Time Travel: MFG Boats
MFG Boat Company pioneered the FRP hull for pleasure boats. The first three models brought to market were named after local cities: the Union, the Cambridge and the Erie.
A chapter in MFG’s pioneering history that brings back fond memories of fun, celebrities and simple outdoor pleasures, is the era of MFG Boats.
That story began in 1955, when MFG acquired a facility in Union City, PA to produce the first commercial fiberglass pleasure boats. Three 15-foot models featuring the same fiberglass reinforced plastic hull were brought to market — the Union, the Cambridge and the Erie. The Union was the basic model with steering from the transom, and retailed for $295. The Cambridge had a split console amidships with cable steering, and retailed for $495. The Erie was the high-end model and sold for $695!
In the late 60’s, MFG began producing fiberglass boats for Sears under the brand name of baseball legend Ted Williams. More than 200,000 of the Gamefisher model were produced between 1968-1979.
In June 1973, Ted Williams paid a visit to Union City to present an award honoring the teammates for production of the 100,000th Gamefisher.
“Ted was a very interesting man”, recalls Richard Morrison, who was responsible for MFG Boat Company at the time. “We hosted him at the Aviation Club in Erie, where Ted gave a batting lesson witnessed by the guests and staff. That was quite the moment! I was fortunate to spend the entire day with
him. He really liked Presque Isle Bay in Erie, and spoke of his passion for all types of fishing. We walked around my home in Erie, and he could name every plant in Latin! That night we attended the horse races, where he graciously signed autographs and chatted with fans.”
In addition to power boats, the company expanded into sail boats for Sail MFG, including catamarans, beach and cabin boats — the largest being the 18-foot long Phoenix. MFG Boats celebrated its 20th year of producing and selling in 1975. At that time the most popular model was a 15-ft bowrider named the Gypsy 15.
In 1980, MFG discontinued their proprietary line of boats to focus on custom-molded products, renaming the entity MFG Union City. While MFG no longer produces boats, the use of fiberglass remains the mainstream material for boat building throughout the world.
1974 Gypsy model, in original condition. A quick search on the internet will show that many of these boats are still in circulation, and the iconic ads are considered collectibles.