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The Inventor Of the Pontoon Was Born In Richmond – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’

Photo of a 1954 Weeres Pontoon courtesy of Stearns History Museum

RICHMOND – April 25th, 1907Ambrose Weeres, inventor of the pontoon boat, was born in Richmond.

Did you know that the pontoon boat was invented in Stearns County? It was, right here in Richmond, Minnesota, in 1951!

Its inventor was Ambrose Weeres. Ambrose was born in Richmond on April 25, 1907. He spent his first years as an owner and operator of the Richmond Mill and Elevator. Though he only had a fourth-grade education, Ambrose was smart and had a creative mind. He was always looking for ways to improve things.

A Weeres Pontoon on a Richmond area lake in 1954

In 1951, Ambrose was asked by a friend to create a contraption out of tubes and oil barrels that would float in water. With the assistance of Edwin Torborg, “I worked on it and designed the tubes, then a raft, and kept going until I had a boat. The hardest part was making a mount for an outboard motor and designing a steering device.”

The first boat, later christened “The Empress” sold before Ambrose even had a chance to name it. “Mr. Pontoon,” as Weeres came to be known, kept improving on this design and founded Weeres Industries the following year in 1952. In 1955, the Winona Daily News named the Weeres Pontoon Boat “Boat of the Year.”

Weeres Pontoon and the St. Cloud Top Hatters

In a Resolution issued by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1990, Ambrose Weeres was officially recognized as the inventor of the pontoon boat. He was elected to the Minnesota Marina Hall of Fame in July 1991. Weeres is also credited with inventing the first “water bicycle”, or paddle boat in 1956.

Thanks to Sarah Warmka and the Stearns History Museum for their help with this story in our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.

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