31st 2022 - Jan. 7th 2023
lb. silver plated, 7 ½” long x 3” wide x 2 ½”
FEATURING GAR WOOD'S
5th of 10 Miss America Boats Built by Gar Wood
WON HARMSWORTH TROPHY 1926
Miss America V Paperweight
known paperweight of a Gar Wood boat
…To appreciate the significance of this paperweight, you should understand that quality figural works of pre 1930 inboard powerboats hardly
much less ones of a notable boat....
advertising desk paperweight that I recently acquired would date from 1926 and celebrates the
"Miss America V" powerboat. The Miss America V, which
was the 5th of ten Miss America's Gar Wood made, was a very fast boat for it's day with a top speed of about 73 MPH. In 1926 it won the
prestigious British International Trophy, known as the Harmsworth
trophy for the United States, averaging 61.118 MPH over a 150 mile
course. The owner of the boat Gar Wood, piloted the boat with his mechanic Orlin
Johnson as co-pilot.
I'm always interested in the background, i.e. the who-what-where
of the sports antiques I acquire. I'm especially interested where
pieces have been over their life span. It's very interesting this
paperweight came from a
seller in Stockbridge, Michigan, about 70 miles west of Detroit,
where Gar Wood was based. So it came out of the Great Lakes region
which is the motherland of powerboating history...The seller said as much he got
it from a long time picker friend that lives close to him who had
it forty five years.
The paperweight was issued by
the “Wood Hydraulic” company which was part of Gar Wood’s umbrella of companies. For
anyone not familiar with Garfield Wood 1880-1971, he was a multi-millionaire industrialist from Detroit,
and also a world champion powerboat racer…He won five straight powerboat Gold Cup races, considered the world championship, between 1917 and 1921. He also won the
prestigious British International Harmsworth Trophy nine times
1920–21, 1926, 1928–30, and 1932–33. The Harmsworth Trophy was
essentially the Americas Cup of powerboat racing, so when
Gar Wood won it, the United States was technically considered the
HISTORY OF THE HARMSWORTH
The Harmsworth was the first annual international award for
motorboat racing. Officially, it is a contest not between boats or individuals but between nations. The boats were originally to be designed and built entirely by residents of the country represented, using materials and units built wholly within that country. The rules were somewhat relaxed in 1949 and may have been relaxed further since. The race was founded by the
English newspaper publisher Alfred Charles William
Harmsworth in 1903.
GAR WOOD EMPIRE
Wood started in business about 1911 after he invented a hydraulic lift for trucks to unload coal…Thereafter his enterprise mushroomed into a large conglomerate of divisions all under the umbrella of “Gar Wood Industries”…He made so many industrial products that benefited the United States and made America great that it
would be hard to count them all….From garbage trucks to heating systems to powerboats to
supplying trucks and boats to the U.S. military during WW II…
SOME OF THE COMPANIES UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF GAR WOOD INDUSTRIES
G.A. Wood & Co., 1908-1911: Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co., 1912-1914; St Paul Minn.;
- Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., 1913-1933; Gar Wood
Ind. 1922-1971; Detroit, Michigan & Wayne, Michigan;
- Gar Wood Industrial Division of Gar Wood Ind.; Gar Wood Boat Division of Gar Wood Industries, Marysville, Mich.;
- Gar Wood Division of Sargent Industries 1971-79; Gar Wood
Div. of Clement Industries, 1979-pres.; Minden, Louisiana
- Detroit Marine-Aero Engine Co., Detroit, Mich.;
- Hydraulic Hoist Mfg. Co., St. Paul, Minn.;
- National Lift Company, Waukesha, Wisconsin; United Metal Craft Co., Ypsilanti, Michigan;
- Phil Wood Industries Ltd., 1922-1971; Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Wood was known as an inventive genius who, at one point, held more US patents than any other living
American. In 1897, at age 17, he invented a downdraft carburetor which enabled his inspection boat to outrace the other inspectors. In 1911 or 1912 he invented the profitable hydraulic hoist for dump trucks. He used the money it earned to build racing boats which won many championships between 1917 and 1933.
