Elco PT Boat and History

Electric boats are definitely not a new concept. Elco first introduced the electric engine to boating in the 1800’s. Electric Launch Company (Elco), originally incorporated on December 31, 1892, was first to introduce electric boats in the United States at the Chicago Exposition in 1893. Elco was requested to build fifty-five (55) 36-foot electric launches for this event. Ticket sales to transport people around the Chicago area lakes and rivers exceeded 1,000,000. That was over 120 years ago and at that time electric motors were the preferred form of propulsion. Elco’s “Picnic Launch” became the essence of a perfect lake cruise.

The Golden Years of Elco and the PT Boat

According to noted Elco historian William C. Swanson, the “operational genius” behind Elco’s success was Henry R. Sutphen, who joined Elco in 1892 and may be considered the visionary of the company. Sutphen ran Elco from 1895 to 1949 and, according to Swanson, helped build the pleasure power boat industry as we know it today.

The list of Elco owners during this period reads like a social register, the name Elco is sewn into American history with owners like, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindberg, Mrs. George Westinghouse, The De Beers Family, the list goes on and on. This speaks to the quality, the attention to detail and the overall Elco experience.

Elco PT Boat

In the same vein, the list of designers Elco employed to design its launches and yachts reads like a Who’s Who. Notable Elco designers include Charles D. Mosher, partner of designer William Gardner, Alfred “Bill” Luders, Irwin Chase, and Glenville Sinclair Tremaine. The team of Sutphen, Chase, and Tremaine together grew Elco into the preeminent builders of cruising pleasure boats and classic motor yachts.

From 1892 through two World Wars, Elco designed and built more than 5,000 boats ranging in size from an 18 foot gig or yacht tender to cruising power boats up to 127 feet in length. It also built craft for the government of the United States and other countries, including lifeboats for the U.S. Coast Guard, launches and tenders for various navies, anti-submarine motor launches in World War I, and PT boats in World War II including PT 109 captained by Lt. John F. Kennedy.


A New Era for Elco Classic Motor Yacht

Today, the Elco legacy continues with all the strength and passion that Henry Sutphen once brought to it. With a sound reinvestment in energy and enthusiasm, along with a focus on advancing the electric drive, our company’s namesake, Elco continues to make history in American yachting. Elco motors, boats, and yachts today are built to the highest standards just as they were from the beginning. And just as it has always been, the Elco name today stands for quiet beauty and sound innovation.