Chris-Craft Corporation is an American manufacturer of recreational powerboats that is based in Sarasota, Florida. Since June 4, 2018, Chris-Craft has been owned by Winnebago Industries, an American manufacturer of recreational vehicles.
The original company, Chris-Craft Boats, was founded in the late 19th century by Christopher Columbus Smith (1861–1939) in Algonac, Michigan. It became famous for its mahogany-hulled powerboats from the 1920s through the 1950s.
In 1922, Smith formed the Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company in Algonac, Michigan. The company name was changed to Chris-Craft in 1924. Chris-Craft sold high-end powerboats to wealthy patrons such as Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst.
In 1927, Chris Smith’s son, Jay Smith, took over the company as President and General Manager – positions he would hold for the next 31 years. Chris Smith died in 1939, at the age of 78.
With the United States entering the Second World War in 1941, Chris-Craft shifted its focus to producing military goods, including patrol boats, rescue vessels, and utility launches for the United States Army and Navy. By the end of hostilities in 1945, the company had constructed in excess of 12,000 small boats for the US military.
Pre War Chris Craft
Following the war, Chris-Craft introduced a new lineup of civilian pleasure boats in time for the massive American consumer expansion of the 1950s. The company sold high-end boats to famous customers such as Dean Martin, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley.
The boats were typically made from mahogany, and they were considered to be among the best available. They were easy to operate and maintain, which was a significant requirement for their "weekend sailor" owners. Read More