Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dart Boat: A Revered Classic

Restored Dart Boats
(Courtesy of Ramsey Brothers Restoration)

On August 23rd the Toledo Antique and Classic Boat Society held its annual show at International Park. Featured are antique and classic wooden boats built from the 1920s to the 1960s. Many have been lovingly and painstakingly restored to their former glory by skilled craftsmen. One of the truly revered classics is the Dart. Manufactured by the hundreds and sold around the world, the inboard mahogany runabouts were known for their speed, durability, and seaworthiness.

The Dart was originally built by Lima’s Indian Lake Boat Company. In 1928, a group of businessmen, headed by Admiral Webb C. Hayes, grandson of President Hayes, purchased the rights to build the Dart. Located on Summit St. in Toledo, the company eventually employed nearly 100 craftsmen led by the Dart’s original designer Hocky Holler.

The Dart’s closely spaced frames were constructed of clear white ash. Its hull was strengthened with steam bent white oak. The beautifully balanced Dart also featured a laminated double bottom with a layer of canvas duck between its inner and outer mahogany bottoms. Its deep “V” shape and planing hull were perfect for cutting through the choppy waters of Lake Erie at high speed. Every boat featured the racy chrome Dart “arrow” logo that came to symbolize speed and quality among boaters worldwide. “More speed per horsepower” became the company’s motto. The Dart was a favorite of “bootleggers” who were “hauling the mail” across Lake Erie during the days of Prohibition. Even fully loaded (75 cases of liquor), the Dart could speed across the lake at night, outrunning any and every Coast Guard vessel.

Burdened with the construction of a new plant on Haynes Street, Hayes and his partners had limited time for marketing. But the Dart’s reputation for speed needed little promotion. She gained international attention in 1929 when a 26-foot Silver Dart runabout raced along the River Ouse against England’s fastest train, the famous “Flying Scotsman.” The sleek and sophisticated Dart runabout won hands down. Photographs of the event soon hit boating magazines. Sales skyrocketed. Orders came in from as far away as Jerusalem, where a Dart runabout became the first speedboat to cruise the waters of the Dead Sea.

One of Admiral Webb C. Hayes' sons off Lake Erie's Mouse Island in a Dart Boat, ca. 1929
(Hayes Family Album)

To fill their back orders and meet growing demand, Hayes and his partners planned a 24-hour work schedule that would allow the company to manufacture three boats per day. The company offered four models – an 18 ½-foot; 22 ½-foot; 26-foot and 30-foot, ranging in price from $1,500 to $5,000. There were three-cockpit, split-cockpit, open and sedan models to choose from. The queen of the fleet was the 30-foot Gold Dart with its 125 horsepower Chrysler Imperial engine.

But just as rapidly as sales soared, they quickly nosedived. The Great Depression devastated the company. Hayes tried to forestall liquidation, but by late1933 the Dart Boat Company faded into history. Today, it is estimated that only 30 to 40 of the sleek, graceful Dart runabouts survive.

Play the video and watch Admiral Webb C. Hayes and Hayes Family members in a Dart Boat on the Maumee River at Toledo, Ohio and on Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island. The video is a segment of a film made by the family of Admiral Webb C. Hayes. The film is part of the Hayes Family Collection at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

This article first appeared in Lifestyles2000.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The "S. O. S." or Charles B. Stilwell's Self Opening Sack

“Would you like paper or plastic?” We’ve all been asked that question many times (although much less frequently of late). For more than a hundred years, our choice for hauling groceries was the durable, inexpensive brown paper bag. Once we’d unloaded our purchases, we found all sorts of second and third uses for that square-bottomed sack. From trash to lunches, schoolbooks, or clothes for an overnight stay, the versatile brown paper bag did it all – and we never gave it much thought. But one man did - Charles B. Stilwell, the son of one of Sandusky County’s most prominent pioneer physicians.

Born in 1845, Stilwell grew up in Fremont. At the age of 17, he defied his parents’ wishes and went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War. At war’s end, he studied mechanical engineering, eventually settling in Watertown, New York where he worked for a paper manufacturer. It was in Watertown that Stilwell began thinking about improvements to the conventional paper bag – an odd-shaped tubular affair that had to be pasted together by hand. Its V-shaped bottom made it inconvenient for packing; clerks found it difficult to stack and store.

In 1883, Stilwell was awarded a patent for his invention – a machine that produced a square, flat-bottomed paper bag with pleated sides. He dubbed it the “S.O.S.” or Self-Opening Sack. It quickly became a favorite of grocers, who discovered that with a flick of the wrist, the “S.O.S.” popped open and stood alone on the counter while they packed in more items than they ever thought possible. Collapsible, the “S.O.S.” could be stacked and conveniently stored. Customers liked it too. One man thought it was the “greatest invention of all time!”

The following year, Stilwell moved to Philadelphia where he married and raised a family. Working for the Union Paper Bag Machine Company, he continued to improve his invention, while securing patents for another machine, one that printed on oil cloth, and a map for charting the course of the stars.

Charles Stilwell’s “S.O.S.” revolutionized the paper bag industry, but it really came into its own in the 1930s when freezers, refrigerators, supermarkets, and cars emerged as part of the American lifestyle. It was then that families began shopping and transporting in a single trip, enough food for an entire week. The “S.O.S.” became a staple of the industry and proved indispensable to shoppers, who found a million and one uses for the brown paper bag once they’d unloaded the groceries.

