The Chris-Craft boat company was the product of Chris Smith. Smith began building boats for his family and himself 1874 at the age of 13. His experience with boat grew and several years later he built a boat to use while duck hunting. The boat had to be stable, able to move in shallow water and have room for Chris, a friend, their gear and maybe a dog. He built several different models and his friends began commenting on the new and unique boat. Soon they began to ask Chris if he would build one for them. This was the start of the Chris Craft Boat Co.

When Chris was twenty years old he joined forces with his brother Henry (Hank) and began to build boats for more and more customers. By 1922 the two had found enough partners to open a full time boat company, the Smith and Sons Boat Company. The company name was changed to Chris-Craft in 1930. 

The Detroit area became well known for their sleek racing boats in the 1910s and 1920s. Being from the St. Clair area Chris and Hank fully understood the opportunity they were seeing. Soon they developed high-end power boats. They decided early on their boats were going to be of the highest quality, best materials and easy to operate. This combination soon had the well-to-do from all over Michigan, then the rest of the country clamoring for their boats. Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst, governors, politicians and Hollywood stars soon owned the beautiful boats. If one looks closely at run-abouts and cruisers used in several movies made in the ‘30s and ‘40s you’ll notice they are nearly always a Chris-Craft boat.

To learn more about ChrisCraft check the links below:

  • The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia has an extensive collection of memorabilia, data, drawings and photographs. You can also e-mail them at
  • The Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club has lots of information on their Web site, including photos, drawings, and articles.
  • The Chris-Craft Commander Club has a broad base of owners and experts on that model range.
  • The Chris-Craft Commander Forum has many more details and pictures about Commanders.
  • Chris-Craft: The Essential Guide catalogs every model ever built by the company. You can find drawings, a range of hull numbers, specs and more. The book is written by Jerry Conrad, the Chris-Craft Archivist at The Mariners’ Museum