This website is still under construction. You may e-mail questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to the Waterwitch Outboards built by the Kissel Motor Company in Hartford, Wisconsin from 1936-1944
The Kissel Motor Car Company of Hartford Wisconsin was founded on June 5, 1906 by Louis Kissel and his sons George and William. The company built high quality automobiles, hearses, trucks, taxicabs and utility vehicles until the Great Depression forced Kissel to file for receivership in November of 1930. Of the 35,000 automobiles produced, less than 200 are known to exist today.
It would be more than five years before a portion of the 800,000 square foot plant would be reopened by the Kissel brothers to produce outboard motors for Sears Roebuck. George Kissel and Herman Palmer, who had been the chief engineers of the engine chassis group from the automotive days, began the design work. Using the machinery still present from automobile production, an assembly line was set up to manufacture Waterwitch outboards under a contract with Sears Roebuck. Beginning in 1936 with just two models, a single and a twin, the Kissel Motor Company would reach a peak output of 125 outboard motors per day with a workforce of about 135 people, with annual model changes (at least in styling) and five horsepower options from 1 to 10 H.P.
America's entry into World War II put an end to outboard production for civilian use, however Kissel continued small-batch production of the 3-1/2 H.P. economy model under priority for essential requirements such as conservation departments and law enforcement officials. The Kissel Motor Company also negotiated several contracts with the War Department in machining essential bronze components for torpedoes.
In 1944 the West Bend Aluminum Company was looking for more production room, as their entire West Bend Wisconsin plant had been converted to the manufacture of 20mm shells for the war effort. Their inquiry as to the largely unused factory space at Kissel, along with an agreement with Sears to design and produce a completely new outboard led to the sale of the Kissel Motor Company properties to West Bend on March 1, 1944. West Bend, using remaining Kissel parts, built the last Waterwitches in 1944and 1945 designated as models 571.44W. These were built and sold while West Bend engineers were designing the Elgin outboard, but that is another story............
Total production of Kissel-built Waterwitches from 1936 up to the sale to West Bend in 1944 was some 120,000 outboards.
The ONLY reference that connects designer Raymond Loewy with the Sears Waterwitch outboard is a recently published book covering the antique outboard hobby and here the author cites a "1980's glitzy magazine article on American style that linked famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy with a certain Waterwitch model". There are absolutely no supporting facts in this statement and in later passages the author himself states that Loewy was the designer of the "twin pod" fuel tank styles. He was not.
I have been collecting Waterwitch outboards for some 25+ years, and have done much research to prove that Raymond Loewy had absolutely no hand in the design of the Sears Waterwitch.
The Sears Waterwitch torpedo-tank model of 1936-1939 (models MB10 and 20, 571.10-11, 571.20-22) was in FACT designed by John R. Morgan of Oak Park, Illinois. His patent (U.S. Patent No. Des.114,597) was filed July 30, 1937 by Morgan and assigned to Sears Roebuck and Company. This patent is for John R. Morgan's "invention of a new original and ornamental design for an outboard motor". The application date was July 30, 1937 with the Patented (issue) date of May 2, 1939.
There are several other patents for this Waterwitch issued to several individuals, all for different MECHANICAL aspects such as water pump cooling, transom brackets, etc. The ONLY patent ever issued for the DESIGN of this outboard was issued to John R. Morgan. Furthermore, the textbook "Industrial Design" authored by Harold Van Doren (1940) page (plate #) 13 shows John Morgan as the designer of "Sears Roebuck's new outboard the Waterwitch". The book "The Machine Age in America 1918-1941" by Richard Guy Wilson (1986) pages 146-147 devotes a full page photo of a 1936 Waterwitch and lists John R. Morgan as the designer. I have had several correspondences with the Raymond Loewy archives and their curator could find "absolutely no evidence of ANY connection of Loewy with this outboard". As the curator stated "if Mr. Loewy had any hand in its' design, his name would be all over it".