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Thanks to Dan Walters
Franklin Winter founded Tomahawk Boat Co. in Tomahawk, WI, in 1940s and at first the firm made wooden boats, primarily of cedar strip construction but eventually of plywood. Sometime in late 1940s or early 1950s, Winter began experimenting with then-new fiberglass, at first using it to seal wooden boat hulls, and eventually to build entire boats from molds. Winter is considered to be one of the pioneers of what became an explosion of middle-class boating after World War II, thanks to the advent of relatively inexpensive fiberglass boats.

US Rubber in Naugatuck, CT, was the source of resin and Fero in Nashville, TN, was the source of fiber for the early glass experiments. When the market fell apart one year and nobody was buying boats, the plant found work in other products. Winter designed a fiberglass golf cart marketed by Harley-Davidson (examples are very rare today and much prized by H-D collectors) and the boat company also made milk storage outer shells for Solar, Papermill hoods, frames for billboards, Hough cabs (driver shells), Santa sleds, stage coaches, and fiberglass signs.

One of the non-boat products was saddlebags for H-D motorcycles. Harley bought 51 percent of the company circa 1960*(see time line below) remainder shortly thereafter. H-D marketed Tomahawak fiberglass boats under its name for one year – another scarce collectible – but quickly abandoned the boat business. It still manufactures saddlebags in its "Tomahawk Division." After selling to H-D, Winter founded Lake Tomahawk Boat Co. and continued to manufacture traditional wooden boats until his death in the 1990s.

During the heyday of its fiberglass boat business in the 1950s, Tomahawk was one of the country’s leading manufacturers. Evinrude used Tomahawks exclusively in its catalog one year, the U.S. pavilion at the Brussels World's fair had a Tomahawk fishing boat, and Winter’s futuristic racing boat "On Target" (which is still maintained by the local historical society in Tomahawk) was featured in Newsweek on the Today television show during a boat show in New York City. "On Target," with its fighter-plane-like fuselage, was part of Winter’s extensive involvement in boat racing. And Tomahawk advertising brochures of the period almost always used pictures of its boats with Winter’s children at the controls and/or riding.

Tomahawk Boats Timeline

by Andreas Jordahl Rhude 12 February 2010 Timeline Tomahawk Boats

Compiled by Andreas Jordahl Rhude 4054 Wentworth Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55409-1522 612-823-3990

12 February 2010

August 1945 Start of “Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Company”. Purchase of warehouse of former Daigle property on south side of Somo Avenue in Tomahawk, WI. Make wooden cedar strip row/motor boats. Partners: Franklin P. Winter Fred W. Dreger

First model built was the 15 ft. “Red Wing” open boat

1945-1946 $22,000 sales in first year of operation

March 1947 Incorporation of “Tomahawk Boat Sales, Inc.” 50 shares of stock at $100.00 per share

Incorporators: Paul J. Winter Franklin P. Winter Fred Dreger

April 1947 Tomahawk Boat enlarges factory complex with 36’ x 75’ addition including office and showroom. 2 boats built per day

April 1947 Tomahawk Boat Club formed with Franklin P. Winter as first president

19-27 April 1947 Tomahawk Boat displays 4 boats at Milwaukee Sports & Vacation Show

April 1949 Tomahawk “Beaver” flat bottom plywood resort boat introduced

26 December 1951 Incorporation of “Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corporation” 1,000 shares of stock at no par value

Officers: Paul J. Winter, president Myrtle L. Dreger, vice president Franklin P. Winter, secretary/treasurer

1952 Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corporation

Officers: Paul J. Winter, chairman & president Myrtle L. Dreger, vice president Tomahawk Boats Timeline by Andreas Jordahl Rhude 12 February 2010 Franklin P. Winter, secretary/treasurer, purchasing agent William F. Foster, sales manager

November 1952 Lloyd G. Mitchell named assistant general manager

1954 About 1,000 boats produced annually

15 April 1954 Tomahawk boat factory completely destroyed by fire. $200,000 damages. Office safe is recovered and contents are undamaged. 50 employees at time of fire

Principals: Franklin P. Winter, general manager & designer Fred W. Dreger, sales supervisor Dave Davenport, plant superintendent Gordon Mitchell, office manager Mrs. Dave Davenport, stenographer

April 1954 Tomahawk citizens form an industrial development corporation to raise funds to keep boat works in town and rebuild factory

20 May 1954 Metal framework (Butler type) for new boat factory is erected

25 January 1955 Franklin P. Winter obtains US Patent No. 2,700,357 for “Wood Strip Boat Hull Structure and Sealing Means”

February 1955 Tomahawk Boat announces it will soon begin production of fiberglass boats in addition to wooden boats

05 August 1957 Stockholders: Franklin P. Winter Paul J. Winter Fred W. Dreger Myrtle L. Dreger Christine K. Dreger Harold Irmischer Lloyd G. Mitchell

March 1960 Franklin P. Winter, age 41, runs for board of education in Tomahawk

December 1960 Tomahawk Boat advertises snow sleighs for sale, one piece fiberglass bodies

28 February 1962 Harley-Davidson Motor Company, maker of motorcycles, purchases 51% majority interest in Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corp. Boat firm to be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson.

Officers: Franklin P. Winter, president William J. Harley, vice president Lloyd G. Mitchell, secretary Otto P. Resch, treasurer

Tomahawk Boats Timeline by Andreas Jordahl Rhude 12 February 2010

20 February 1963 Franklin P. Winter resigns as president of Tomahawk Boat Mfg. Corp.

05 October 1964 Death of Paul J. Winter at age 83, he was president of Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corp. 1952-1960

24 June 1965 “Statement of Intent to Dissolve” filed with State of Wisconsin

01 July 1965 Boat manufacturing operations cease at Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corp. Name changed to Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Tomahawk Division – wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson Motor Company

22 September 1965 Liquidation auction of all boat building assets of Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corp., including work in progress, tooling, molds

03 May 1966 Articles of Dissolution filed with State of Wisconsin for “Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Corporation”

Circa 1969 former Tomahawk Boat workers establish “Hi-Plastics, Inc.” and make fiberglass “Hy-Ryder” brand speed boats at Tomahawk, WI

Officers: Harold Irmischer, president Patrick Bogie, vice president Ruth Irmischer, secretary

21 February 1996 Death of Franklin P. Winter at age 77, at Shawano, WI. He had been making wooden strip-built boats at Shawano for a number of years after departing Tomahawk Boat in 1963.

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Tomahawk Boats in Use

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