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Weems & Plath Marks 95 Years

The world-renowned manufacturer reflects on its history since 1928.

Logo for Weems Sea System Navigation

Venerable nautical instrument manufacturer Weems & Plath is celebrating its milestone 95th year in business in 2023. The globally renowned nautical and weather instrument manufacturer was founded in 1928 by Captain Philip Van Horn Weems (a graduate and instructor of the U.S. Naval Academy) in partnership with his wife, Margaret Thackray Weems, as the “Weems System of Navigation.”
Painting portrait of Captain Philip Van Horn Weems standing next to his desk in his naval uniform.

Captain Philip Van Horn Weems

In its early years, the company began as a navigation school based in Annapolis, Maryland, where students could choose to receive either correspondence or in-person courses to learn how to navigate in the air and at sea. Weems evolved the company into manufacturing navigational instruments that could be used in tandem with the courses. Courses continued to be offered through the mid-1970s when the company changed course to focus more on further enhancing navigation by serving as a consultant for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

Updated versions of some of those instruments developed by the school 95 years ago are still among the most popular products sold by Weems & Plath today, including the Weems parallel plotter, parallel rule, and hand bearing compass. Weems & Plath now offers over 400 products with customers hailing from all around the world.

“We owe it all to our loyal customers who have continued to put their trust in our products, whether it be for recreational boating, military vessels, or commercial industries,” company president Michael Flanagan says of the milestone.

The original 1955 promotion for a parallel plotter that changed navigation.

The original 1955 promotion for a parallel plotter that changed navigation.

“Weems System of Navigation” didn’t officially become “Weems & Plath” until 1953 when Johannes Boysen of the German compass manufacturer, C. Plath (named for owner Carl Plath), partnered with Captain Weems to sell C. Plath sextants and compasses in the U.S.

The company’s latest line of products is the OGM Series of LED Navigation Lights. These exceptional lights are built at Weems & Plath’s headquarters in Annapolis, using solid milled aluminum and the latest electronics. The lights and more products can be seen on display at Weems & Plath’s booth at the Annapolis Power Boat Show (Oct. 5-8), and Annapolis Sailboat Show (Oct. 12-15).

Black and white promotion for a 1950s deluxe hand bearing compass

Check the price on this 1950s deluxe hand bearing compass.

Reflecting on the company’s long history, Michael Flanagan said, “I think Captain Weems would be proud of how his company continues to grow and give back to the local community. We work hard to produce, as he once said, innovative products that are rooted in tradition and we look forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary with the community in the years to come.”

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Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.