris Craft wood power boats. And then there were the engines and the World War II war effort. Plus the post war boating boom. Then the book covers the company and its products in the fifties to the nineties in detail. Overall a great read for all of us interested in boating.

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