AMERICAN marine icon Chris-Craft is celebrating 150 years making boats that claim much of the responsibility for America’s romance with boats.

The company’s heritage was born in a small town in Algonac, Michigan, where 13 year-old Christopher Columbus Smith built his first boat in 1874.Chris Craft Old BoatHis boats – referred to as “punts” or “skiffs”– quickly earned him a reputation as a master boat builder, and the demand for them grew. To keep up with the demand, Chris joined forces with his brother, Hank, and began producing boats full-time.

It laid the groundwork for their future as builders of “standardised” runabouts. The company formed to build the boats was the Smith Ryan Boat Company that started in 1910 and focused on fast, economically-priced runabout boats.

In 1922, the Smith Ryan Boat Company changed its name to better reflect its origins and became the Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company.

In 1927, Jay Smith, Chris’s son, was designated the president and general manager of Chris-Craft, a position he would hold for the next 31 years. Under his leadership, Chris-Craft became known as the world’s largest builder of mahogany powerboats.

In the early 1950s, Chris-Craft expanded its lineup to include 139 powerboat models and by 1955, they had manufactured their first fibreglass boat. So better was fibreglass in construction and manufacturing that in 1971 that company built its last mahogany boat, a 57-foot Constellation.

Chris Craft CatalinaChris-Craft boats, which are defined by their handcrafted beauty, elegant design, stylish comfort and peak performance, have drawn discerning boaters and historical figures ranging from Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to Frank Sinatra and Katherine Hepburn.

The brand’s timeless elegance has attracted the attention of audiences in generation-defining films and television shows, including On Golden PondMission: ImpossibleThe Sopranos and The Crown, among many others.

In 2001, Chris-Craft was purchased by an investment group, and headed into the new century with plans that included the introduction of three new Heritage models and a 43-foot Roamer Yacht.

In its 150th year, it is commemorating its anniversary of boat-building excellence with the introduction of a special edition of its iconic Launch 27.This exclusive boat is the first of two Chris-Craft products launching in 2024 as the brand focuses on reaching the next generation of boating enthusiasts.

Chris-Craft president Stephen Hesse said: “Very few companies have the privilege of prospering long enough to celebrate a 150th anniversary,.”

“It’s a testament to the vision of the founder of our company, Christopher Columbus Smith, and to the craftsmen before us who delivered unparalleled design and handcrafted beauty of Chris-Craft boats.“Since 1874, our boats have been beloved and passed down to generations of owners worldwide. While we are excited to celebrate this milestone, we are committed to furthering the legacy of Chris-Craft by continuing to invest in new technologies and designs that captivates boaters today and tomorrow.”

One of the special edition boats being released to celebrate the company’s birthday is the anniversary edition Launch 27.

Distinguished by a signature aquamarine trim that was one of the signature colours incorporated into Chris-Craft boats over generations, the special edition Launch 27 pays homage to the brand’s legacy of pleasure boating.

Each anniversary boat comes equipped with a 150th burgee and steering wheel cap.

Additionally, the anniversary edition Launch 27 features all the hallmarks that inform Chris-Craft’s legendary approach to boatbuilding, including a signature deep-V hull, reverse transoms, classic lines, hand-selected teak and an uncompromising attention to detail.Chris-Craft's story continues to with latest developments including a recent expansion of its manufacturing operations in Sarasota, Florida.

The expansion reflects the brand’s commitment to pioneering new technologies and designs, ensuring a legacy of excellence for the next 150 years.

In this spirit, Chris-Craft will soon announce an all-new, next-generation boat with a sportier design to attract new members to the Chris-Craft owner family.

Chris-Craft will be celebrating its 150th anniversary throughout 2024 with a series of marketing activations celebrating Chris-Craft owners and dealers, including a unique consumer campaign that spotlights Chris-Craft owner stories across generations.

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