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Tenacity and Brilliance: Kiekhaefer Mercury 1936-1965

June 27, 2017 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Multimedia presentation and tour of the Stevenson Outboard Collection.

Carl Kiekhaefer, founder of Mercury

There is no more intriguing story in American corporate history than that of Elmer Carl Kiekhaefer and the creation and growth of Kiekhaefer Mercury Marine.  It is the story of a poor Wisconsin farm boy, who loved all things mechanical and fought with his father to leave the farm and study electrical engineering.  His father told him that if he left he could never come back again, so Carl left for good.  He got his technical education and talked local investors into buying a bankrupt factory that made Thor outboards for Montgomery Ward, rebranded as Sea Kings, and planned to make magnetic milk separators there.

On a cold Wisconsin winter night, while his wife was in the hospital having their first child, Carl managed to obtain the keys to the factory for his first look at it.  He found hundreds of Thor/Sea Kings on the floor, returned from Montgomery Ward with a note that said, basically, “These don’t run.  We want our money back.”  Carl didn’t have any money to give them, so he worked all night to get one of them repaired as an example of what he could do with them, and drove immediately to Chicago to meet the

1940 Mercury outboard

Montgomery Ward buyer.  The buyer said he would take the repaired outboards back if Carl would build him a “good” outboard motor to sell.  Carl, who had no previous experience with producing outboards, other than a brief stint as a draftsman for Evinrude from which he was fired for insubordination, said yes and Mercury Kiekhaefer Outboard Motor Company was born.

After the talk Larry Stevenson will conduct a tour of the newly opened Stevenson Outboard Collection, focusing on the outboard motors discussed in the presentation.

Admission is free, a suggested donation of $5 is appreciated.

This talk is presented by outboard motor collector and historian Larry Stevenson.  Larry is a Navy and Coast Guard Auxiliary veteran and a retired UPS International Industrial Engineering Manager in the international operation with a passion for industrial design, art, history, and sailing.


June 27, 2017
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm