During the summer months, there’s nothing more “Minnesotan” than taking a boat ride on a favorite lake, river or waterway.
One of the more popular boats in Minnesota is the Pontoon Boat. They’re like a floating party in perpetual motion and very much a part of leisure activity on the weekends in Minnesota. A pontoon boat ride is all about getting together and sharing a beautiful day chatting, fishing, swimming, suntanning, reading a book or even going water skiing.
Pontoon boats provide an easy way to get everyone out for a few hours to explore, mix and mingle, and freely move around. It’s a great excuse to relax and slow down the pace from today’s hectic lifestyle, just be sure to leave the cell phones behind.
Where were Pontoon Boats Invented?
Pontoon Boats were first invented and mass produced in Minnesota.* Their invention is attributed to Ambrose Weeres, a farmer in the rural town of Richmond, MN. In 1951, Weeres had the idea that if you built a wooden deck on top of two columns of steel barrels welded together, you would have a sturdy deck that would be more stable on water than a conventional boat. His initial boat though, was basically a plywood sheet strapped to 55-gallon steel drums.
In 1952 he founded Weeres Industries and took orders for 40 more boats and an industry was formed. In 1990, the Minnesota state legislature recognized Ambrose Weeres as “Mr. Pontoon.” and in 1991, he was inducted into the Minnesota Marine Hall of Fame. He passed away shortly thereafter at the age of 84.
To date, Weeres Industries, located in central Minnesota (New Ulm, MN) has built and sold more than 30,000 pontoon boats. It’s pontoon boats are afloat on the Nile and Thames rivers, and in Sweden’s Stockholm harbor to name a few places. Today, Weeres Pontoon boats range in size from a four-person, 16-foot fishing model to a 28-foot, luxury “tri-toon” that can accommodate up to 30 people.
Source: Weeres Industries
*Ambrose Weeres is considered the inventor of the pontoon boat in 1952, but there is information of a man in Michigan (Daniel W. Porter) who first conceived the idea of a boat that “rested upon two hollow cylinders, conical at each end and filled with air.” (source: St Joseph Daily Press – St Joseph, MI – Oct 16 1905).
NOTE: In July 2011, Weeres Industries was sold to Premier Marine, Inc., a pontoon boat manufacturer located in Wyoming, MN. (source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal).
At about the same time in 1951, Mr Fay Jenkins, a farmer in Kalkaska, Michigan, built a pontoon boat with a cabin on the deck. Everyone called it Fay,s houseboat. A large article was published in the Detroit Free Press in 1952. It covered the story of the launch and all the people that came to watch.
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