The First Pontoon Boat?

Historical record of a brothers' project in Minnesota in 1939.

The Ahlcrona Brothers in the Minneapolis Star, 1939
courtesy Denny Trooien

In our June issue, I wrote a feature entitled "Totally Tubular," which lays out eight traits of the modern pontoon boat. In it, I mentioned that a farmer from Minnesota named Ambrose Weeres is largely credited with creating the first pontoon in 1952. In response to that, an alert reader named Denny Trooien sent in the attached newspaper clipping from the July 1, 1939 edition of the The Minneapolis Star. Trooien wrote, "Actually, my father-in-law Ed Ahlcrona, and his brothers, came up with the idea in 1939."

The article, if you can't read it, bares the headline "Lads Launch New Boat at Harriet." In the text, the article notes, "A new and ultra modern boat, floated on pontoons and with a motor under an automotive type hood, today appeared on Lake Harriet after its launching by the four lads who built it." Edgar was the oldest of the four brothers, whose ages ranged from 16 to 13. They had an expert weld the pontoons together from oil drums.

While Weeres and others like the Harris brothers and Godfrey definitely popularized the pontoon concept, it seems like DIY boaters, like these kids, were ahead of the pontoon curve.

As Trooien said of his father-in-law and his brothers, "If they did not go off to WWII who knows what they might have done with that idea."