Carl Kiekhaefer bought out the failed Cedarburg Manufacturing Company (maker of Thor outboards) in 1938.
He initially thought that the company's future would be as a manufacturer of magnetic separators for the dairy industry. However, to raise some cash, Carl decided to see if he could sell off some of the remaining inventory of Thor motors still in the factory he had purchased.
After tinkering with the carburetor, he was able to get the motors running nicely - and was rewarded with a contract to supply motors for Montgomery Wards under the "Sea King" moniker. After negotiating with the Ford motor company for rights to use the name "Mercury", the Kiekheafer Mercury corporation was born and officially entered the marketplace as a supplier of outboard engines.
More tweaks to designs and engineering advances kept the Kiekhaefer corporation in the business of manufacturing outboard engines - and when WWII came by, they supplied many engines for use by the military. After the war, the company took advantage of what they had learned with their government contract and quickly became the leader in the HP and speed competition between the major outboard producing companies through the late 1960 - when the Kiekaefer Corporation was sold to the Brunswick company.
I love these old Mercs, and if you have one you know what I mean. When they fire up, the throaty roar is unmistakeable on their larger motors and the smoothness of operation of their smaller offerings is second to none.
Here's some photos of motors I've enjoyed or currently have on the display rack.