Reviewing Early Outboard Motor Ads

For over 100 years outboard motors have been taking anglers to fishing hot spots. Sadly, many antique motors are gone except for a small number preserved by collectors. This review examines the legacy of outboard motor ads from the digital Library of 140 early outdoor magazines at (1899-1940). Early magazine ads were counted and sorted to show trends of the winners and losers in the outboard motor market place. This review is a small snapshot of our angling legacy. For specific details on product lines or models and when they started or ended you should check with the experts at The Antique Outboard Motor Club.

Advertising data was organized by decade from 1910 to 1940. No ads were found earlier than 1911. I found a total of 30 brands/companies advertised during the 29 years from 1911 to 1940. Forty three advertisements for 16 different brands of outboard/rowboat motors were found in the 39 magazines from 1911-1920. From the pool of 45 magazines spanning the decade of 1921-1930 I found 108 ads from 12 companies. Magazines from 1931-1940 had 54 outboard advertisements from 10 companies with Elto and Evinrude counted as one.

1899-1910   14 Magazines No outboard motor ads were found.

1911-1920   (39 Magazines) The earliest outboard motor ad in the Library is by Evinrude on the back cover of National Sportsman, June, 1913. Caille outboards had the most ads (8) in this decade followed by Evinrude with 6. Wisconsin and Koban were contenders with 5 ads followed by Porto with 4. Federal, Gray Gearless, Arrow and Jewel Electric each had 2 ads. The one ad category included; Iowa Motor (1914), Motorgo (1914), Sweet (1914), Detroit (1914), Roberts (1914), Ferro (1916) and Columbian (1917).

1921-1930   (45 Magazines) The first Johnson ad I found was in Forest & Stream 1921. Johnson had the most ads in this period (25) followed by Elto (24) and Evinrude (22). Lockwood-Ash became just Lockwood by 1928 with a total of 14 ads. Previous ad leader, Caille, had 13 ads in this decade. Wisconsin made its last appearance with 2 ads in 1921. Interestingly, the famous motorcycle company, Indian, had 2 ads in 1930. The White Canoe Co advertised an outboard in 1926. The McNabb Rudder, a steering add-on for outboards, had one ad appearing in the May, 1926,issue of Outdoor America. The Outboard Motor Co appeared once, May 1930, Hunting& Fishing.

1931-1940   (41 Magazines) Johnson led the decade with 16 ads followed by Evinrude (11) and Elto (11) with the double brands, Evinrude, had the most ads. Caille ads (4) were last seen in 1934, Sports Afield. Neptune, with 3 ads in the decade, first appeared in 1932. Ro-peller, Eclipse and LeJay Troller each had 2 ads. The LeJay Troller appeared in 1938 and then as the LeJay Minn-Kota in 1939. Cross was one ad appearing in 1932 Hunting
& Fishing
. The Clarke Troller was also a onetime ad from 1938.

Johnson had the best ads with color and great graphics. The Clarke Troller was the most unusual. This gasoline powered motor was totally enclosed and designed to operate underwater.

Summary of ad totals from the Library at
Johnson – 41 (first appeared in 1921)
Evinrude – 39
Elto – 35
Caille – 25 (last appeared in 1934)
Lockwood-Ash – 6
Lockwood – 8
Koban – 8 (last appeared in 1921)

Other outboard motor names:
1911-1920 – Iowa Motor, Motorgo,
Porto, Sweet, Detroit, Roberts, Federal, Gray Gearless, Ferro, Arrow, Jewel,

1921-1930 – Wisconsin, White,
Indian, Outboard Motor Co, McNab Rudder

1931-1940 – Ro-peller, Cross, Clarke
Troller, Neptune, and LeJay Minn-Kota.

I hope you enjoy reading about old motors and seeing some of the ads from early outdoor magazines. For a truly unforgettable antique outboard motor experience I heartily recommend reading Mantrap (1926) by Sinclair Lewis. I know I will never look at an old kicker without remembering this story by one of America’s greatest writers. Click here to download the notes I complied for this review in an Excel spreadsheet. If you are lucky enough to find a classic old kicker, be assertive and put it in the living room where it belongs.
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About Bob

Retired natural resource professional.
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One Response to Reviewing Early Outboard Motor Ads

  1. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your internet site – Antique Outboard Motor Club at Maplefest in Bowmanville ….

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