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History of Johnson Motors Company

Johnson Motors Company imageThe outboard motor industry saw more than just the rise of Elto in the early 1920s. Other players had also entered the marketplace. The newly formed Johnson Motors Company burst onto the scene with a twin-cylinder motor, quickly taking leadership away from Evinrude Motors. Much like Evinrude Motors though, Johnson Motors Company begun as a family owned and operated business. In 1908, with just the bare basics for parts, the brothers Johnson crafted their first marine engine in a barn in Terre Haute, IN.

Lou Johnson was the oldest of seven children born to Soren and Bertha Johnson. Lou was described as a natural leader and an innovator. Like Ole Evinrude, Lou Johnson conceived of theidea for a motor one hot day in 1903 when he had to row his 18-foot boat, the Arrow, ten miles upstream to harvest walnuts. Louís first engine was a single-cylinder, two-cycle, 3-hp monster, weighing in at 150 pounds. By 1905, the Johnson brothers, Lou, Harry and Clarence, had perfected their creation to a single-cylinder, 3-hp engine weighing only 65 pounds. With an interest in speed, the brothers expanded to both two and four-cylinder inline models and tested them in the Black Demon, a 26-foot displacement boat. The Black Demon raced down the Wabash River at speeds of up to 18 mph.

A variety of tragedies including losing their manufacturing plant to a tornado without insurance and then going out of business because of the recession didn't stop this great company to stop manufacturing great products.

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