Emmons Boat Company
REMEMBERING EMMONS-BUILT SNIPES
By John Rose, Classic Snipe Editor
|It is likely that many current Snipe sailors are unaware of the builders of many successful Snipes back in the 1930s through the 1950s, in the “heyday” of wooden Snipes. Early Snipe builders such as Dunphy (Wisconsin) and Skaneateles (New York) produced many winning Snipes in the early days, supplemented by smaller local builders. One of the premier builders of wooden Snipes in the USA at that time was Nearing Emmons (1883-1967), who with the help of his son Corey (1913-1998), built many of the Snipes that made up Snipe fleets in the eastern and Midwestern USA.
Nearing Emmons was a personal friend of Snipe designer Bill Crosby. The Emmons family had been in the boat-building business since 1897, and Nearing started to build boats in 1903 at age 20. When the Snipe was designed in 1931, he and son Corey (age 18) began production of Snipes, which continued until the early 1960s. In 1958, they estimated that more than 300 Emmons Snipes had been built.
Snipe #2170 (measured in 1937) is the first Emmons-built Snipe listed in SCIRA’s database of measured Snipes, although many others undoubtedly preceded that as the records in early years are incomplete. Emmons Snipe #4556 “Ducky” (built 1941) won the 1948 US Snipe Nationals at Corpus Christi, Texas; it was sailed for many years by Billy Wicker of Texas and Missouri before being sold to other owners in the midwest. It was the only Emmons-built Snipe that won the Nationals. The last Emmons-built Snipe is believed to be #12777, owned by Nate Whiteside of Michigan and Florida. [ Photos of this Snipe are shown in the Historical Photos section of Classic Snipes on the SCIRA USA web site http://www.snipeus.org]
The Emmons boat shop was located near Central Square and Brewerton, New York at the west end of Oneida Lake, north of Syracuse. The boats were built in a barn and other outbuildings on a rural farm owned by Emmons. Nearing Emmons also served as a justice of the peace in a nearby town.
Because of the proximity of the Emmons boatbuilding business to many lakes in the Finger Lakes region of New York, their Snipes became the core of many of the fleets in that area. Over the years, there have been at least 39 Snipe fleets in New York State, and almost all of those had many Emmons Snipes in their roster. Because of the racing successes of Emmons Snipes in that area, their popularity spread to other Snipe fleets in the east and Midwest. Many Emmons Snipes wound up in Snipe fleets in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as other states. The peak years for Emmons were after WW II, through the mid-1950s.
When fiberglass Snipes were introduced in the mid-1950s, Emmons turned to building wooden Lightning-class sailboats, which were built in the mid-1950s. In the late 1950s, Emmons returned again to building wooden Snipes, and offered pre-cut frame kits, semi-finished hulls and wooden masts and booms and other parts, eventually even frame kits for plywood Snipes. However, only a relatively few Snipes were built by Emmons in the years after 1954, and about 1960, the Emmons Snipe-building business came to an end.
Information compiled from newspaper articles in Syracuse Herald American (August 17, 1958) and Syracuse Herald Journal (March 27, 1967), with thanks to William Oben, President of Finger Lakes Boating Museum (Penn Yan, New York); and from Nate Whiteside family records and photos.
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