Owens Yacht Co.

Posted in: 1930s
Sep 1, 2009 - 2:59:44 PM

Owens - History



Charles Owens, Sr., father of four sons and a daughter, built custom boats on Spa Creek, in Eastport, Annapolis, Maryland from 1925 to 1930. When he died in 1933, his young teenagers were left with a small boat building business and thus began their boat building careers. As boat orders began to increase after 1936, three of the sons, Charles, Jr., Norman and John B. decided to expand and purchased about eight acres on the Baltimore waterfront where the constructed new plants. It was at this site that they adopted the new auto industry production control systems and applied them to boat building techniques.

Their first new thirty foot Owens cruiser model was put on display in 1937 New York Boat Show. Their business grew rapidly in the early 1940's as pleasure boats and boating was at its peak before World War II. All three brothers were good sailors and spent their spare time racing and winning! It was at this time that they introduced their first 40 foot sailboat, the Owens Cutter. In 1950 they sold the design rights to Henry Hinckley in 1950 who went on to build the Cutter for the next five years. During the War years, they converted the shop to production boats and built many rescue boats and landing barges. And when the Korean War erupted the brothers bid and won contracts to build 75 foot minesweepers for the Navy.

They continued to grow and sales were up considerably in 1958-59 when they decided to hire Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency to further their promotion and advertising. It was at this time that Cornelius Shields of Shields & Company, a well-known sailor and stock broker suggested they offer 20% of their company stock to the public. It opened on the New York Stock Exchange in 1959 at $8.00 per share which quickly oversold and the stock price rose to $12 per share. The Owens Company was probably the only boat company to offer stock on the open market at this time.

In 1957 the Owens Company discontinued manufacturing wooden boats of less than 20 feet and began to convert to fiberglass hulls. During this time their Baltimore facility could produce two 28' boats per day which cost $8,500 to $12,000 or three 35' boats per week with a price of $18,000 to $20,000 per boat. At this same time they were also building their own engines know as Flagship Marine Engines. They were producing 500 Flagship engines per month for their complete line of boats, 18' outboards to 35' cruisers and runabouts. During its peak production years the Owens Company had 500 employees at their Baltimore plant.

By the 1960's the Owens brothers has retired and no longer took an active part in the business. The Owens Company became a division of the Brunswick Corporation which operated the business for ten years before selling the boat building division to Test Concorde Inc. The division was renamed Concorde Yacht Division - Brunswick Corp., but still retained the Owens name for the boats. In the early 1970's the Concorde Yacht Division ran into financial difficulties and liquidated the entire production facility eliminating almost all historical material from the original Owens Company. The sailboat cutter plans remain and are located at the Mystic Seaport Museum, in Mystic, CT.