Once the world's largest manufacture 

                                                  

of boats, the

 name of

 Mullins is little

 known to the

 antique

 boating world

 today.

 Constructed

 mainly of

 galvanized steel, more than

 100,000 boats of many types and models

 were produced for 40 years at their

 factory in Salem.

                                               

 

When

 most people

 hear of

a steel pleasure

 boat, a thought

of a heavy

 burdensome weight pops

their minds. But the opposite is true;

 Mullins boats were mainly made from

 several plates of double galvanized steel

 gradually shaped by heavy drop presses

 to blueprint specifications. Plates were

 then lapped, countersunk riveted, and

 soldered to create a smooth hull. This

 procedure would continue until the end

 of the manufacture of the Mullins boat.

 

Mullins

 started with

 a 14' duck

 boat

 named the

 Get There

 that

 resembled a kayak made of steel. His      

 boats were first  aluminum. Manganese

 bronze was intended for salt waters

 while aluminum was the priced option

that offered a great reduction in weight

a very important consideration in those

 days.

 

 Most boats came with a structure

 consisting of wooden ribs joined only

 where necessary to prevent distortion of

 the hull, should the wood warp.

 

Mullins line expanded in the late 1890ís

 and included flotation tanks in all boats

 to prevent a sinking in the event that

 water filled the hull. Airtight sheet

 metal floatation tanks became the

 standard for most of the Mullins boats

 until the end. Aluminum soon

 disappeared as a hull option perhaps

 due to a weakness, but would reappear

 in the twenties. Soon after, manganese

 bronze was deleted as an option, leaving

 the galvanized steel as the main

 ingredient. A boat trailer known as the

 Handy Cart, manufactured by the

 Lawrence Carriage Company of St.

 Paul Minnesota, was offered in the

 1890ís that would hitch to a wagon and

 make launching a breeze. It was to be

 Mullins use of mass production in the

 boating industry that would put his

 boats in the market in great numbers at

 an affordable price. Into the 1900ís

 Mullins increased the lineup, improved

 the processes and worked on getting a

 motorized boat to market. 1902 saw the

 start of the automobile body business

 for Mullins, using presses to make body

 parts for the new horseless carriage

 industry.

 

In 1905 Mullins

 offered

 motorized boats

 for the first time.

 The Beaver Auto

tail SpeedLaunch

   was offered in

 either 21 or 30-foot lengths.

 

 The 21-foot version equipped with a 12

 horsepower motor delivered a speed of

 15 miles an hour. Also offered in 1905

 was a choice of a 16 or 18-foot Torpedo

 Stern Launch, weighing 700 pounds and

 equipped with a single cylinder 3

 horsepower engine that propelled the

 boat to 8 miles an hour. The Mullins

 product gave a smooth, lighter hull that

 would be offered with modest  power

 plants; putting all

 the controls

 within reach of

 the driver was the

 priority. Though

 made of steel, the

 interiors

 contained finished wood and

 hardware that added a touch of

 elegance. The Automobile Boats,

 Special and Leader Launches proved to

 be lasting designs that made their way

 to many boat liveries of the day. The

 low maintenance along with a durable

 hull gave Mullins the edge on the

 purchase decision. Mullins would

 continue to adjust the models offered to

 gain a foothold on profit in the boating

 industry.

 

 

In 1912 a Mullins hydroplane with a

 guaranteed speed of 28 miles per hour

 was offered for $1,000.00 . With a 15

 foot 11 inch hull, a 52-inch beam and

 weighing 950 pounds, it could seat

 three. Powered by a 3-cylinder Pierce-

Budd dual carburetor, 25 horsepower

 motor weighing 217 pounds, the

 Hydroplane offered style, automobile

 control and speed for a modest price.

 As always Mullins presented a boat

 with less maintenance, no caulking, no

 gain in weight and no leaks to spoil the

 day - guaranteed.

 

 

Into the teens

Mullins continued

 on with boats  of

steel then  added

 wooden boats

 and cedar

 canoes.

 

Mullins Cedar Canoes were

 produced during this time offering

 several models and sizes .

 

 

   It was

 stated that the demand for wooden

 boats was there, and Mullins had the

 means to produce them. One of these,

 the Mullins Arrow, measured 25 feet

 and equipped with a 35 horsepower

 Sterling motor sold for $2,375.00. With

 other wooden and steel boats offered in

 1917, this came to a total of 40 possible

 choices. Mullins Cedar Canoes were

 produced during this time offering

 several models and sizes. With a cedar

 frame, oil soaked to prevent the      

 absorption of water the canoes were

 covered in canvas with two coats of 

 filler applied. Building canoes gave

 Mullins steady employment, avoiding a

 seasonal hiring practice and the training

 of this newly hired help. Models

 included such names as the Princeton,

 the Harvard,  and the Yale.

 

Another innovative boat produced by

 Mullins was the sixteen-foot Tunnel

 Stern Launch. This was a wooden hull

 boat that could operate in only six

 inches of water . Three moderate power

 options were available with a Universal

 10 horsepower motor capable of 8 miles

 an hour . The boat was a mid-engine,

 side steered model that once again gave

 the operator all controls within easy

 reach.

The end of the 'teens left Mullins

 producing its V Bottom steel boats that

 offered greater speed with an increase

 in power. Top of the line was a 25-foot

 V bottom motor boat powered by a

 Scripps 75 horsepower motor that

 propelled it to a breath-taking speed of

 26 miles an hour. The V Bottom boat

 line would last into the twenties and the

 launches and automobile boats would

 soon be phased out of the lineup.

 Wooden boat production ceased before

 1920. One of the economy motorboats

 that emerged from the mid 'teens was

 the Outboard Special, a beefed up

 version of a rowboat designed to

 operate with the primitive hand crank

 starting outboards that were growing in

 popularity. I own an Outboard Special

 that is seaworthy and in original

 condition. I used it for the 2000 boating

season with a 1926 ELTON battery

 -ignition Rudder twin. Both now are

 undergoing restoration for the 2001

 season.

 

The twenties would show Mullins boats

 continuing an evolution in design and

 speed to match the propulsion industry.

 The new Sea Hawk line sported a

 hydroplane hull made with corrugations

 toward the stern that increased the

 surface area for easier planning and

 increased stability by reducing sideslip.

 These were outboard boats that were

 offered in different models to fill,

 hopefully, the needs of the boat-buying

 public. Sea Hawks were produced in

 galvanized Armco ingot iron and also

 offered in aluminum alloy. With speeds

 of up to 28 miles per hour listed in a

 1928 brochure,  the ever-increasing

 power of the outboard promised to soon

 make 30 miles per hour a reality. The

 aluminum models were highly polished

 and painted with clear lacquer.

 Production aluminum boats came from

 Mullins long before it became

 commonplace. A standard Sea Hawk,

 the Lady Spartan, is shown in a 1929

 brochure winning the Milwaukee to

 Chicago marathon. Of the 49 boats that

 started only 6 made it to the finish line,

 and the Mullins was the only one with a

 crew of two.

 

Other

 models

 were the

 Duplex Hull

 Red Arrows

 which came

 in an

 inboard or  outboard configuration.

 The 16-foot Red Arrows of 1928 were

 a double cockpit for the inboard, or a

 triple cockpit in outboard form. An

 operator could still add two outboards

 on the inboard model if desired. In the

 outboard model two of the largest

 outboards could be mounted on the

 stern with the steering tightened up to

 allow the boats to be steered by

 rudder. The 20-foot models were the

 same but added another cockpit to

 each. I own a 1926 16-foot Red Arrow

 Twin Outboard restored and ready for

 the 2001 boat shows.

It was in 1927 that the Mullins engineers

 came up with the idea for the Sea

 Eagle inboard runabout. They wanted

 a low cost runabout that was reliable

 and stylish. The twenties ended with

 the Outboard Special and the Prince

 rowboat surviving and an updated

 boat trailer that attached to the

 bumper of your car. The thirties would

 see drastic changes and a reduction in

 the lineup of Mullins boats.

 

1930 brought on a new era of Mullins

 boats that would only last for the year.

 The onset of the depression overtook

 the 1930 lineup and cuts were made to

 simplify production for 1931. The 1930

 catalog offers new names to old hulls

 and some innovative products that

 were, unfortunately,  updated,

 Flamingo

Steel Kings and

Sea Hawk     

 models from the

 twenties. Added

 were two step-

plane racing

 hulls measuring

 13 feet 6 inches

 long and with a beam of 51 inches

 offered sturdy place to run the new

 high-powered outboards.

 

 The Torpedo,

 that seated one, and the Tarpon, that

 seated two or when racing had a cover

 for the forward cockpit, were a couple

 of beauties with top speeds of 40 to 50

 miles per hour. The Lark was the new

 name for the Outboard Special and the

 Prince rowboat was renamed the

 Penguin.

 

 MULLINS TIN MAN

 

1931

 introduced

 the well-

known Sea

 Eagle, a sleek

 inboard

 runabout that ran 30 miles an hour

 equipped with a 40 horsepower

 Lycoming four-cylinder motor.

 Measuring 15-feet 6 inches with a 63-

inch beam the Sea Eagle weighed 1,380

 pounds. Later it gained 3 inches in

 length, believed to be from the addition

 of the Sea Eagle emblem, and engine

 power increased later in the thirties.

 This Sea Eagle incorporated the

 corrugated hydroplane hull that was

 common on the 1920ís Mullins Hawks.

 Only three boats accompanied the Sea

 Eagle into the 1931 lineup, the Dolphin,

 the Lark, and the Prince rowboat. The

 Penguin name was out for this model

 and the well-known Prince name

 returned.

 

A 1932 ad shows the Sea Eagle reduced

 in price to $695.00, a new Deluxe Sea

 Eagle and the addition of a Camp Mate

 tunnel hull inboard boat that would

 operate in ten inches of water. The

 Deluxe Sea Eagle contained an options

 package and other additions that made

 the deal worth the extra $100.00. Other

 variations would be offered in the Sea

 Eagle line in the years to come including

 the addition of 5.5 inches to the

 freeboard, claiming a more appealing

 look and increased seaworthiness.

 

Mullins Boats moved to Oil City

 Pennsylvania in the mid thirties where

 the line finally died sometime later. The

 name changed to the Champion-Mullins

 Boat Company in 1943, Champion Boat

 and Folding Bed Company in 1945

 continuing on until 1950 with "boat"

 deleted from the company name.

 

Mullins gave us mass produced boats

 with safety and ease of use features

 early on for the boat industry. They

 presented us with boats built like the

 autos of the time-of steel with beautiful

 finished wood and comfort. Mullins

 offered aluminum hulls long before they

 were commonplace, and non-wooden

 hulls to lessen our time spent

 refurbishing, leaving more time for

 family, friends, and fish. Many of the

 boats survived but go unknown due to

 the lack of knowledge of their existence,

 or the loss of their maker's tag. Some

 are scrapped to clean up a yard or

 stripped for the vintage inboard motor.

 

By David T. Defense