This is the second installment of a three-part series on the history of the boat. For more information on our commercial and industrial basket strainers, please click the link. Read Part I and Part 3.
“Yesterday week my iron boat was launched. It answers all my expectations, and has convinced the unbelievers who were 999 in a thousand.”
The above quotation is from a letter industrialist John Wilkinson wrote dated July 14, 1787, as dictated in English and American Tool Builders by Joseph Wickham Roe. This passage shows that while many were not open to the idea of switching boat materials from wood to iron, skeptics were later convinced of its value—apparently heavy metal objects can float in water.
This invention opened a floodgate to new materials and even how they were powered—eventually human and wind power was replaced by engine-powered propellers, which became the norm. But in the in the mid-20th century, however, Ohio-native Ray Greene was working on something revolutionary: a boat made with plastics. We’re hoping the reaction of his colleagues didn’t match the lukewarm welcome Wilkinson had received 200 years prior, but luckily, it seemed to be well received.
In “The Birth of Fiberglass Boats” on GoodOldBoat.com, writer Steve Mitchell discusses how glass fibers dates back to the ancient Phoenician and Egyptian times—although in those days, they were used for decorations opposed to sea travel.
Greene, according to the article, had studied plastics in college, and he was working with Owens-Corning on fiberglass composites, but he hadn’t found the perfect plastic to use in boats. Eventually, outside engineers and firms had created the polyester resin, and in 1942, that was the material Greene used to produce a small daysailer—and other imitations cropped up as well.
For Fluidtrol along with numerous other companies and industries, this was and is a huge step. Fiberglass is the predominant material for individual boats, which matters to our business. But what makes this a popular choice? Stay tuned to the next blog to find out.