Since 1908, each Hacker-Craft has been hand-built in America, one at a time, by consecutive generations of the world’s finest boat building craftsmen. The legacy is that of John L. Hacker (1877-1961), the preeminent naval architect of mahogany pleasure crafts of the last century, whose designs included some of the greatest mahogany boats ever built: Pardon Me, Thunderbird, El Lagarto, Bootlegger, Peerless, Dolphin, Kitty Hawk, Belle Isle Bear Cats, My Sweetie, and several others. In the 1930’s, our celebrated boats were named “The Steinway of Runabouts,” and since have exhilarated people around the world; from captains, to Gold Cup racers and celebrities.
At age 14, John L. Hacker builds his first boat - a rowboat. He soon enrolls in correspondence courses and attends night school to learn naval architecture-the art and science of boat design.
Meets Henry Ford as each patronizes the same machine shops in Detroit. Thus begins a life-long professional relationship that lasts until Ford’s death in 1947.
Builds the Kitty Hawk II—billed as “...the fastest boat in the world for power” - the first 50-mph boat in the United States. In mid August 1912, at the Chicago Regatta, Kitty Hawk II catches fire and sinks offshore.
Designs and builds a V-bottom 32 foot runabout for use on Lake George, New York. He moves the engine to a mid-ship location and installs a cockpit containing the controls forward of it. This design change begins what will become the classic runabout type.
Builds six runabouts for E. W. Gregory of Belle Isle Boat and Engine Company. These are the earliest models of his famous Belle Isle Bear Cats runabouts. Hacker’s reputation grows as he becomes the most influential runabout designer-builder in America.
The famous Hacker-Craft trademark logo. Designed by Hacker in 1916, the logo is applied by hand over a sized pattern with extremely thin 23 carat gold leaf sheets, tapped onto the boat’s mahogany planking then burled and outlined in paint. This process, known as Gold Gilding, is still used on today’s Hacker-Crafts.
Builds the Lockpat II for former race car driver Dick Locke. This boat is a complete departure from the usual Hacker design — a spectacular 40 foot torpedo shaped runabout.
El Lagarto, designed and built by Hacker in 1922, wins its first of three consecutive Gold Cup World Championships defeating Horace Dodge Jr.’s Delphine IV, on the Detroit River, the strong favorite and defending Gold Cup champion. The next two Gold Cup championships are held on Lake George, New York, as El Lagarto wins the 1934 and 1935 Gold Cup and is the undisputed “fastest boat in the world”. Today, El Lagarto is a featured attraction in the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York.
During World War II, Hacker contributed to the war effort by redesigning Army Air Force rescue boats. Although the company’s production facilities were limited and precluded mass production of wartime boats, the company did build 45-foot picket boats. The boats had twin engines, and both propellers were right-handed screws instead of being opposed. This was intentional as it let the engines be replaced or interchanged quickly without regard to the way the propellers turned. In 1944, the Hacker Boat Company won an “Army-Navy E” award for the excellence of its war production.