Gleaming mahogany runabout's
play things of the rich and famous, renowned for their record-breaking speed,
and now prized by
collectors were once manufactured in
Mount Clemens Michigan, by the Hacker Boat Company. Through
the use of Hacker
PR his boats are known the world over
for their fine craftsmanship and sleek V-bottom design which allowed greater
speed's at lower horsepower.
The Hacker Boat Company was founded in Detroit by John
Ludwig Hacker, a native of Detroit who had shown an interest in boats
and naval architecture as a youth.
Hacker was born on May
24, 1877, and studied speedboat design by correspondence course while working as
a bookkeeper in his father's business rather than working on a
He developed a design
for a hull which would produce maximum speed and efficiency, his
success prompted him to go into the boat-building business.
In 1911 Hacker designed the
Kitty Hawk, the first successful
step hydroplane which reached a then-unknown speed of 50 miles per hour.
Hacker's success was interrupted by a nervous breakdown which caused him to sell
out his first business to partner L.L. Tripp; After Hacker's departure the company eventually became known as the Albany
In 1914 Hacker returned to Detroit and founded the Hacker
Boat Company at 323 Crane Avenue. His runabout designs for Gregory's
Belle Isle Boat & Engine Company were soon to bring great success
to the firm. The boats, called "Belle Isle Bear Cats," proved popular
with prominent owners such as Edsel Ford and J.W.
Packard. Business was booming, in 1921, John L. Hacker decided it
was time to open a satellite facility in Mount Clemens. Two years later, he
announced that he was moving the entire boat building operation from Detroit to
The boat works at 9 Judge Street on the Clinton River in Mount Clemens
enlarged twice by 1928, providing 35,000 square feet of floor space for the
handcrafting of fine mahogany runabouts. The Pageant of Progress
reported that Hacker Boat Company employed sixty-eight men in 1928, and demand
for the product was high.
In 1930, the King of Siam ordered a
custom-built 40' Landau top runabout powered with an 800-horse Packard engine.
Interestingly, only four authorized dealers offered Hacker boats to the public
during this time period; the company did most of its business through
factory-direct orders from the customer, and excelled in custom-built craft.
In 1925, a private pilot named S. Dudley McCready came to
Mount Clemens after his family had purchased a Hacker boat. McCready was from
Ohio, and held a pilot's license which had been signed by Orville Wright.
He became financially interested in the Hacker Boat Company, and by 1928 was
listed as the secretary-treasurer of the company. Hacker and McCready worked
together through the glory days of the Roaring Twenties, when demand for
pleasure boats was high and the innovative and ingenious Hacker designs were
developing an increasingly large following.
Typical Hacker runabout
The Great Depression effectively killed the market for pleasure boats, and
the Hacker Boat Company fell upon hard times. John L. Hacker apparently sold or
lost control of his business about 1934, and by 1935 the Hacker Boat Company was
still alive, but going on without John Hacker. S.D. McCready was listed as owner
and president of the firm in 1935, and would continue in that capacity until the
company closed its doors two decades later.
Although John L. Hacker was no
longer connected with the Hacker Boat Company, he continued to design boats for
a number of firms until his death in 1961, and was responsible for a number of
racing winners including "My Sweetie," which took the Gold Cup in
Detroit in 1949.
Meanwhile, back in Mount Clemens, Hacker Boat Company rebounded from the
Depression with popular "utility" runabouts priced for the ordinary consumer. In 1935, the 17-foot utility could be had for
$975.00. Business was
strong, and in 1952, Hacker boat was awarded a government contract for the
construction of 25 ocean-going picket boats for the U.S. Navy.
By the mid-1950s, however, Hacker's heyday was past. Hacker's decision to offer a low-end utility boat
called the "Sport Dolphin" contributed greatly to the company's
downfall. The Sport Dolphin had a painted hull and was not as deluxe as Hackers
of old. Instead of attracting new customers, it drove the old ones to competing
lines such as Chris-Craft. Customers and admirers of the luxury builder were not
interested in its attempt at design for the masses. Besides, lower-priced boats
of aluminum and fiberglass construction were coming on the scene. Hacker tried
to hang on, but by the late 1950s production was stopped because of escalating
costs and a dwindling customer base.
Eleda, with Dustin Farnum at the wheel, this Hacker designed
boat won the Nordlinger Trophy Race three years in a row.
Miss Mary later renamed "El Garto"
F5. Early hydro. Riptide l l l, 30's Ford auto engine made
this class possible.
# 4. They called this Hacker, Adieu the rule beater. A 32'
boat with rocker keel and a 200 Hp motor, she was the first to win the Fisher
Trophy (1922). Her sister ship won the following year.
151 Hydro class winners were three Hacker speedsters,Miss
Westchester, and the two Miss Spitfires, V & VI. December 12, 1927.
Today, there is a new Hacker Boat Company operating in the small Lake George
village of Silver Bay, New York. the company offers Hacker reproductions of the original
Hacker designs, augmented with the latest advances in boat-building technology.
The replica Hacker Craft are faithfully built by hand, just as their
predecessors were, and, although new, represent a little bit of Mount Clemens