OMC's roots go back to inventor

By Joe Manning
of the Journal Sentinel staff

July 10, 1997

Outboard Marine Corp. has its origins in Milwaukee in the Spartan machine shop of Norwegian immigrant Ole Evinrude, a man who claimed he was no businessman but went on to make one of the most successful and universally recognized products in the world.

On a hot summer day in 1906, Ole took his future wife, Bess Cary, on a rowboat ride on Okauchee Lake in Waukesha County. When Bess wanted ice cream, Ole rowed back from an island to make the purchase.

According to "Evinrude-Johnson and The Legend of OMC," a book on the company's history, Evinrude, who had a small business making horseless carriages, came up with the idea of making a small boat engine after tiring of rowing in the heat.

Bess, more enthusiastic about the motor than Ole, saw the potential. She became the driving force behind the company and developed its slogan: "Don't Row. Throw the oars away. Use an Evinrude motor."

In 1910, Evinrude Motor Co. of Milwaukee sold 1,000 boat engines.

Briggs & Stratton Corp. purchased Evinrude Motor Co. in 1928, and in 1929, Outboard Motors Corp. was formed through the merger of Lockwood Motor Co. of Jackson, Mich., Elto Outboard Motor Co. of Milwaukee, and Evinrude Motor.

Ole died in Milwaukee in 1934. The company combined with Johnson Motors in 1936, and set up headquarters in Waukegan, Ill.

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