Before founding Lakeland Boating, then called Lakeland Yachting and Motorboating, Vic Schoen was an avid boater. Schoen was piloting a 36' 1925 wooden Burger dubbed Sea Toy II. A great fan of his boat, Schoen also knew it represented the capital he needed to start a new magazine about boating on the Great Lakes.
In early 1946, Schoen placed an ad in the Chicago Tribune putting Sea Toy II up for sale. Schoen sold the boat to 26-year-old Paul Cullen for $1,300, the necessary seed money to begin his new magazine: Lakeland Yachting and Motorboating.
With money in hand, Schoen started Lakeland Yachting and Motorboating in mid-1946 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Under his guidance, Lakeland Yachting was cordial and upbeat on every page, presenting an enthusiast's assurance that boating was pure happiness.
In 1957, the name of the magazine was changed from Lakeland Yachting and Motorboating to Lakeland Boating to more accurately depict the nature of the magazine and its emphasis on motor boats.
1963: Mid-America's Freshwater Yachting Magazine
Only five issues of Lakeland Yachting were published in 1963, and after the first issue of 1964 ownership of the magazine was passed from Schoen to Larry Prakken and Dave Kitz. Prakken took over as publisher, and Kitz assumed the editorship. Along with this change in ownership came a new slogan: "Mid-America's Freshwater Yachting Magazine." They also moved the offices to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
While Schoen kept things light and breezy, Kitz set forth his new editorial mission: First, to report for you the interesting boating activities of the past, present, and future; and second, to raise its voice to help protect and preserve this delightful boating area from the ravages of deterioration that all too often accompany the growth of metropolitan areas.
Kitz was a strident voice for boaters. In his "View from the Bridge" column, he gave boaters a conscience and called out politicians when he felt they were wrong. He was particularly concerned with boating safety.
In 1972, Kitz bought out Prakken to take sole ownership of the magazine.
Instead of publishing their normal pre-boat show issue in 1975, Kitz instead published his "Clean Water" issue, calling on government to stop Reserve Mining's spoiling of Lake Superior, while also lauding the City of Detroit for its work cleaning up the Detroit River, then one of the worst cesspools in America.
Kitz saw boating not as the culmination of one's life, but as a worthwhile hobby, once writing, "All too often, the boat is misappropriated and used as a status symbol or an experience with the IRS in mind. It could have anything but a wholesome influence on young people."
For fun with the family, he said, boating, "is still one of the best ways to do interesting things together."
Kitz again moved the magazine's offices to Adrian, Michigan, in 1977.
1980: Peterson Publications
Kitz sold Lakeland Boating to Peterson Publications in 1980.
Peterson Publications specialized in niche-market magazines and planned to turn Lakeland Boating, which, at this time, was considered a small-circulation magazine, into a national giant. Peterson quickly tripled Lakeland Boating's circulation to a high of 60,000.
Peterson Publications folded its own Sea magazine into Lakeland Boating, growing the magazine from 40 pages per issue to 130 pages.
Kitz, now an associate publisher for the magazine, continued writing his "View from the Bridge" column until the magazine dropped it upon sale to its current publisher.
1983-Present: Walter "Bing" O'Meara
Walter "Bing" O'Meara and David Brown purchased Lakeland Boating in 1983. O'Meara learned magazine publishing in the food service and lodging trade journal industry.
Pleasure boating had been on a downturn since the gasoline crisis in 1974, when President Carter suggested fuel sales should not take place on weekends. Owing to this, Peterson Publications found its efforts to go national stymied and re-focused on the regional aspect of the magazine.
Upon O'Meara's purchase of the magazine, however, boating began an upturn in popularity that would continue for quite some time.
O'Meara moved the business office to Highland Park, Illinois, and brought original owner Vic Schoen back as a correspondent. In June of 1985, O'Meara bought out his partner, David Brown, and moved the offices to Chicago, Illinois. Offices moved to the Fountain Building in Evanston, Illinois in 1988, then to Chicago's historic Printer's Row in 2003, and back to Evanston in 2015 with offices in the Chandler's Building.