The original 26-foot Elco Cruiser, was first presented to the public early in 1925, and since then has had the enthusiastic recommendation of nearly two hundred owners. A greatly augmented equipment list and a few modifications which were found desirable, make the present model a complete small cruising boat.
Gatsby, is a replica of the Weston Farmer designed 1925 wooden Elco 26' Classic Cruiser. She was brought back in a modern fiberglass design in 2001 by master craftsmen at Classic Boats Inc., Austin, Arkansas. Although Gatsby was built as a replica of the original Elco 26, there are some differences and upgrades. Her hull consists of three alternating layers of sealed and glued 1/4” Port Orford red cedar, and epoxy, which creates a virtually indestructible structure. Modern diesel power, electronic navigation, radar, private head and sanitation disposal system, pressure fresh water, refrigerator, air conditioning while at dock, compact galley, and a convertible queen sized berth round out the amenities nicely. The fully enclosed pilot house/salon with setee, and hard covered cockpit offer a wonderful all-year-round cruising environment.
The classic Elco 26' design and years of service as a day boat, fishing boat, yacht tender, foreign service Naval vessel, coastwise cruising boat, and shallow water bay cruiser have shown that the fundamental idea and design of this smallest practical cruiser is correct.
But the plain truth is that she turns heads. Tug boat captains step out of the wheelhouse to wave, and talk. Sailors, fisherman, and commercial captains, always pause to look and reflect when she comes around the bend. She is the link to another time. Come experience the pleasure and comfort of seeing the world from Gatsby.
The Electric Launch and Navigation Company, later known as Electric Launch Company ("Elco"), may be said to have been born at the Colombian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. 55 launches, each 36 feet long and powered by battery-powered electric motors, carried over a million passengers on the waterways of the Exposition from April 15th through October 31st, 1893.
From 1892 through two World Wars and up to the time of its closing in 1949, Elco designed and built - or had built - more than 6,000 pleasure boats ranging in size from an 18 foot gig or yacht tender to cruising power boats up to 127 feet in length. It also built craft for the government of the United States and of other countries including lifeboats for the U.S.Coast Guard, launches and tenders for various navies, anti-submarine motor launches in World War I, and PT boats in World War II.
It is not known precisely who founded Elco. Electric motors that could be used for marine application had been invented by William Woodnut Griscom of Philadelphia in 1879, and in 1880 he started the Electric Dynamic Company. In 1892 Griscom's electrical company went bankrupt, and Electric Dynamic Company was bought by Isaac Leopold Rice who founded Electric Storage Battery Company ("Exide"). Rice had become interested in Electric Launch Company; they had been buying his storage batteries. He also was interested in Holland Torpedo Boat Company. He purchased the latter and merged it, along with Elco, into the Electric Boat Company in 1899. In 1900, Elco, which had previously acted as middleman by farming out the hull contracts and installing Griscom's motors and Rice's batteries, built its own boat-building facility at Bayonne, NJ.
Henry R. Sutphen joined Elco in 1892, and may have been one of its founders. It was he, more than any other person, who built the pleasure boat interest. He ran Elco from 1895 to 1949. In 1906 he hired Irwin Chase, a young naval architect. It was Chase who designed the 550 sub-chasers for the British in 1915, and he created the famous Elco "Cruisette". In 1922 Chase became General Manager of Elco. His assistant in World War I was a designer, Glenville Sinclair Tremaine, who became the chief naval designer in 1923. The latter was joined by Alfred "Bill" Flemming. This team worked together during World War II building PT boats. After the war, Elco went back to building pleasure boats, but by 1948 it was just a small branch of the Electric Boat Conglomerate handled by John Jay Hopkins. Hopkins felt that Elco was not a profitable enterprise, and in December of 1949 the work force was let go, and the equipment, supplies and plant in Bayonne were sold.
Reference: Swanson, William C., Introduction and notes to Launches and Yachts, the 1902 Elco Catalog,1984.