The Keene family, owners of Edson Marine in New Bedford, Mass., celebrates 50 years of ownership of the nautical hardware and systems company this year. The company itself is almost 150 years old. The Keene Brothers, Will and Hank, president and general manager, respectively, are well known to boat show veterans for their exuberant personalities. Founded in Boston in 1859 by Jacob Edson for the manufacture of commercial marine pumps, Edson International dates to a time when fittings were cast in bronze, line was made from manila and “honeywagons” were drawn by horses and pumped by hand, as the photo below attests. Early innovations in the marine field included a “boom buffer” to reduce the shock of a jibing sailboat, as well as hardware and steering systems for the Greater Boston area fishing fleets, coastal schooners and cargo vessels.
By the early 1900s, Edson began manufacturing steering systems for sailing vessels, resulting in early relationships with the America’s Cup race boats. World Wars I and II expanded markets for Edson steering gear and bilge pumps. This gear was often utilized on freighters, liberty ships and PT boats. Henry R. Keene Sr. purchased the company in 1956. Today the company remains true to its roots, providing steering gear, industrial and recreational marine pumps, and assorted marine hardware to vessels and chandleries throughout the world. Let’s hope they don’t bring back the honeywagon.