Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Gar Wood Industries, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Gar Wood Industries, Inc.

List of Deals

Gar Wood Industries was incorporated in Michigan in January 1922 as Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Company. The company was founded by Garfield A. Wood, better known as Gar Wood, a larger-than-life figure in the 1920s and 1930s who achieved fame through speedboat racing.

Garfield Wood made a fortune by inventing the first hydraulic hoist for dump trucks before the 1920s. He founded the Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Company to manufacture and distribute his invention. He then expanded the business to include truck equipment, bodies for trucks and trailers, cranes, pole derricks, road machinery, oil burners, water heaters, and fender guards. In December 1933 the company name was changed to Gar Wood Industries.

During the first two decades of the twentieth century, while pursuing fame as a sportsman and building Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Company, Garfield was also building yachts. In 1916 he acquired a controlling interest in the shipyard owned by Christopher Columbus Smith, and together they built expensive motorboats. Smith and Wood separated in 1923, with Smith starting his own company, Chris-Craft. Wood, operating under the name of Gar Wood Incorporated, continued to build expensive, stylish speedboats (also advertised as "gentleman's runabouts") for wealthy individuals such as William Randolph Hearst and P.K. Wrigley.

Gar Wood Industries prospered despite the Depression and years of economic recession in the 1930s. In 1934 net income was $48,668. In 1935 income grew to $684,306 and then to $911,515 in 1936. Sales also grew during these years, doubling from $4.7 million in 1934 to $9.4 million in 1936.

In 1937 Gar Wood Industries purchased the assets of Gar Wood Incorporated, the maker of motorboats, and operated it as a division. In 1939 the company sold its motor coach business to General American Transportation Corporation.

During World War II, Gar Wood sales and profits soared from wartime spending. Sales in 1942 and 1943 hit new records of $22.9 and $37.9, respectively. In 1944 the company employed 3,500, up from 1,600 a decade earlier. Sales in 1944 were $44.4 million and net income was $1 million.

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