1908: The Launch of an Influential Motorboats Manufacturer in Michigan

August 12, 1908

In Michigan, a new era in motorboats began when marine designer John L. Hacker purchased the vessel manufacturer Detroit Launch & Power Company and renamed it the Hacker Boat Company. The 31-year-old Hacker, bringing into play his expert craftsmanship and a wealth of ideas for design improvements, would revolutionize the use of motorboats for recreational purposes. His company, which is now the world’s oldest manufacturer of wooden motorboats, produced vessels that quickly became renowned for both their style and performance. 

Hacker’s biggest innovations included creating a V-shaped hull design that resulted in considerably higher speeds at low horsepower for motorboats. He also readjusted the location of the propeller to make it possible to lift the stern of a boat out of the water. 

Hacker’s inventiveness was not restricted to maritime transportation alone. In 1911, for example, he designed and installed two floats on one of the Wright Brothers’ biplanes so that it could easily take off and land on water; this marked the first use of twin floats on aircraft. 

Hacker’s motorboats — distinguished by various engineering features as well as gleaming mahogany bodies and long front decks — captured the public imagination and gained worldwide popularity. One of the company’s more high-profile customers was Rama VII, the King of Siam (modern-day Thailand). In 1930, he ordered a custom-built version of one of the company’s runabouts.

(The above photo of a Hacker-Craft runabout was taken in 2010.)

Photo Credit: Dan Gilman (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

For more information on John L. Hacker, please check out https://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/hacker-john

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