First-Ever Chesapeake Antique Marine Engine Meet A Definite Success

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Thanks to GEM subscriber Dick Day, a collector and exhibitor of stationary, steam, and marine engines, my husband Kelly and I were fortunate enough to be among the invitees to the first-ever Chesapeake Antique Marine Engine Meet.

I'll admit right up front that this probably won't be much of a show report. Mind you, that's not because it wasn't much of a show--just the opposite, in fact. When you get caught up in all there is to see and do at these things, it's hard to remember that you're supposed to be taking serious notes and not just enjoying it all.


1908 Waterman Marine Motor Co. model K canoe engine, serial #11404, owned by Charles Taylor of Washington, D.C.

Forty-five exhibitors were registered for the show, held April 21 and 22 at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Exhibitors had been invited to display their pre-1975 inboard and outboard engines and antique marine steam, diesel and model engines.

And display they did! The museum's parking lot was transformed into a show area where spectators could see the evolution of marine power, from the 'working' engines of the early 20th century through the lighter outboard engines which both resulted in and resulted from the explosion of the recreational boating hobby following World War II.

Dick Day, who lives nearby and is a member of the board of directors of the Calvert Marine Museum, is particularly knowledgeable about Palmer Bros, marine engines, and had a number of examples to show off, some at his display space in the show area and some inside as part of the museum's permanent exhibits. Among them were the first Palmer Bros, engine built (1? HP, built 1893-1895 in Mianus, Connecticut), and the following Palmer Bros, models manufactured in Cos Cob, Connecticut: 1910 1? HP Model B, 1916 2 HP Model Q-1, 1923 12 HP model NR-2, c. 1946 7 HP model ZR-1, along with an 8 HP Palmer Engine Co. model PW-27 manufactured in 1968.

These engines, a 5 HP Arrow model K-2 on the left and a21/2 HP Motorgo, are owned by Judy and Bill VanOrden of Enfield, Connecticut. If you think the Arrow looks kind of like the Waterman shown two pages back, you're right--Arrow took over the Waterman Motor Company about 1917, and continued their designs. The Motorgo was made by Lockwood-Ashe and sold by Sears Roebuck.

The Days made the show a family affair, as Dick's wife, Barbara, brought along her 1? HP Belle Isle Motor Co. model NA, manufactured sometime between 1908 and 1912 in Detroit, Michigan. Son Rick and grandson Richard A. Day IV showed a 1947 2 HP Palmer Bros.YT-1.

Ernie Darrow, president of the Cranberry Flywheelers Antique Machinery Club, had traveled from Taunton, Massachusetts, with his late 1940s 4 HP Stuart P5M, made in England, and his c. 1905 Fairfield Motor Co. 'Bullpup,' made in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

It's always nice to meet GEM readers out in the field, and when I spotted the next display of engines, with exhibitors sporting John Deere hatbands and license plates, I thought, 'These have got to be some of our people!' Sure enough, it was Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Williams, of Gloucester, Virginia, who collect a little bit of everything engine-related. Calvin's got five John Deere tractors and one Ford, along with 20 hit and miss engines, and a Pattin Bros, oil field engine. For the Calvert show, the Williamses had brought a 1946 Palmer ZR-1, 7 HP, serial number 3324046, which was purchased from the original owner, and their 'big catch'--a Lathrop 6 HP Type 6, serial number 24649, built in approximately 1915 in Mystic, Connecticut. This one was hauled up from the watery depths of the James River, and all it needed was some clean up and new paint to put it in show condition. They also displayed a 5 HP Marstall made in Denmark, and an 8 HP Palmer Bros. PW-27. Calvin, who operates a cabinet shop as his day job, has been restoring old iron for 15 years. 'I like preserving history,' he says, and he also likes seeing something go from rust to like-new.

Another GEM friend on hand was Sonny Reinking, along with his wife Suzette (and their friendly little dog-- I'm a soft touch for a fuzzy puppy!). They were showing their Palmer Bros. YT-1, a single-cylinder 2 HP engine made in 1946. They also had their 'mystery guest' on display: a L'Aster B5G, single cylinder. They don't know much about this one, and would welcome any input. If anyone has info to share on the L'Aster line, write to Sonny at 8153 Solley Rd., Pasadena, MD 21122, or e-mail him at

One of the busiest spots on the show grounds was the display of the Old Bay Chapter of the Antique Outboard Motor Club (AOMC). This very active club has 90 members, several of whom were on hand with their motors and were busy fielding questions from spectators. I didn't have to hang around here very long to hear a lot of 'Oh, when I was a kid we had one just like that!' The Chesapeake is an enormous recreational boating mecca, and this show gave the pleasure boater opportunity to wax nostalgic over the 'newer' motors from the 1940s to 1970s, and to then learn about older makes like the Palmer and Gray that were on display right alongside.

