The Mathews Legend
Imagine, if you will, a boat with a hull so perfectly designed that regardless of changes in superstructure or interior design, it remained the same for over 40 years. Imagine a boat that was the brain child of one man; that was produced by a small family-run company in a small town in Ohio and nevertheless was in demand by millionaire yachtsmen all over the world. Imagine a boat that is still sought after and fought over almost 20 years after the company that built it has ceased operation. Imagine all of those things and you will have begun to imagine a Matthews.
Matthews. Shout the name in a group of boaters who were raised in the fiberglass era and you will draw murmurs of "What?" Murmur the name in a small group of old salts around a yacht club bar and you will be greeted with shouts of "Where?" Matthews is the boat no one knows, but which few can ever forget. The seeds of the Matthews Boat Co. were planted in the 1880s, when Scott J. Matthews built his first boat in the basement of his home in Bascomb, Ohio. By 1900 he was building boats for the Lozier Co. Although the boats were powered by Lozier engines and marketed under their name, they were designed by Matthews. In 1904, Standard, a Matthews-built Lozier boat, won the Gold Cup Race. Two years later, a group of businessmen from Port Clinton. Ohio, enticed Matthews to leave Bascomb and relocate in Port Clinton. The plant built that year produced his boats until it closed 70 years later. It was an impressive three-quarters of a century. In 1912, Matthews built the 35-foot Detroit in conjunction with W.A. Scripps of the Scripps Motor Co. Equipped with a Scripps gasoline engine. The Detroit became the first gasoline-powered pleasure craft to cross the Atlantic under its own power. That same year, circus impresario Charles E. Ringling visited the Port Clinton plant to inspect a 50-foot cruiser being built for him. The boat later would be shipped by rail to Ringling's home in Sarasota, Florida. As his company began to grow, Scott Matthews became more and more dissatisfied with the boom and bust cycle that was the accepted norm in the boat building industry. Matthews reasoned that he could attract and hold better craftsmen if he promised year- round employment. In 1924, he designed a stock cruiser, the Matthews 38. The company then began a regular cycle of production, and the foundation for the famous hull design was laid. With minor modifications, the design was never changed.
The design that became the prototype for all future Matthews hulls features an almost vertical bow with a very fine entry and little flare. Underwater, the hull flattens out aft, while above the waterline it curves inward and upward in a graceful tumble-home ending at a double-planked mahogany transom. The result is a hull that is both fuel-efficient and aesthetically delightful. Best of all, it rides easily in troublesome seas. The original 38 was a single-cabin Sedan model with a long trunk in the foredeck. As the hull was lengthened and flattened over the years, the boat took on the long, sleek profile that became its hallmark. Although the company used the same hull to produce numerous models including, in later years, a trawler, the long, low Sedan is and always has been the quintessential Matthews boat.
In spite of the fact that the 38 Sedan and subsequent larger models were stock boats, the company never lost its personal touch. Even in the heyday of production, it was customary for buyers to travel to Port Clinton, sit down with Scott Matthews himself, and review the plans for their boats. Requests for extra hatches, wider berths. Oversized fuel tanks and custom galleys were routinely accommodated. Such personal attention together with its reputation for quality quickly made Matthews the boat of choice for serious motor yachtsmen. Ralph Evinrude owned a 38 Sedan. William Randolph Hearst owned three of them, and film star Larry Parks owned two. Charles F. Chapman, publisher of Motor- Boating and founding father of the United States Power Squadrons, owned Chalma, one of the first 38 twin-cabins. Arthur Godfrey entertained his radio audiences by describing the progress of construction on his new Matthews 41- foot Sedan. When John P. Humes became U.S. Ambassador to Austria, he sold his 42-foot Matthews (now owned by this author) and purchased a new 53-footer that he transported to Austria and kept on the Danube River. His boat, Scoop, became the first American-made yacht to cruise from the Black Sea to Vienna.
Escalating costs, exorbitant interest rates, and the spiraling fuel crisis of the late 1960s and early '70s finally accomplished what the competition could not. Matthews closed its doors forever in December 1974.