Charles J. Swain's Doodang, parked in front of 135 Broadway (c. 1911) A later version that actually flew is described in an article on the Shelley Tool Company. Charles J. Swain Sr. at Swain Camp, holding his granddaughter, Alice Swain. Courtesy of Wesley Niarhos.

Born: November 17, 1880, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: December 29, 1943, in Newtown Square

Married: Elizabeth Bingham Hood Swain, c. 1902 (1880 - 1964)

Children: Mary S. Campbell; Charles J. Swain Jr.; Eleanor S. Foote; Sarah S. Bunting

Charles James Swain, Sr. was the grandson of a founder of the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Public Ledger and the son of Charles Moseley Swain, a lawyer who ran for Congress in 1883 and left an estate of $1,800,000 in 1904.

Charles Swain built the Swain Camp on Lower Saranac Lake in 1917. In 1911 the Winter Carnival included an "event extraordinary; speed demonstration of the first perfected AERO ICE BOAT, designed and operated by Mr. Charles J. Swain, Quaker City Motor Club, of Philadelphia, Pa." 1

Sources: Find A Grave: Charles James Swain

Ticonderoga-Sentinel, August 25, 1910

Pet Dogs Expensive.

Charles J. Swain, a camper on Lower Saranac Lake, was fined $50 by Justice Miller at Saranac Lake last week for allowing two pet lap dogs to ran loose on state lands. Mr. Swain pleaded guilty to the charge and paid the fine.

The Essex County Republican, January 11, 1894.

—The beautiful Nathan Strauss cottage on Lower Saranac Lake has been sold to Charles M. Swain, a wealthy trust company presidents Philadelphia, Pa., for $35,000.

The Essex County Republican, February 17, 1911.


Famous Ice Motor To be Made Over into a Boat.

This week Charles J. Swain closed up his big camp on Lower Saranac Lake for the winter, and on Wednesday left for his home in Philadelphia.

Mr. Swain's departure removed one of the most active figures in camp life in the Adirondacks. His love of automobiling and general sports is well known, and his recent experiments with his motor-sled attracted wide spread interest. Mr. Swain has left the "Doodang," which is already famous in this part of the country, at the Ideal Garage, under the charge of Shelley Brothers, of Saranac Lake, who built the ice machine.

The "Doodang" has been in existence only a few months, but has made quite a stir in automobile circles. The Motor Age, in a recent issue, had articles on two new ice sleds which were patterned after the "Doodang."

In the New York Times on Sunday, there was a double column picture of Mr. Swain and the ice-sled, and the likeness was exceptionally good. It is Mr. Swain's intention to change the "Doodang" into a boat when the snow leaves and it will not be many months before the possibilities of the machine on the waters of Lower Saranac Lake, become known.

Some time ago there was talk of a contest between the "Doodang" and Mr. Palmer's ice-boat. The race came very near being held Saturday afternoon, as both sleds were on the Lower Saranac Lake at the same time. There was a snow crust on portions of the ice, and it was not considered safe to send the machines over it at a high rate of speed.

Malone Farmer, November 8, 1911

Saranac Lake is noted for its fast coasting sleds and Capt. Thomas, of that village, is now building a pair of bobs which are to be shipped to Switzerland for the races there this winter. Charles J. Swain is having them made for a son of William H. Steele, now in that country. The bobs will have an extreme length of 15 feet and wills seat ten persons comfortably. The rear bob will be seven feet and the front one four and a half feet long. They will be equipped with two sets of runners, one with a knife edge of black diamond steel for hard ice and another of rounded steel for soft ice.

A special feature is an arrangement which allows the runners to work more or less independently of each other so that there will be no binding in going over rough ice. This is accomplished by connecting the runners with a set of rollers which permit any runner to lift without lifting the others.

The Essex County Republican, August 18, 1916.


[…] Charles J. Swain's new hydroplane is probably the fastest boat ever placed in local waters and may be expected to win the "open".

Text of obituary from Find A Grave (see link above)

Charles J. Swain Charles J. Swain, a pioneer in the automotive business in Philadelphia and president of Swain-Hickman Co., automotive parts, of 3519 Lancaster Ave., died Wednesday at his home, Glendale road, Newtown Square, after a brief illness. He was 62. Mr. Swain was connected with the automotive industry since 1916. He was a Mason, a member of the Old Timers Club and a life member of the Corinthian Yacht Club. Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth Hood Swain, a son, Charles, Jr., and three daughters, Mrs. Mary S. Campbell, Mrs. Eleanor S. Foote and Mrs. Sarah S. Bunting. Funeral services will be held at 4 P.M. Monday from 1820 Chestnut Street. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/31/1943, p.14)



1. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 8, 1985