The recent Progressive New York Boat Show was held from January 23 to 27, 2019 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center at 655 W. 34th Street. It targeted the recreational boat buyers, who want the opportunity to compare brands and features while shopping for boat show only deals. The attendees could step aboard new motor yachts, sportfishers, performance boats, kayaks, and more, as they prepare for the 2019 boating season. This consumer trade show has a long history dating back 114 years to 1905. Originally, it was known as the National Motor Boat Show, part of the Sportsmen’s Show!
The New York Tribune on February 10, 1907 announced, the 7-day, third National Motor Boat Show would open on February 19, and close on February 26 at Madison Square Garden. The second of four Madison Square Gardens was located at 26th Street, and Madison Avenue. The first building was leased by Phineas Taylor Barnum, the founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus. But, it had no roof, and could not be used during bad or cold winter weather, so it was demolished after 11 years.
The second structure was built by a syndicate that included: W. W. Astor, P. T. Barnum, Andrew Carnegie, Darius Mills, and James Stillman. It was demolished in 1925, by the New York Life Insurance Company, who held the mortgage for the unsuccessful venture. The third building was constructed on a different site, 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Street. This building was demolished in 1968 and rebuilt at One Worldwide Plaza adjoining Penn Station. This was the first year, the Motor Boat Show was independent of the Sportsmen’s Show.
In reference to the split of the two shows, the New York Sun, February 17 stated, “This has been found necessary because the number of exhibits has grown so that the Garden is not large enough to house the two exhibitions at the same time, and the motor men have thought that the sportsmen interfere with them, and in this their feelings have been reciprocated by the sportsmen. The schedule was also different, it included the reading of “papers of interest to motor boat men.”
It seems Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (1862-1948), the 36th Governor of New York State, commodores and officers of 150 yacht clubs, as well as Rear Admiral Joseph Bullock Coghian (1844-1908), the Commander, of the NY Navy Yard in Brooklyn (1904-1907) were invited.
On the seller side, the third motor boat show was sanctioned by the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers (NAEBM), known for having the largest number of engine and boat builders in 1907. The NAEBM would host their annual meeting at a luncheon during the show.
According to the Sun, another New York newspaper, the 1907 show was not only national but a real motor boat show - prior motor boats had “… always been exhibited as an annex or side show in some other show in the Garden, but during the coming show the whole of the main floor will be devoted solely to the exhibition of motor boats.” The exhibits were planned for the family man, who wanted to dream of sailing, or fishing on the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, the Great South Bay, or Long Island Sound!
The NAEBM committee organized the show with the chairman, Henry R. Sutphen, founder of the Electric Launch Company, later called ELCO, of Bayonne, NJ. “The entire space of the immense exhibition hall is to be given over to the interests of the motor-driven craft. Duplicates of creations which have made a name for themselves will be shown in abundance. All of the designers of prominence will be on hand with photographs and plans of their products,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 17 stated.
Smith & Mabley builders of the Simplex Motor Boats, who won most of the Palm Beach races, exhibited their 1907 model, equipped with a 30-horsepower motor, as well as a new boat with a 75-horsepower motor.
The buyer side consisted of two groups: the American Power Boat Association (APBA), and the Motor Boat Club of America (MBCA). The APBA delegates were members of the major national yacht clubs. On Wednesday evening, February 20, the association would hold its annual meeting at the Hotel Knickerbocker, located at the southeast corner of Broadway, and 42nd Street in Times Square.
The hotel construction was started in 1903 by J. E. and A. L. Pennock (Philadelphia) on land owned by John Jacob Astor, IV (1864-1912). In 1905, Astor assumed control of the failing project, and the hotel was completed on October 23, 1906, a little over three months before the motor boat show.
At the APBA annual meeting, the new board of officers was introduced: James Norris Oliphant, president (Thousand Island Yacht Club, NY); A. B. Cole, secretary (Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, LI, NY); and J. H. McIntosh, co-treasurer (Columbia Yacht Club, Chicago, IL); as well as Henry J. Gielow, co-treasurer (Atlantic Yacht Club, Wrightsville Beach, NC). The executive committee consisted of Dr. J. DeMund (Brooklyn Yacht Club, NY); George P. Granberry (New Rochelle Yacht Club, NY); H. H. Brown (Swampsoott Yacht Club, MA); and Dr. T. S. Rae (Tarrytown Yacht Club, NY).