Stilwell’s invention did not bring him wealth, but it did provide him with a comfortable lifestyle – one that allowed him to travel to England and indulge his passion for William Shakespeare. He died in Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1919. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were interred at Oakwood Cemetery in his boyhood home of Fremont.

Nettie Cronise Lutes: Ohio’s First Woman Lawyer

On that spring morning in 1873, Nettie Cronise appeared poised and confident as she stood before three judges of the Ohio Common Pleas Court. Beneath the calm exterior was a nervous, apprehensive young woman. The judges’ decision would shape not only her future, but also that of hundreds of other Ohio women in the years ahead. Despite her fears, Nettie was ready to present her qualifications for admission to the Ohio Bar Association.

With her she carried recommendations from four of Seneca County’s most prominent attorneys. They had offered to present the application on her behalf. Her colleagues knew that most judges opposed the idea of women lawyers. Indeed, at the very moment Ohio legislators were launching a successful campaign against all women seeking the right to vote.

While grateful to her colleagues for their offer, Nettie chose to confront the challenge personally. To her great joy and relief, the panel granted her a license. Nettie Cronise became the first woman in Ohio to practice law! Six months later, her younger sister Florence would follow in her footsteps.

Born in Republic, Ohio, in 1843, Nettie was the daughter of Dr. Jacob and Katharine Staub. While she was still a child, her parents divorced. Nettie and Florence moved with their mother to the home of their grandfather Judge Henry Cronise. Nettie attended school in Tiffin and studied at Heidelberg College and the State Normal School in Bloomington, Illinois. Nettie taught for a short time in Illinois, but returned to Tiffin to read law at the firm of Warren P. Noble.

After Florence’s admission to the bar, the Cronise sisters opened their own practice in Tiffin. A year later, Nettie married fellow attorney Nelson Lutes. When Nelson began to lose his hearing, Nettie dissolved her partnership with her sister and joined her husband’s firm. Through extraordinary teamwork, they developed a thriving corporate law practice in federal and district courts throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.

Nelson’s deafness demanded the couple have an especially thorough knowledge of their briefs, the evidence, and their opponent’s trial strategy. In the courtroom, Nettie silently repeated testimony to Nelson, enabling him to deliver opening and closing arguments and examine witnesses. Their skill and preparation made them a formidable team. Few courtroom observers ever realized that Nelson was totally deaf. The “Lutes Combination,” as they were known in legal circles, continued their highly successful practice until Nelson’s death in 1900.

Nettie Cronise Lutes’ remarkable accomplishments have not been forgotten. In recognition of her groundbreaking efforts, the women of the Ohio Bar Association present an award each year in her honor. The Nettie Cronise Lutes Award is presented to a woman lawyer who has “improved the legal profession through her own high level of professionalism and a commitment to opening doors for girls and women.”

E. W. Scripps: Hermit of the Seas

The Detroit
Built by the Matthews Boat Company

Beginning as a copy boy at the “Detroit News,” E. W. Scripps rose to prominence as one of America’s great newspaper publishers. He founded the Scripps-Howard news syndicate, and established the United Press International, better known today as the UPI. The multi-talented publisher was also the founder and engine designer of the Scripps Marine Motor Company. Scripps served as the commodore of the Detroit Yacht Club and built “Miramar,” his enormous retirement home near San Diego.

Despite his successes, Scripps remained an eccentric, reclusive individual, who was most comfortable sailing the world aboard his yachts, the “Kenah” and the “Ohio.” He often referred to himself as the “hermit of the seas.” In 1912, Scripps found a way to thrill readers of his dozens of newspapers and promote his gasoline marine engine while spending time on the high seas.

Scripps would demonstrate the reliability of his company’s marine engine by using it to power the smallest boat to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. He contacted the Matthews Boat Company of Port Clinton to design a vessel capable of such a voyage. Known around the world for quality construction, Scott Matthews took on the challenge. “The Rudder” magazine called the finished product a “trans-Atlantic liner,” but others called it an “oversized lifeboat.” Indeed, the 35-foot vessel was a double-ender that was heavily built - much like a lifeboat. Scripps christened her the “Detroit.” She was driven by one of his company’s 16-horsepower, two-cylinder model engines that could move the boat at 5 to 6 knots.

Five stainless steel fuel tanks, holding 1,000 gallons of gasoline, were fastened under the deck midship. Another 1,275 gallons was stored on deck. (No doubt the necessity of a smoking ban posed a problem for Scripps, who was known to smoke up to fifty cigars a day.) The “Detroit” also carried engine oil, 200 gallons of water, food for ninety days, and sails and a mast in case of engine failure..

Captained by Thomas F. Day, editor of “The Rudder,” she began her voyage from Detroit on July 12th. Scripps and two others rounded out the crew. The boat passed through Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. On July 16th, the “Detroit” set out on her 4,000-mile transatlantic journey from New Rochelle, New York. Other than engine inspections that took place every few days and a single incident of water in the fuel, the engine ran continuously. Twenty-one days later the “Detroit” arrived in Cobh, Ireland – the smallest boat with a gasoline-powered engine to cross the Atlantic. After a few weeks rest and re-fitting, Scripps decided to head to Europe. From there, the “Detroit” journeyed to St. Petersburg, Russia, making port on Sept. 13th.

Scripps lived another 14 years after the “Detroit’s” transatlantic voyage. Much of that time was spent roaming the world aboard his yachts. He died off the coast of Liberia in 1926 at the age of 72. He was buried at sea.