The Century Boat Company
The Century Boat Company has been the builder of some of most talked about styles for better than six decades. Early successes in hydroplane racing and small class inboards established the name Century in the field of pleasure boating. In 1926 the company was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It began by building fishing boats, sailboats, canoes, and the champion racing outboards.
The Century plant in Milwaukee. The boats waiting for shipment are 1927 & 1928 Century Kids.
Shortly thereafter the infant company moved to its home of the next 60 years to Manistee, Michigan. Soon they added a number of mahogany runabout inboards, named the Sea Maid, and even challenged the small inboard race classes with the fourteen foot Thunderbolt. Struggling through the lean years of the depression, Century offered a wide variety of finely crafted, fifteen to twenty foot runabouts, utilities, and outboards. It was at this time that other builders, such as Chris Craft, GarWood, and HackerCraft concentrated on building grand pleasure craft that stretched up to 30 feet. Century survived the depression, even though there were times when sales barely broke double digits.
The Century Boat Company in Manistee, Michigan, 1958
At the end of the depression, sales steadily increased. This prosperity of the late '30s was very short lived, as the nation was being drawn into the second world war effort, The Century Boat Company supplied over 3,500 small assault boats. This dedication earned the defense department's Army-Navy "E" flag.
Following this conflict, it was time to resume normal operations. Century revamped the line with new designs that would carry into the late fifties. These post-war craft were made wider and more sleek with a lower freeboard and more powerful engines. There was also emerging a shift in the boating market, the Sea Maids would be gradually supplanted by the highly versatile utility type Resorter models.
The Resorters proved ideal for the average boater. They came in several sizes ranging from 15 to 21 feet. The open hull yielded complete freedom of movement and great adaptability while retaining the grace and beauty Century was known for. Finally with the emergence of water-skiing, the Resorter gained recognition as an ideal ski boat. It was chosen as the official boat for the national and international competitions through the latter half of the '50s.
This ski towing superiority and trend-setting styles, together with newfound racing championships jetted Century to the forefront of buyer awareness. The new models of the '50s, the Coronado, Arabian, Viking, and Palomino, incorporated the stunning design trends of the automobile industry from that time. The products of these innovation were painted design schemes, classy hardtop, and fiberglass panels in the structure of the mahogany boat. Many of the models introduced back in the '40s and '50s remain in the Century fold still.
Bill Wittig and Ed Greve in Century's delivery warehouse, 1961
In 1969, Century completed a four-year change to complete fiberglass boat building. The history of this outstanding company has been written by retired vice-president, William Wittig in the book The Story of the Century. Former company president Al Hegg commissioned Mr. Wittig to write the book in 1983. It covers the company's years of progress from its founding up to the boats of 1985.