On Saturday night, the MBCA would host a banquet at Reisenweber’s, a restaurant at 8th Avenue and 58th Street. John Reisenweber’s (1851-1931) venue had 12 dining rooms, over 1,000 employees, and seating for 5,000 in 1905, according to his New York Times obituary. His establishment was credited as the birthplace of the modern cabaret, floor shows, choruses and stage sets. Among the headliners were Gracie Fields, Sophie Tucker, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Here the club members and guest dined on beef steak while watching a vaudeville show.
The Long Islander, a Huntington newspaper, Friday, February 22 mentioned a number of people from their area attended. The Suffolk County News, of Sayville told its readers, “W. Purdy Shannon went to New York on Wednesday morning where he spent a day or two seeing the sights at the motor boat show ....”
The New York Tribune, Saturday, February 23, announced, an entirely new type of boat would be shown by one of the exhibitors. It combined the large carrying capacity of the ordinary yacht’s tender with the speed and handiness of a modern runabout launch. It is built entirely of mahogany and equipped with a 25-horsepower motor with a speed of 15 miles an hour. This boat was sold to George McKesson Brown for use on his steam yacht. Brown, a pharmaceutical businessman, and owner of Coindre Hall, (West Neck Farm), a 40-room, 80,000 sq.ft. Medieval French Château with boathouse located on 34-acres overlooking the Long Island Sound in Huntington.
The next day, the Tribune reported on the MBCA dinner stating, “…the dinner last night at Reisenweber’s was the most successful.”
The Monday, Tribune described the show as having in the center of the exhibition hall, a large cabin cruiser built by the Racine Boat Manufacturing Company (1893-1916), which had been delayed in reaching the city. The rest of the Racine exhibit consisted of a number of 22-foot runabout boats, a row boat and a canoe!
During the show H. Alfred Janke, of Plainfield, NJ purchased a 26-foot semi-speed boat, equipped with 10-horsepower, 4-cylinder Buffalo motor from the Electric Launch Company.
The Gas Engine and Power Company also sold a 45x6 foot motor boat with a speed of 23-miles an hour to a buyer from Auburn, NY.
On Tuesday, February 26, as the show was coming to a close, Mr. Young, treasurer of Madison Square Garden, made an announcement, “The number of admissions at the third motor show have been larger than at the third Automobile Show…” “It will be followed on Friday night by the opening of the Sportsmen’s Show, the Sun newspaper, Wednesday, February 27 stated. The article continued, “A few years ago the manufacturers were catering to a supposed fad for the misnamed auto boat and the more expensive boats were light flimsy affairs.”
In 1907, the wealthy had their large recreation steam yachts, but now the smaller, simpler motor boats were building a new industry, and manufacturers were faced with educating the general public!
In 1979, the NAEBM merged with the Boating Industry Association of Chicago to form the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
The National Motor Boat grew, and 114 years later, the 2019 New York State boating industry reached a total economic impact of $8.4 billion, supporting 37,547 direct and indirect jobs with approximately 2,400 boating businesses.
Each year, the largest boat exhibited is called the Queen of the Show. This years’ Queen was Azimut Atlantis 51, a 53 ft. motor yacht with three staterooms, galley kitchen, open salon, on deck grill, and more.
The new Icon A5 Aircraft, an incredible amphibious sports plane got a lot of attention near the entrance to the exhibit hall. “Making its NY Boat Show debut, the two-seat portable plane has wings that fold back, allowing it to be hauled by trailer like a boat or ATV, which means you can launch and land from anywhere – no airport necessary! The A5 has a top speed of 110-mph, a 450 mile range, and a spin-resistant frame that makes it one of the easiest planes to keep in the air.”
The motor boat consumer trade show has a long history in Manhattan dating back to 1905 at the second Madison Square Garden; later it was moved to the Grand Central Palace’s exhibition hall located on Lexington Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets near Grand Central Terminal.
Sandi Brewster-Walker is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute. She has served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at USDA. Winner of the Press Club of Long Island’s 2017 Media Award - 3rd Place for Narrative: Column. Readers can reach her in c/o the firstname.lastname@example.org.