DETROIT CULTURE C1910
Of note is the fact
Gar Wood was Detroit based…There could not have been a better place for him,
considering his ability…Detroit was at the pinnacle of the industrial revolution in America
when he started out in 1911…the automobile was selling like hot cakes…Industry in Detroit grew at the same rate people
started understanding the possibilities of the gasoline engine….Many business
sprung up to support the auto industry….glass windshields,
upholstery, electroplating, widgets galore…Personnel and jobbing out were often intertwined…In
modern terminology it could be described as a network intensive
industry...bodies made to order for company A were supplied by company B…seats and interiors jobbed out…acquisitions were not uncommon…Chrysler buying dodge…etc…it was like the wild west of manufacturing…The gasoline engine seemed to inspire the creativity in people…there were cars made in Detroit back then by companies you’ve probably never heard of…I bought a large photo of an
Everitt race car earlier this year which introduced me
to early Detroit manufacturing culture…
The automobile blew that city wide open and Gar Wood was right there….And when it came time to play…he played like he worked in
his same successful fashion…he loved his powerboat racing…and he had
the money to make it happen…On top of all that he was the commodore of the Detroit Yacht Club…home of the Gold Cup
many years…The best summarized biography I’ve found online for Gar Wood is on
coachbuilt.com, link below…a very remarkable site…
THIS PAPERWEIGHT IS IMPORTANT
Getting back to the star of this show…To appreciate the significance of this paperweight, you should understand that quality figural works of pre 1930 inboard powerboats hardly exist...much
less ones of a notable boat...Quality figural works meaning fine art bronze sculpture, and advertising art such as this. Figurals of race
boats can be found on trophies but most would be outboards after 1930…And in the realm of sports display antiques,
speaking subjectively, the figural is a primary category...So acquiring this figure for my collection was an important addition...In thirty five years collecting I have only seen one other example, though not in person...A gentleman in Sydney Australia posted a photo on Facebook of one he
had...He said he got it in New
heck?...go figure...The seller I got mine from said Worthpoint referenced six examples…so if that’s correct basically that makes about eight known…Though mine is the only one I've actually
seen in person...
OTHER EXAMPLE CARLTON HAS SEEN - FOUND ON FACEBOOK
...Or I'll put it this way...Lot's of people buy cars...but very few buy fleets of cars...and in turn....very very few buy fleets of garbage trucks, or buses, or dump trucks...the products Gar Wood made....So....very very few people may have gotten these paperweights...
EXAMPLES KNOWN - V RARE
mentioned, purportedly there are only about eight known
examples of this paperweight... I speculate the reason so few: Wood Industries made and sold industrial
products to manufactures...not
the public...So it may be they only gave them to a limited number of
select clients. Take for instance, a
company that made bearings for machinery...Say they needed twenty hydraulic
presses to make their bearings...They called Wood Industries and
Wood sent a rep to take the order...Once the hydraulic
presses were shipped, maybe they sent along one of these
paperweights as a thank you...Then that companies purchasing
agent put it on their desk...Which is ingenious
since the next time
the purchasing agent needed a hydraulic
press no way would they forget Wood Hydraulics as the name was in
front of them eight hours a day...
I'll put it another way...Lot's of people buy cars...but very
few buy fleets of cars...and in turn....very very few buy fleets of
garbage trucks, or buses, or dump trucks...the products Gar Wood
made...So...very very few people may have gotten them...Its all just
getting back to that purchasing agent...Let's say thirty or forty
years go by...and the agent retires....they clean out
their desk and the company let's them have the paperweight for
what ever reason and they take it home as a memento...or
they abscond with it...Or say the
company goes into foreclosure for what ever reason...The
paperweight and other contents go in a bin with of other office equipment and
get auctioned off...In these scenarios I see children
eventually getting hold of them...and ending up in toy
boxes...That's why I'm very impressed mine still has the lid over
the paperclip well...Bottom line is....until such circumstances like
these were played out the paperweight never saw the light of day as far as the public
was concerned....I would speculate such scenarios could partly explain why they are so
rare. Again its just speculation, but food for thought...
The 1939 book, "Speed Boat Kings, 25 Years of International Speedboating" by J. Lee Barrett, gives much insight into Gar Wood and talks about the Miss America V in Chapter 8, "The French Challenge"...The title pretty much sums up how the 1926 Harmsworth race came about...but it was a huge flop...
