An Evinrude Motor
In his first attempts to construct an internal combustion engine, Ole nearly set thebasement of his boarding house on fire. The landlady, Mrs. Doyle, immediately kicked him out,fearing that he would blow the entire house up if he tried again. Ole might have said that fate ledhim to his new apartment, a small shed adjoining the property of sixteen year old Bess Cary.Bess was intrigued by the story of the boarding house explosion and her parents new tenant.Knowing that he had created the right pattern for a horseless carriage motor, Ole set outto find a partner with whom to form a company. His first partner, Clark, was a machinist likeOle. Neither man knew much about business or marketing and soon realized that their venturewould not succeed. The next partner, Clemick, was an inventor. He had already begun tomanufacture a custom engine on his own prior to joining Ole. The partnership of Clemick andEvinrude was an overnight success, landing a government contract to produce 50 portablemotors. Bess Cary, who was attending business school, volunteered to type correspondence forthe company in the evenings in exchange for the occasional ride in the horseless carriage and aSunday picnic with Ole. In 1906, Ole and Bess became engaged. She was twenty-two and he wasthirty.
It is rumored that the idea for the first Evinrude outboard motor came about on a hotSunday afternoon when Ole took his fianc, Bess, for a row on the lake. When they were 2 miles from shore Bess said that she wanted a dish of ice cream. Ole turned the boat around androwed back to shore. Parched and tired, he exclaimed to Bess that someone should invent amotor for boats. It would be nearly two years later before Ole Evinrude would take his ownwords to heart.
Ole and Bess were married on November 21, 1906. Their only son, Ralph SydneyEvinrude, was born almost a year later on September 27, 1907. The birth was very hard on Bess.Though she continued to work in her husbands office, Bess health quickly declined. It wasduring this period of hardship that Ole built the first prototype for a rowboat motor. Besscommented upon seeing it for the first time that it looked like a coffee grinder. When Russ Cary,Bess brother, went with Ole to try out the coffee grinder on an actual rowboat, heenthusiastically reported back to his sister that the test was a success. Bess immediately saw thebigger picture and encouraged her husband to clean up the pattern and improve the model. Thefirst 1 1/2 horsepower Evinrude motor weighed 62 pounds and sold for $62.In the summer of 1909, Bess Evinrude wrote the now famous advertising slogan: DontRow! Throw The Oars Away! Use An Evinrude Motor and business skyrocketed. Within days ofthe ad running in Milwaukee newspapers, Ole and Bess were flooded with so many inquiries thatthey needed to hire six stenographers to handle the correspondence. In 1911, partnering withChris Meyer, the President of Meyer Tug Boat Lines; the Evinrudes formed the EvinrudeDetachable Row Boat Motor Company. The newly formed company sold 2,090 motors in 1911,representing an increase of more than a thousand units over the preceding years sales. In 1912,the company sold 4,650 motors and moved to a larger facility. The new factory employed 300workers and produced 9,412 motors in 1913, making Evidrude a worldwide contender in theportable boat motor arena.
Sadly, in 1914, with Bess heath still in decline, Ole decided to sell his share of thecompany to his partner Chris Meyer. Ole signed an agreement not to participate in the outboardmotor business for a term of five years from the date of sale. The sale brought the Evinrudes$137,500; enough to fund a family road trip across the US. While the family toured America,Chris Meyer saw sagging sales at Evinrude Motors. The company introduced a four-cycle twincylinder engine in 1916 but the product was no more efficient than the single-cylinder versionand it was soon discontinued. Though sales had fallen from previous years, Evinrude Motors stillremained the industry leader in 1919 when Ole was freed from his non-compete clause.Upon his return from their five-year sabbatical, Oles first order of business was to designa 3 hp twin-cylinder aluminum engine, weighing in at only 48 pounds. This revolutionary newdesign was far ahead of anything the industry had seen to date. Feeling a sense of loyalty to hisformer partner, Ole took the new design to Chris Meyer. The meeting did not go as hoped andOle left with the determination to start a new company. With their remaining savings of $35,000,Ole and Bess founded Elto Outboard Motor Company in 1920. Elto was an acronym forEvinrude Light Twin Outboard. Their first product hit the market in June of 1921. Elto sold1,051 motors in its first year and 3,549 in its second.