Wood to Glass is a collaborative project to record, reveal, and celebrate the historic and world-changing transition from wood boat building to fiberglass and more advanced composites.
Initial partners in the project include Mystic Seaport, Professional BoatBuilder magazine, MIT Museum, and the Mariners’ Museum, whose combined resources are formidable: original design drawings, photographs, stories, and yes—boats. Combined, they tell the story of how technological advances, primarily during World War II, resulted in the first fiberglass-polyester boats that forever changed the boating world.
Boats and yachts (we can quibble over the distinction) that once were affordable only by the wealthy, suddenly became realistic investments for the working and middle class. In the euphoria of post-war America, President Eisenhower embarked on an ambitious plan to connect the country with an astounding network of interstate highways, and families took to these new roads in their sedans and station wagons on the Great American Vacation, often towing a new fiberglass boat that looked a lot like their automobiles, with two-tone paint jobs and tail fins.
Early fiberglass boats ranged from crude dinghies to personnel carriers for the U.S. Navy to sporty runabouts and graceful sloops. Some of the men who built them had spent a lifetime with wood, now entranced by a vision of working with a strange and superior material, others reluctantly swept along by the tide of change. Others yet were entrepreneurs with little experience building anything, just hoping to make a buck. The stories of these pioneers are a fascinating part of the fiberglass revolution.
The aim of the Wood to Glass project is to present—in exhibition, in print, and on this Website—the story of boatbuilding during this remarkable period in time. To that end, we invite your participation via commentary and material contribution. As the project is in its infancy, please check back regularly for updates.