In addition to the engines, a number of classic boats were also displayed (mostly on trailers), including several manufactured by the Whirlwind Boat Company. During the two-day event, a taped interview with former Whirlwind company co-owners Charlie Abramo and Ed Hewitt was played continuously in the museum lobby. These gentleman gave an interesting perspective on the phenomenal growth of the boating hobby and their part in it.

Mr. Hewitt and his wife Lucy were among the guests at a luncheon on Saturday, at which show organizers recognized the contributions made to the sport of outboard motoring by engine and boat builders. On hand were a number of men who were part of the community of boat racers throughout the 1950s. Ed Alexander, three-time Hall of Fame racer, reflected on his contemporaries, noting that, 'Competitors in those days would help you, not hurt you. It was a real community.' George Loeb, who raced from 1951 to 1970, echoed his comments, saying, 'Fun was the name of the game.'

On Saturday, in the museum's auditorium, the Old Bay chapter sponsored a workshop on old outboard engines; on Sunday, Dick Day gave a talk on 'The Legendary Palmer Engine,' illustrated with fascinating photos, not just of engines, but of their production as well.

The museum's boat basin was home port for the weekend to two wooden launches: Reciproca, powered by a two cylinder 2 HP Blackstaffe steeple compound steam engine built from a casting kit in 1989 by my husband, Kelly, and Medora, powered by a Ferro engine, owned by William Coolidge of Bethesda, Maryland.

All of this activity was going on over the backdrop of the Calvert Marine Museum. I'm a veteran museum hound, and as such have seen my share of good ones and also my share of bad ones. I'd definitely put this one in the 'good' column. They have excellent displays throughout on a broad range of maritime topics: fossils, what they are and how they're uncovered; ancient creatures of the sea (including a HUGE shark skeleton); aquarium exhibits of the plant, animal, and aquatic life that thrives in an estuary (where fresh and salt water mingle); and a live otter exhibit (okay, so before I knew about that one I thought I'd seen some kind of wharf rat when we checked the boat the night before the show started).

As a student of history, I found the museum's extensive exhibits on the relationships between the water and the people who settled the area to be most interesting. Through artifacts, videos, maps and dioramas, I learned about early life in Calvert County, and about how the British found themselves up the Patuxent River and decided to burn Washington while they were in the neighborhood during the War of 1812. I also found out about Solomons Island's part in the oystering and fishing industries, and how American forces received special training here to prepare for storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Upstairs in the mezzanine gallery, a special exhibit, 'Outboard Motoring in America: The First Fifty Years,' was newly opened. Featuring nearly 70 motors, as well as advertising, signage, and literature, this exhibit gave an exhaustive overview of the development of the outboard motor and its impact on the American boating and fishing industries. Ken Kaumeyer, the museum's curator of estuarine biology, worked with Jimmy Langley, curator of exhibits, to develop the exhibit's concept and content, then with the museum's staff of nearly 30 people to gather the items needed to tell the full story. The exhibit will run through the summer of 2003.

In other buildings, you can see small craft common to the area, as well as a woodcarving shop where you can view work in progress by maritime artisans. You can also take a one-hour cruise aboard the William B. Tennison, a chunk-built bugeye sailing vessel built in 1899, converted in 1906-1907 to a powered oyster buyboat, purchasing oysters from work boats at the oyster beds and taking them to oyster-packing houses.

A tour of the 1883 Drum Point Lighthouse, moved to the museum in 1975, is a real exercise in imagination, as you put yourself in the place of the lightkeeper and his family at the turn of the century. How did they get supplies? How did they entertain themselves? You need to be a little nimble to get up the stairs and through the trapdoor, but it's worth the effort.

The J.C. Lore Oyster House, located about a half-mile off-site, is a former oyster-packing house with exhibits on the commercial fisheries and boatbuilding of southern Maryland. It's open for visitors May through September.

If you like museums at all, make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to see everything in this one; it sure packs a lot of good stuff into an easy-to-get-around area.

If you like good food (and really, who likes bad food?), I can recommend the Captain's Table, which is practically in the museum's back yard. Told it was a place where a lot of locals eat, we liked it so much we ate every meal there.

Show organizers, particularly Richard Dodds, the museum's curator of maritime history, really did their homework in setting up this event; everything appeared to go smoothly, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. So much so that they've decided to go ahead and make the show an annual event. Next year's Chesapeake Antique Marine Engine Meet will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, 2002; the date was moved up to coincide with other museum and island events which bring visitors to the area.

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of this show comes from my husband (ladies, you may recognize this response, and gents, you may see yourselves in this one as well). Sometimes I drag him to things he doesn't necessarily want to go to, but this time, halfway through our Calvert County weekend and completely out of the blue, he said, 'I'm really glad you made me come to this. I'm having a better time than I ever imagined I was going to.' Now that's saying a mouthful.

For more information about the show, write the Calvert Marine Museum, P.O. Box 97, Solomons, MD 20688, or call 410-326-2042, or visit the museum's well-done Website at