​Almanac: The outboard motor

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: April 19th, 1877, 138 years ago today ... a day that would change the course of recreational boating.

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Ole Evinrude's first outboard motor. Evinrude

For that was the day Ole Evinrude was born in Norway.

At the age of five, Ole moved with his family to Wisconsin, where he grew up to become a lifelong tinkerer with motors.

In 1906, the story goes, Evinrude rowed across a lake to fetch ice cream for an island picnic with his future wife, Bess, only to have the ice cream melt before he could finish rowing back.

Evinrude's misfortune inspired him to action, and in 1911 he was awarded a patent for his "Marine Propulsion Mechanism" ... otherwise known as the outboard motor.

Though not the first outboard motor on the market, Evinrude quickly established itself as the most reliable.

"Don't row. Throw the oars away. Use an Evinrude motor."

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A 1941 ad for Evinrude outboard motors. Evinrude

Evinrude outboards have created generations of weekend boaters and powered high-speed racers ... and played a big role in helping water-skiing to take off.

Which helps explain why, in that "classic" American movie "Jaws 2," Evinrude outboard motors play a memorable supporting role as a water skier disappears under the waves.

By the way, while Ole Evinrude was getting his outboard motor off the ground, a young friend at work in his shop was coming up with another revolution in transportation.

HIS name was Arthur Davidson -- the Wisconsin man whose name is found on the nameplate of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


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