The Swan Boat story dates back to the 1870's when Robert Paget, whose descendants continue to operate the business, was granted a boat for hire license by the City of Boston.
Rowing a small boat in the Public Garden lagoon was a favorite summer pastime for city residents during the day and evening.
In 1877, Robert and others introduced a new kind of boat to the waters of the lagoon. With the popularity of the bicycle expanding, he developed a catamaran which housed a paddle wheel arrangement that was foot-propelled. To cover the captain, Robert suggested a swan.
The idea came to him from his familiarity with the opera Lohengrin. The opera is based on a medieval German story in which Lohengrin, a knight of the Grail crosses a river in a boat drawn by a swan to defend the innocence of his heroine, Princess Elsa.
Initially, the fleet was comprised of single-seaters that could carry eight. The present boats are replicas of the originals, but have five or six benches, carrying up to 20 passengers.
Robert Paget lived only one year after the first Swan Boats were launched. He died in 1878 at the age of 42 and his wife Julia, a young widow with four children, assumed full management of the new enterprise.
From 1878 through the early 1900’s, Julia persevered to keep the family business alive. Because she was a woman, she was required for many years to gather signatures from local business owners in the Back Bay to provide testimony to her ability to run her business.
In 1914, Julia's youngest son, John carried on the tradition for the Paget family.
With increasing popularity of the Swan Boats, John started work on larger vessels with five benches on each boat.
The current fleet consists of six boats, the oldest of which was built by John in 1918. John and his wife Ella raised six children, all of whom spent many summers working on the boats.
Along with his father and mother, John loved nature and wildlife. To him, the Public Garden was a very special spot.
After 50 years of commanding the tiny fleet, John Paget died in 1969 and his son, Paul took over the helm.
The tradition, which began over 120 years ago, has grown to become a symbol of Boston and the city's unique blend of history and beauty. Paul and his wife Marilyn maintain the charm and integrity of a vision that became a reality for a young boat builder and his wife many years ago.
The view while riding on the Swan Boats gives each passenger the opportunity to enjoy the natural splendor provided by the 24 acres of the Public Garden. This green and flowering emerald, in the middle of the bustling metropolis, provides a natural refuge for man and bird alike.
In describing the enchantment of old Boston, one local scribe wrote "The Swan Boats are cruising and the ducks are chasing peanuts. It will be just that way for a hundred springs from now, we hope. The New Boston is here and maybe some day there will be a new, New Boston, but good old Boston, like the Swan Boats, quietly glides on forever."
Read more about the Swan Boats on our About Us page