HARMSWORTH RACE - WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
boat featured on the paperweight is the Miss America V. It's claim
to fame was winning the 1926 Harmsworth Trophy. Here's the back
story how it went down...Between
1920 and 1933 Gar Wood had won the Harmsworth Trophy nine times, with
ten different versions of Miss America he built…The reason so many was they wore out after a year or two from
stress…then they were stripped for parts…All
ten Miss America's were numbered with Roman numerals. Therefore the
"V" on the version featured on the
paperweight indicates it as the 5th boat of the series. The 1939
book, "Speed Boat Kings, 25 Years of International
Speedboating" by J.
gives much insight into Gar Wood and talks about the Miss America
V in Chapter 8, "The French Challenge"...The
title pretty much sums up how the 1926 Harmsworth race came
about...but it was a
huge flop...Somewhere around 125,000 to 250,000 people came to
watch the regatta on two different days. However... the Frenchman Henri Esdres could not get his
boat "Excelsior-France" started either day...and the crowds went home
without seeing a race...
TIMELINE OF RACE
for the whole story of the 26' race I'll review the time-line...To
begin with...in 1926 the
U.S. had been in possession of the Harmsworth since 1920. Gar Wood
won it then... and again in 1921...Then for the next four years no
one made a challenge...Then in 1925 a Paris department store owner Henri Esdres
called for a race. He had built a boat called the "Excelsior-France".
However it caught fire and never made it to the United States, so
there was no race in 1925. Then the following year 1926 Henri Esdres
again made another challenge with a new boat...Apparently Gar Wood
was miffed over the money he spent getting ready for the 1925 race
that never happened...At first he said he wasn't building a new boat
for the 1926 challenge...but would race the ones he made the year
before...Upon confirming the new "Excelsior-France" had
been shipped and was on it's way, Gar changed his mind and had Miss
America V built in just two weeks...To reiterate, that would be the
boat on the paperweight...
BIG HUGE SNAFU
Monsieur Esdres arrived but on the day of the race Saturday
September 4th he had mechanical problems and the race was postponed
until the following Tuesday September 7th...So then on that Tuesday
his mechanical problems continued when he ran out of compressed air
to start his engine...W. D. Edenburn, chairman of the race
committee, acting as liaison between Wood and challenger
Esdres asked Wood if he could help get some compressed air...which
was against the rules, but Wood waived the rules and sent his team
to help...Long story short they never could get it to start....so
the 250,000 people that came to watch the race left...The following
day...they towed the "Excelsior-France" to start it
without compressed air...they got it going and to the starting line
but the engine stopped mid race and Miss America V....(featured on
the paperweight)...won...Not much of a race but Wood did win fair
IT ALL HERE
thanks to Mr. Leslie Field...
book "Speed Boat Kings, 25 Years of International
Speedboating" states Gar Wood spent $50,000.00 in two years
getting ready for the challenge...That would be his cost for
producing three boats, the Miss America III, Miss America IV, and
Miss America V. That would be about $850,000.00 in today's money
adjusted for inflation...So based on $50,000.00 for three boats...That would
be about $16,660 per boat...or around $280,000.00 per boat today AFI
...So no wonder he was not happy with Monsieur Esdres for not
showing up for the 1925 race...
FEW EPIC BOAT SIGNS CARLTON HAS SEEN OVER THE YEARS
Sold Matthews Auctions $6,250
...This few and far between status for early boat advertising is part
of the reason this paperweight is kind of a big deal...
advertising pieces for Gar Wood boats are practically non-existent.
By important I refer mainly to factory issued signs and displays.
Historically the big four powerboat companies were, Gar Wood, Hacker
Craft, Dodge, and Chris Craft. I
have never seen an advertising sign for Gar Wood boats, or Hacker
Craft save for a small Gar Wood poster I have from a marina at Lake
Hopatcong N.J. I've
only seen a few great Chris-Craft signs surface. I've seen one Dodge
Boats sign which I got outbid on in April 2022. This few and far
between status for early boat advertising is part of the reason this
paperweight is kind of a big deal...
WOOD AND HIS TEDDY BEAR FOLLY
He came back in a moment holding his two teddy bears, Teddy and Bruin, in the fingers of his right hand. "Here's the reason," he said, seriously.
"These, THESE are the captains of my fate-mine and
The Teddy Bears in their early years were a victory charm. Wood played with them like a boy.
But now he talks to them seriously, believes in them. One day, just a few minutes before an important race, Wood was sitting next to Johnson in the cockpit of his Miss America, waiting for the moment to dash out on the course. He picked up his Teddy Bears, held them up, and,
without a smile, said to them, "Can you bring us through this time?"
