Stephen B. Luce Library

Flying Finn, Inc. Records, 1954-1960 Edit

Summary

Identifier
SC 0004
Finding Aid Date
November 15, 2016
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of Description
English
Edition Statement
The original finding aid for this collection was created by Katherine Hessler (date unknown) and had been published in draft form. In fall 2016 the finding aid was completed and entered into Archives Space by Margaret Hammitt-McDonald.

Dates

  • 1954-1960 (Creation)

Extents

  • 2.5 Linear Feet (Whole)
    One half-sized document box and one oversized flat box

Agent Links

Subjects

Notes

  • Physical Location

    Stephen B. Luce Library, SUNY Maritime College 6 Pennyfield Avenue Bronx, NY 10465 Telephone: (718) 409-7231 library@sunymaritime.edu

  • Abstract

    This collection documents the business activities of Flying Finn, Inc., which produced wooden pleasure boats in the 1950s and early '60s. Contents include company correspondence, advertising proofs and photographs of product lines, blueprints and drawings of boat models, and a history of the company.

  • Historical Note

    In the early 1950s, Robert J. George and William (Bill) Kaino (who was involved with the import/export business) began importing wooden pleasure boats from Finland. They assumed these boats would be attractive to buyers in the United States because of the long history of boat-building in Finland, reputedly dating back to the Viking era. Finnish boat construction was also renowned because the builders used Finnish pine, which was harder than North American pine, making it ideal for constructing boats.

    When the first handcrafted boat arrived, the partners were pleased by its craftmanship but realized it was not styled according to American tastes at the time. They then decided to start their own company, Finnish Yachts and Boats, Inc., and planned on contracting with Finnish boatbuilders to build boats according to their specifications. They retained an American naval architect, Charles W. Wittholz, to design their first line, four boats (Seafin 18, Bayfin 17, Gulfin 15, and Elfin 14). Hardware and accessories were to be manufactured and assembled in the United States prior to the boats' being shipped to dealers.

    Before the partners brought their boats to market in 1956, they changed the name of the company to Flying Finn, Inc., thereby honoring Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish gold-medal-winning long-distance runner who was a cultural hero. The name attracted the attention of Finnish boatbuilders, and soon production was underway.

    The company soon became popular and after receiving numerous requests for a larger hull design, the partners asked Charles Wittholz to design the Seafin 21 for their 1957 line. The new, larger boat was a success, and it was used in the 1958 U.S. Atlanta Tuna Tournaments and was featured in the February 1959 issue of Field and Stream.

    The company continued to grow and in 1959, the partners decided to enter the nascent fiberglass pleasure-boat industry, once again contracting with Charles Wittholz to design the Baybelle 16, a fiberglass boat that would appear in their 1959 line.

    The new fiberglass boat was not a success, although the partners and other boat manufacturers recognized that this was the material of the future. The company was unable to recover its losses on the fiberglass boat, and by 1962, wooden-boat sales had begun to decline as well. The partners thus decided to dissolve the company while it was still solvent.

    Flying Finn, Inc. may have enjoyed a brief existence, but the company was influential, not only because it was part of a larger 1950s trend toward pleasure craft and other expensive leisure items that were emblems of postwar posterity. The company's goal was to produce more seaworthy leisure craft. Charles Wittholz introduced a unique "VU" design (named for its sharp "V"-shaped bow, designed to separate the waves more hydrodynamically, and a "U" transom for greater planing speed) so the boats would demonstrate superior handling in rough waters, like the East Coast. Boat dealers remarked on the "superior ride" and the way they stayed dry when testing the boats--a distinction the company took advantage of in its advertising.

  • Contents of Collection

    The collection includes business correspondence, advertising proofs and photographs of the company's product line (wooden and later fiberglass skiffs); blueprints and drawings for three boats (the Bayfin 17, the Seafin 21, and the Baybelle 16) by naval architect Charles Wittholz; and a history of the corporation.

  • Arrangement of Materials

    The collection is arranged in three series: Blueprints and Plans for Boats (1954-1960), Company Correspondence (1959-60), and Advertising, Publicity, and History (1955-1960).

  • Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The collection was donated to the college by Mr. George's son, Robert George, Jr. on October 25, 2013.

  • Custodial History

  • Conditions Governing Access

    Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail library@sunymaritime.edu for more information or to schedule an appointment.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

  • Preferred Citation

    Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Flying Finn, Inc. Records, 1954-1960. Box Number. SUNY Maritime College.

  • Language of Materials

    Materials are entirely in English.

  • Processing Information

    The collection was initially processed by Katherine Hessler, who retained the order in which the materials were received. Some preservation measures were taken: photographs were sleeved, materials were foldered, and the blueprints and plans were rehoused in an oversized flat box. Margaret Hammitt-McDonald performed further processing in 2016: devising series, refining file names, and entering the collection into ArchivesSpace in compliance with DACS standards.

Components