Paul Larson began a lifetime career at the age of eleven when he built his first boat. The founder of Larson Boat Works and Crestliner, Inc., Paul was born in 1894 to Swedish immigrants, Bengt and Mary Larson. When he built his first boat, he was living on a farm near Little Falls, Minnesota. A pond on the farm served as the testing site for his boat.

The Larson family moved into Little Falls to a house on Ninth Street Northeast where Paul continued to make duck and fishing boats for his friends. He also sold boats to lakeshore property owners around Lake Alexander. In 1922, Paul got an order for six boats from the Minnesota State Game and Fish Department, which led him to design the Game Warden Special.

The increased demand for his boats caused Paul to erect a new 24’x40′ boat works in 1925 on the east side of the Mississippi River. The land was formerly used for the Pine Tree Lumber Company sawmills. The Larson Boat Works weathered the economic down-turn of the Great Depression and the lack of materials for pleasure boats during World War II. In fact, Paul’s company added employees during the war because the company got a war contract to build training boats for the government. During the war, the boat works also produced wooden shell cases.

After the war, the company returned to building pleasure boats, making its first aluminum boat in 1946. Paul started Larson Water Craft as his aluminum boat manufacturing business. It was later renamed Crestliner, Inc.

In 1949, the Larson Boat Works burned. The fire destroyed everything, including boat molds and patterns, business records, and Paul’s boat racing trophies. The business was rebuilt in 1950 in the same location. Shortly thereafter, Paul and his team started experimenting with fiberglass, first by surfacing wooden boats with fiberglass cloth and resin, then by making fiberglass molds into which fiberglass was sprayed to form boats.

In 1959, Paul Larson expanded Larson Boat Works once again. The new factory was located on the west side of the river and has expanded many times since then. By 1976, Paul had finally retired from the boat business. Both Larson Boats and Crestliner, Inc. are now owned by Genmar Holdings, Inc.

Thanks to Paul’s creative boat designs, such as the Falls Flyer, “Punkin Seed” Duck Boat, Thunderhawk, and Pla-Boy, Little Falls has become known as “The Small Boat Capitol of the World.”

By Mary Warner
Copyright 2003, Morrison County Historical Society

18 Replies to “Paul Larson’s Boats”

  1. SOLD BOTH LARSON AND GLSATRON BOATS FOR TEN YEARS.
    GREAT BOATS AND THE PEOPLE AT GENMAR WERE EXCELLANT TO WORK WITH. GOOD COMPANY. BEEN TO THE PLANT A FEW TIMES.

    1. We bought an old 1965 cabin on a lake in Alabama. In it was a very old Larson sign, shaped like a sideways teardrop, with brown lettering. I’ve been all over the internet and cannot find another one like it to get its value. Any suggestions? We might be interested in selling, or just keep it for nostalgia since we’re planning to tear down the cabin.

      1. Sharon – Thanks for your comment. The Larson sign sounds like a neat piece. We place historic rather than monetary values on the artifacts in our collections. You could try contacting an antique dealer or appraiser to see if they could give you an estimate. You could also try contacting the company directly to see if they can help (Larson Boat Work). Good luck!
        Ann Marie Johnson
        Curator of Collections

  2. I’d like to find out some history or details about this boat i just acquired its old its awsome i took off this canvas water proofing and found an amazing piece of woodwork. With very little rot… I want to cherry it out. Please tell me if I should polish it up for nice yard art or for water worthy fishing or resale…. I will not put a canvas seal under it again. Unless someone legit thinks I should. Please help me and tell me what I have. It’s about 10 feet long . And a possible sailboat????

    1. Hi, Cody – We can’t give you specifics on boat repair and refinishing, but there are a couple of local businesses that might be able to steer you in the right direction. There’s Boater’s Dream (phone number: 320-632-8152) and Monahan’s Marine (phone number: 320-632-5666). Try one of these businesses to see if they can answer your boat restoration questions.

      Mary Warner
      Executive Director

    1. My goodness! We missed your comment, Jared. Sorry about that!

      It looks like there is more than one Larson logo. Some of them appear to be some version of the letter “L”. Can you give us an idea of which logo you are interested in? We have a box of Larson history here at the Weyerhaeuser Museum that you are welcome to look through if you are ever in the area.

      Mary Warner
      Executive Director

  3. I have recently bought a Larson pleasure craft. It is a 1990 19foot bow rider. We are very happy with the boat have just started to look at the past of the Larsen name. I love the history and would like to say thank you for the amazing boat. I currently have it on the Fraser river in Canada and she does an amazing job for day trips and future fishing.

    1. Mark – If you ever get down to central Minnesota, we’d love to have you stop by to look at our collection of Larson Boats history. I’m glad you’re enjoying your boat!

      Mary Warner
      Executive Director

  4. Can anyone help me? I have a 1956 14 ft all wood two cockpit Larson boat I’m trying to get a value on it, looking to sell

  5. Hi, Bernard – As a nonprofit museum, we are not allowed to provide monetary values on items, however here are a few places you can check.

    NADA has a boat valuation guide here: https://www.nadaguides.com/Boats

    Note that it does not go back to 1956, so that might not be the best resource for valuing a vintage boat.

    Hagerty has a classic boat pricing guide online here: https://www.hagerty.com/valuationtools/classic-boat-values

    Probably the best way to get a valuation is to talk to other vintage boat people. There is a boat restoration business in Rice, MN. I believe it might be the Little Rock Boat Works owned by Dave Watts. More info on the business, including contact info, here: https://acbs-bslol.com/restoration/restorers/davewatts/

    If any of our readers know of a reputable or experienced boat valuation resource, please share it in the comments.

    Thanks for your question, Bernard!

    Mary Warner
    Executive Director

  6. Hello,

    Where can I find information on old larson boats? Company archives? Specifications, ads, manuals, etc,? Specifically an All American 156. Comboard. 1968?

    Thanks

  7. Hi, Karl – We have some information on Larson Boats within our collections, but I’m not aware of any catalogs or manuals from 1968. We have a few catalogs that are quite a bit newer than that (maybe 1980s era). There was a local collector of Larson memorabilia, but he recently sold off his collection. I don’t know what has happened to the bulk of the Larson Boats business archives.

    There is a local Facebook group called Morrison County Memories. If you’re on Facebook, perhaps you could join and throw your question out to the group, which is 1,000 strong. Perhaps someone has the information you seek in their private collection or they know what happened to the Larson Boats archives.

    Thanks for your question.

    Mary Warner
    Executive Director

  8. Hi, I am restoring an old Larson aluminum boat. It is in awesome shape except the wood which I am redoing.
    It has a number stamped in it …A 1432. Is it possible to identify what year it was made?
    It’s been in Alaska it’s whole life from what I can tell…it’s a pretty awesome piece all the rivets are still like when it was made.
    Thanks
    Denny Hamann

    1. Hi, Denny – While we have some Larson Boats history within our files, we don’t have much in the way of catalogs that might help you identify the boat. The most knowledgeable person I’m aware of in terms of Larson Boats history is John Monahan. He recently sold his collection, but there is a Facebook page for it here: https://www.facebook.com/www.thejohnmonahanboatcollection/.

      Perhaps one of the followers of the page can help you date your boat if John can’t be reached directly.

      Mary Warner
      Executive Director

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *