All photos and Company History courtesy of Denise Goodwin
Angler Boat Company
The name Penn Yan is well known in
both the antique and contemporary boating communities. However, fewer people
are acquainted with the Angler Boat Company, which produced thousands of boats
in Penn Yan, NY from the early 1950’s to the early
1960’s. Angler was founded by the owner of the Penn Yan
Boat Company primarily to supply Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward,
The two-story building at the corner of
The boats built for Sears were labeled Elgin Boats. Those for Montgomery Ward were labeled Sea King. A number of the boats were sold to Firestone and independent marine dealers under the Angler name.
Angler built only two sizes of boats – a 12-foot hull and a
14-foot hull. One was a completely open boat with very little hardware. The
second design had a forward deck, which would take a steering wheel. The third
design, or deluxe model, had a forward and rear deck as well as seat backs and
chrome hardward. The only difference between
Each year after a prototype design was agreed upon, the
buyers from Sears and Montgomery Ward would give an estimate as to what the
year’s requirements would be. Production would start on these units, most of
which would be warehoused. Late in the winter and before boating season began,
some of the larger Sears and Ward stores would order a number of boats for
display and early promotion sales. These boats were usually delivered to the
stores by Angler trailer, which was driven by employee Harry Bell. As spring
approached and the orders started to increase, production at the Angler plant
would accelerate greatly. Some of the large Sears distribution centers such as
The boats built by Angler were ribbed boats with two layers of cedar planking with a sheet of vinyl sandwiched between. The boat forms were called male forms and were covered with stainless steel strips, which served as “buck” strips for clinching the brass nails.
The first operation was done by an employee known as the ribber. This person fastened a pre-machined keelson and inside bow stem along with the pre-assembled transom. The oak ribs, which were machined on four sides, were placed in a steam box where the hot steam softened them to the point where they were very pliable. The ribber then nailed them to the keelson and to the bottom of the form. Each rib was located over a stainless steel buck strip.
The next step was the nailing of the cedar planking on the ribs. The first layer of cedar was tacked with a galvanized tack, which was done only to hold the planking in place. The entire boat was then covered with one piece of vinyl. The second, or outside layer of cedar planking was nailed in place. The employee known as a tack spitter would place a number of brass tacks in his mouth and feed them out one at a time as he drove them. The tacks were sterilized because of this procedure. The tack spitter used a shoemaker’s type of hammer with a convex head. This was to sink the nails without breaking the wood fibers.
The outside of the hulls were covered with paste type filler and sanded when dry. This created a smooth paintable surface.
At this point an employee called a railer took over and removed the hull from the form. The keel and outside bow stem were installed and the transom trimmed. The boat was turned right side up and the railer would then trim the rib tops to the proper length and install the rails along with the transom knees, bow block or deck, seat risers and other items as dictated by the model.
The boat was then sent down to the finishing department where the unit was painted and varnished as needed. Any hardware or final operations as needed were handled at this point.
The packing of the units was done by spreading a large section of burlap on the floor and covered with straw. The burlap and straw were brought up around the boat and fastened together in an envelope fashion. At this point the unit was ready for storage or shipping.
During the late 1950’s, Sears bought boats from a company
called Yellow Jacket based in
The first fiber glass boat built in
Sears ordered fiberglass boats somewhat the same size as the cedar boats. The form for making a fiber glass boat is called a female form. To facilitate the removal of the finished hull, the inside of the form was sprayed with a release agent. The inside of the form was then sprayed with a gel coat which gave the outside of the boat a smooth finish in the color desired.
The next operation required the application of the fiberglass. This material came in different forms and was used, as the situation required. At the time it came in three types. One looked like a coarse open weave, which looked a little like coarse burlap. This was used more in finishing applications. Another form was called fiberglass mat. This was not woven but in a form of uncombed fibers which were held to a specific thickness by a form of sizing. This type was used where heavy applications were needed for strength. The third type looked like unbraided rope and was run through a mechanical chopper, which cut it into lengths desired – such as ¼ and ¾ inch. This was mixed in mid air and blown onto the boat interior where needed. The unit that applied this looked like a 3-headed spray gun. The middle head chopped the fiberglass and blew it out where it mixed with the phenolic resins from the two outside heads. All applications of fiberglass required a saturation of resin to make it turn into a hardened form.
The phenolic resin was a semi-clear liquid in the consistency of heavy syrup. Before application it was mixed with a monomer catalyst which started the curing process. Because of a time limit on the workability of the mix it was necessary to prepare only what was needed at the time.
The material that was used in Angler boats came from a number of sources:
1. All oak that was used – ribs, keels, rails, knees, etc. was purchased from a sawmill
2. The mahogany used for seats, transoms, etc. was purchased from lumber importers.
3. Wood for planking was replaned red cedar and was purchased in carload lots from the West Coast.
4. Paint and varnish was purchased from Cloverleaf Paint and Varnish Company.
5. Gel Coat for fiberglass boats came from the Ferro Corporation.
6. Phenolic resins for fiberglass boats came from the Uniroyle Corporation.
The following is a partial list of the people who worked at Angler Boats. The operation was broken down in two floors with the office staff. Time has dimmed the facts as to those involved, but the following partial list has been verified by those still living at this writing.
The office staff was made up of the following:
Howard Frum, General Manager who took over in 1951 after the death of Mr.
Carrie Kirkpatrick, Office Manager, started with Penn Yan Boats and moved into
Angler when it became a separate operation.
Edith Snyder joined the office staff in 1954.
The first floor, street level of the Angler operation was the area responsible for the construction of the boats. The foreman of this floor was Rodney Stone. The following is a partial list of some of the people who worked for Stone and their part in construction.
Morris Peterson - Deck builder
Ernest Tears - Deck builder
Howard Enos - Railer
Larry Orr - Railer
Charles Bodine - Ribber
Ernie Jacobsen - Tack spitter
Web Randall - Tack spitter
Bud Tyler - Tack spitter
Ken Howell - Tack spitter
Sandy Thompson - Tack spitter
Otto Weichenthal - Tack spitter
Ray Brady - Filler
Kurt Weichenthal - Filler
The lower level of the Angler operation was the mill that produced all of the parts for the boats, painted them and packed them for shipping. The foreman of this floor was George Tears. The following is a partial list of the people who worked for Tears, and their jobs:
Lou Matteson - Mill
Charles Warren - Mill
Edward Nesbitt - Mill
William Bordwell - Painter
Ralph Snyder - Painter
Ed Boske - Packer
M. Horne - Yard man
Jim Alexander - Shipping
Harry Bell - Trucking
During the early 1960’s wooden boat production at the Penn Yan Boat Company slackened in response to movement of the
market away from wood to aluminum and fiberglass hull construction. Angler
operations were moved out of the