And they both seemed to nod their heads and say,
"Yes, Boss; yes, we can.".
Chapter 1, Pages 22-23
Speedboat Kings : 25 Years of International Speedboating
by J. Lee Barrett
22, Par. 3
Just before I left Wood's home that night I asked him one more question. We were standing near the door. My hand was already on the latch. "How is it, Mr. Wood," I said, "how is it you're alive today?"
"Don't you know?" he asked. And then, suddenly, he had gone back to where we'd been sitting.
I stood there, waiting and wondering.
He came back in a moment holding his two teddy bears, Teddy and Bruin, in the fingers of his right hand.
"Here's the reason," he said, seriously. "These, THESE are the captains of my fate-mine and Johnson's."
For thirty years Wood has been tying these teddy bears to his engines. A fortune cannot buy them from him. After he won the Harmsworth Trophy in England in 1920, an Englishman offered him Ł1,000 for one of them. Wood refused the offer.
Wood stole these teddy bears thirty years ago-from Mrs. Wood, his wife. She had bought the first one for fifteen cents in St. Paul, Minn., where they lived. When Wood saw it in their home he took it and put it in his first
raceboat, Little Leading Lady. He won every race with that boat.
Mrs. Wood bought another. Wood stole that one, too.
When he built his Miss Detroit II, Mrs. Wood saw her lost teddy bears for the first time. She made each of them a cork life-saving jacket, a bathing cap, rubber-soled shoes. She even stuffed their ears with
23, Par. 1
batting to keep out the thunder of the engines. She gave them to Wood and asked him to put them into his new boat, for luck.
Wood smiled and tied them to his engines.
But Mrs. Wood fondles them as her own, as indeed they are. She dries them out when they're pitched overboard, dresses them up again. Wood will never go out on the river in his fast boats without them. The only time he ever lost a race was when his son, Gar, Jr., gave one of them to his opponent. Nearly every time he went out without them, something happened. Once it was a broken gear box, another time a split cylinder. Six thousand dollars . . . $10,000 . . . $25,000, a fortune cannot buy them from him. They have become a devotion to him. Every race thickens the halo about their fuzzy little heads.
It wasn't thus when boat racing was fun and a catapult meant nothing more than a good solid drenching. But when Wood stepped his boats up to 8o . . . 100 . . . 125 miles an hour, he began to get serious about these Teddy Bears. Boat racing began to look like suicide and mere sportsmen began to fear these fast boats.
The Teddy Bears in their early years were a victory charm. Wood played with them like a boy. But now he talks to them seriously, believes in them. One day, just a few minutes before an important race, Wood was sitting next to Johnson in the cockpit of his Miss America, waiting for the moment to dash out on the course. He picked up his Teddy Bears, held them up, and, without a smile, said to them, "Can you bring us through this time?"
And they both seemed to nod their heads and say, "Yes, Boss; yes, we can."
I'm continually surprised at Wood's wealth of technical knowledge, his humor, his possessing manner. And yet, when he steps into the cockpit of his fastest boats he seems quixotic to the point of madness. It's something in his blood and in the blood of his men.
Wood told me the most dramatic story of the sea I'd ever heard. It's the story of his Harmsworth races from 1928 to 1933, when the battle for the Trophy became not the battle of two individuals but the battle of nations.
The story will be told in its proper place.
TABLES UP - FINAL APPROACH
Wrapping this up I’ll mention….over the years…when reading about Gar Wood I was always very disappointed in a ritual he had…He always
brought two little teddy bears with him on
his boats when he raced…He said as much they brought him
and he was quite serious, see
the italicized,…Stupid little bears I thought…he’s playing with his life out there and he’s putting his trust in two fetishes/charms…God hates charms/fetishes…it’s a serious deal with Him
in the bible…He doesn’t like it…He wants you trusting in him…Cute little
story for the papers to print…but I didn’t care for it all…So then I’m reading his bio on coachbuilt.com and I read where ¾ thru his life he got struck by lighting and lived on April 29th 1944…two others with him were also hurt…Then ten years later on May 14th 1954 his
so-called "unsinkable" boat Venturi sank in rough waters off the Bahamas…Then he died seventeen years later…Kind of remarkable near death experiences for someone that regularly took his life in his
racing powerboats…Those were
probably messages from God…I hope he accepted Jesus before he died
and repented of that…