Jan 07 2015

Willie K.‘s “Hard Boiled Egg” Auto Boat

In 1904, William K. Vanderbilt Jr. had a passion for racing on both land and on water. He quickly adopted the sport of  auto boat racing- which combined traditional motor boats with automobile technology.

As described in the December 1904 issue of Overland Magazine's article "The Auto-Boat:The Latest Fad":

"The development of the automobile having demonstrated the possibilities of explosive gasoline engines for vehicle propulsion, their application to marine work has followed, as a matter of course.

Great is the thrilling joy of this new sport, and gliding through the water almost noiselessly and without the slightest commotion at a twenty miles an hour clip, adds much to the delight of motor boating. There are no teams to pass, no ditches to look out for, no fines for speeding; in fact, automobiling in the water is not nearly as heavy a financial loss to the legatees as a well-built, speedy motor car would be."


Howard Kroplick

On February 20, 1904, Willie. K. (center) ordered a special auto boat from Robert Jacob of City Island (right).

The boat was 40-feet long with a 35-feet long. The auto boat was "double planked with a mahogany outer sheathing."

Virginia "Birdie" Vanderbilt, Willie K.'s wife, named the auto boat "Hard Boiled Egg" - because "it could not be beat".

Reportedly, the auto boats engine was taken from his 1902 60-HP Mors racer that used to race in Europe and to win the 1904 Eagle  Rock Hill Climb.

On July 11, 1904, the Hard Boiled Egg competed in a regatta at the Columbia Yacht Club on the Hudson River.

The Hard Boiled Egg was piloted by Willie K. with builder Robert Jacob and a chauffer as passengers.

Despite its name, the Hard Boiled Egg (nearest boat) was beaten by E.A. Riotte's Standard (middle boat). Vanderbilt continued to race Hard Boiled Egg at regattas on Hudson River and Long Island Sound for the next two years with Virginia taking the helm on several of the races.  In 1906 the auto boat was sold to Columbia College to be used to coach their rowing crews.

The Columbia Yacht Club auto boat race was captured in a American Mutoscope and Biograph film, which was copyrighted by Thomas Edison, Inc. Willie K. and the Hard Boiled Egg can be seen below at the 17 seconds, 51 seconds and 1:43 marks. Look for the auto boat with the white bottom. G.W. Bitzer, the cameraman for the regatta, later would film a section of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Auto Boat Races on the Hudson

Copyright: Thomas A. Edison, Inc.; June  18,1904

Cameraman: G. W. Bitzer
Filmed June 11, 1904 at the Columbia Yacht Club in Hudson River, New York City

The single camera position was from the point of view of the judge of the course. The films shows a boat race between small, motor-driven speed boats, which were approximately twenty feet long with the inboard engine decked over. Many boats of various designs and spectators can be seen as if the locale were a yacht club basin or yacht mooring. Participants in the race were W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr.'s Hard Boiled Egg; The Standard, which won the championship and had never been beaten; the Vingt et Un; the F.I.A.T.; the Shooting Star; the Japansky, the Kotic, and the Nada.


The Columbia Yacht Club on the Hudson River as it looked during the 1904 regatta.. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, unveiled in 1902, can be seen in the background.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Monument commemorates Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the American Civil War. It is located at 89th Street and Riverside Drive in Riverside Park in the Upper West Side of New York City.

The Robert Jacob Shipyard in City Island was very successful. In 1946 it was sold to Consolidated Shipbuilding, who moved to City Island and closed their yard in Morris Heights.  Consolidated closed in 1958 and sold the yard to Wesley Rodstrom as a yacht repair yard.  It is still there, operating as Consolidated Yacht Yard.


Jan 08 2015 Ted 10:46 PM

To bad the video doesn’t have sound, that boat would sound great, loud I presume

Jan 11 2015 Howard Kroplick 12:44 PM

From Robert R:

Wonderful piece on “The Hard Boiled Egg,”  Howard.

Just terrific piece of history.

Jan 11 2015 S. Berliner, III 9:18 PM

Fantastic early “cigarette” boats; slightly later versions are still around, as shown at: <http://sbiii.com/nav-mar1.html#mahogany>.  Sam, III

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