The Beetle Family
Creators of the 'Beetle Cat' Catboat
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The Beetle Cat was named after the Beetle family who originally designed and built the boat. They lived for generations at Clarks Point, New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Beetles were widely known for their well designed and constructied Beetle whaleboats. These big double-ended boatss were the craft from which harpooners and their crews pursued the great whales for their oil. They were built with mass production techniques developed by the Beetles that allowed them to build the boats quickly while maintaining high standards of workmanship.
In 1920 the John Beetle designed a small gaff cat rigged sailboat for his children, this was the first Beetle Cat. Its design was based on the twenty to thirty foot catboats used for shallow water fishing along Cape Cod. Outsiders, impressed with the Beetle Cat's performance in New England coastal waters and rivers, were quick to express interest. With this interest in the Beetle Cat and the demise of the whaling industry, the Beetles shifted production to the Beetle Cat. Using some of their manufacturing techniques they had used in building their whaleboats, they were able to make the Beetle Cat fairly inexpensive. This allowed the average working person to own one.
John H. Beetle, son of the founder, James Beetle, headed the business when the production of the Beetle Cat was getting underway. When he died in 1928, his daughter Ruth Beetle took over the management. In 1932, the New Bedford Standard Times describes Miss Beetle as the only woman shipwright in the United States.
During World War II, all production of the Beetle Cat ended. After the war Ruths brother Carl, produced more Beetle Cats, but became more interested in plastics for boatbuilding. Carl sold the rights to the Beetle Cats to the Concordia Company in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Concordia received more orders than they anticipated, and turned to New Bedford boatbuilder Palmer Scott for help. Leo Telesmanick was put in charge of building the Beetles. In 1960, Palmer retired and his entire Beetle crew including Leo was transferred to Concordia. Concordia set up a separate Beetle Cat operation. Leo made a number of changes in methods to improve productivity and insure uniformity of the hulls as well as changing from galvanized to bronze fastenings. Many of the patterns and the basic jig that the boat is built on were developed by Leo and are still used today.
In 1969, the Concordia Company was sold with its Beetle Cat division to William Pinney Jr. who managed it until he sold it to Robert A. (Brodie) MacGregor in 1981. In 1993 The Beetle Cat division was sold to Charlie York, and he now operates it as Beetle, Inc. Given this history Beetle Cat's probably hold the record for being the one design in the longest continuous production. Loyalty is also very high with many boats having been in the same family for as much as three or four generations.
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