Image for Tuesday Tales from the Archives: What is a Dispro?

Tuesday Tales from the Archives: What is a Dispro?

December 18, 2017

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disproThe origins of Disappearing Propeller Boats (Dispros or Dippies) go back to the 1800s when W. J. Johnson Sr. constructed a practical rowing boat a big improvement over dugouts and birch bark canoes that were currently being used. His boat business flourished and by 1870, he was producing many boats for sale and for rent. When required, rental boats were being dispatched to various hotels and cottage, either steamship or by towing.  This enabled clients for the rowing boats to enjoy “pick and delivery”.

The early 1900s saw the arrival of the internal combustion engines for marine propulsion and the summer of 1914 having achieved some form of reliability they began to appear in the Muskoka area. Of particular interest was the development of a light 20 cycle engine developed by Mr. Cameron Waterman, so light in fact that it was used as power for the very early outboard motor. Rogers brothers, engineers and plumbers in Port Sandfield became agents for these inboard engines and outboards. Edwin Rogers was an accomplished machinist and owned a machine shop business.  He became involved with Billy Johnson in developing a retractable propeller utilizing a universal joint in the device shaft.  A lever lifted the propeller shaft upwards into inverted well in the bottom of the hull. This was first produced in cast iron-to be inverted ball shaped and bolted to the bottom of the boat.

Editor’s note: We have dispros on display in the Muskoka Discovery Centre.