Ole Evinrude Biography (1877-1934)


Ole Evinrude was born in Norway on April 19, 1877; five years later, his family emigrated to the United States and settled near Cambridge, Wisconsin. Interested in mechanics from an early age, Evinrude became an apprentice machinist at age 16 and eventually a master patternmaker as well.

Along with a growing number of people at the turn of the century, Ole Evinrude was fascinated by the potential of the newly developed internal combustionengine, and at the turn of the century, he set up a firm to build small engines.

While Evinrude concentrated on the mechanical and engineering aspects of thenew firm, he entrusted the bookkeeping and business end of the firm to his assistant, Bessie Cary. The story surrounding Evinrude's invention of the outboard boat engine revolves around a picnic that Cary and Evinrude enjoyed on anisland in Lake Michigan two and one-half miles from shore. Cary expressed adesire for a dish of ice cream and Evinrude rowed back to shore for it. Of course, the ice cream was melted by the time he returned, but Evinrude, inspired by the incident, was determined to design an engine that would replace theoar as a means of boat propulsion.

Cary and Evinrude were married in 1906. Their firm immediately began to develop its first outboard motor, a one-cylinder, 1.5 hp model, which became an instant success upon its introduction in 1909. A year later Evinrude founded Evinrude Motors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to build his new engines.

Due to the poor health of Bessie, the Evinrudes sold their company in 1913, and Ole agreed to not re-enter the outboard motor business for five years. Hisinventive mind kept busy, however, and during his " retirement," he deviseda much improved, two-cylinder outboard engine. In 1921 he and Bessie formed the ELTO Outboard Motor Company (ELTO standing for Evinrude's Light Twin Outboard). This new outboard engine was also very successful, and in 1929 the ELTOcompany merged with the original Evinrude company (since renamed the Outboard Motor Corporation) and the Lockwood Motor Company with Evinrude became thepresident of this new company.

Bessie, who had retired in 1928 for health reasons, died in 1933. Ole Evinrude died the following year on July 12 in Milwaukee, and the company was takenover by their son, Ralph. In 1936 the Evinrude company merged with the Johnson Motor Company to form the Outboard Marine Corporation, which has enjoyed continuing success in the outboard motor business.

Evinrude's name continues today not only on many an outboard motor but also by the presentation of the Ole Evinrude Award. Given annually by the New YorkBoat Show, this award is presented in recognition of an individual's contributions to the growth of recreational boating.

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