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Speed Queen Boats
6101 W. 147th St.
Tinley Park, Illinois
& 600 W. Tenth Ave.
Speed Queen boats were manufactured by the Marine Division of The Glastex Co. in Tinley Park, Illinois from 1953 to 1958. In 1958, Glastex expanded operations to include a location in Monmouth, IL. This resulted from a merge with The Monelle Corporation of Monmouth. At the time, The Glastex Co. produced six boats per day and had 22 employees (Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1958). Neil W. Ekblaw was president of Monelle Corp. This merger added 150,000 sq. ft. of production space. Monelle had built "North Star" Boats before the merger and had been around since at least October 1954. Production was planned to be about 6,000 boats per year with three 14' to 20' sizes and in 14 models. Boats were constructed by hand-laid fiberglass sheets in prepared molds and reinforced with aluminum stringers and plywood frames.
Neil W. Ekblaw was a lawyer born in Urbana, Illinois, and educated at Wesleyan University and Cornell Law. After practicing law for a few years in New York, Cleveland, and Peoria, he started his own firm, Monelle Corp. in 1952, established as president in 1953 and leaving law practice that year. The company built a variety of products from aluminum, plastic, and steel including a lawn sweeper and North Star Boats. In addition to presidency of Monelle, he served as director of Roy G. Miller, Inc. and North Star Marine Sales. He moved to California and joined Hughes Aircraft as marketing manager for the El Segundo division of the company by 1963. Monelle Corp. had a sales office in Chicago at 10 N. Clark St.
1959 production began ramping up in January at the Monmouth factory with the calling up of a seasonal workforce who had been laid off for the winter. William Clark, a business owner from Lowell, Indiana was hired as manager. Production was planned to be primarily the 16' model with some 14' model production as well. The 15' and 18' models were announced as being new additions for the year. No mention was made of the Tinley Park operation January 28, 1959 Galesburg Register-Mail
William J. Horvath, the owner of The Glastex Co. and designer of the Speed Queen line of fiberglass boats, sold the business to Felt Enterprises in 1961 who in turn changed the name to Sea Sprite in 1963 (Lee Wangstad. "Breath of Fresh Air." Boating World: June 2002). Beginning in 1968, Glastex produced Sea Star Boats.
From 1953 to 1956, only one 14' "Center Deck" model was offered. In 1957, a 14' "Walk-Thru" model was added. 1958 brought a 14' "Ski Queen" utility and two 16' models, a "Walk Thru" and "Ski Queen" utility. Finally in 1959, three 15' and two 18' Cruisette models were added, bringing to ten the total number of models produced. Little information has yet been uncovered for 1961, but apparently all new models were offered for 1961 and '62, all lacking the fiberglass center deck or molded-in seats of the seats of the earlier models.
In 1960, an 18' Speed Queen equipped with a Volvo I/O left Chicago's Michigan Ave. Bridge for a trip down the Mississippi River. Aboard were William Horvath (president), Charles Oehert (employee), and a Swedish engineer from Volvo to assess the motor's performance (April 1960 Boat & Motor Dealer).
The Milwaukee Sentinel - Jul 26, 1955 Dealer Ad
The Milwaukee Sentinel - Aug 28, 1958 Dealer Ad