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Polaris Co-Founder Allan Hetteen (Polaris Legacy)

“A Man of Vision, Inventor, Innovator, Visionary, Risk Taker, Competitive, Rugged, Executive, and a Gentleman.”

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In 1945, David Johnson and Edgar Hetteen created Hetteen Hoist and Derrick. The business started assembling—hoists and derricks to place utility poles in the ground. Electricity was coming to town, and they were here to help. Soon, other products, such as straw choppers, steel boat trailers, and field sprayers, were designed and produced at the company.

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Allan joined the Hetteen Hoist and Derrick Company after graduating from Roseau High School, in 1948. Allan became a partner in the business, adding car salvage and car repair to the services. Allan was known for his knowledge, mechanical talents, building, and welding skills.


Picture: Allan Hetteen Roseau Class of 1948

The work of these three men, Allan Hetteen, David Johnson, and Edgar Hetteen, has significantly impacted the snowmobile industry, changing how Americans, Canadians, and others worldwide see the challenges and opportunities of winter.

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Picture: David Johnson, Edgar and Allan Hetteen, the future founders of Polaris

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Countless hours were spent repairing, creating, and fixing a wide array of products in this building. The shop was located where the current Roseau Liquor Store is at the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 89 in the heart of Roseau.

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Picture: Allen working on a Crankshaft

In 1954, Hetteen Hoist and Derrick changed the company’s name to Polaris Industries. At about this time, the three men began developing a snow machine. They were looking for a way to bring supplies to camp on the Norwest Angle, the northmost point of Minnesota. The three men worked together to engineer their first machine. Polaris Industries continued to develop the snow machine to the point where snowmobiles were being sold around the country, indeed the world.

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In 1960, Allan Hetteen, age 31, succeeded his brother Edgar as President of Polaris Industries.

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Picture: President Allan Hetteen standing by Polaris“#2” in 1969. This machine was built in February 1956 by David Johnson and Allan.

While there was some doubt Allan was too young to manage the job, Allan proved to be the right man for the times. He read everything he could about business techniques and how to manage, market, and promote a business and its product. He recognized what he did not know and would find others that did. As the success of the Sno-Traveler continued, Polaris outgrew its’ original manufacturing building. More production space was needed. It was clear that Polaris had a future in the snowmobile industry.


In October 1962, the ground was broken for a new Polaris Industries plant and offices on Highway #89 South in Roseau, MN. This enabled Polaris to manufacture a more complete line of snowmobiles and accessories at much higher input. Although other people developed versions of snowmobiles before Polarisdid, the northern Minnesota company was the first to realize the big consumer market for the machines.

Allen was a pioneer in the snowmobile industry. In addition to being President of Polaris Industries, Allan was also the Manager/Director of Engineering, Research, and Development, participating in many test and research trips. As the demand for the Sno-Traveler increased, more testing, development, and research were needed. Test trips would prove to be the most beneficial in evaluating the product. Allan was the lead test driver on many testing expeditions. One such trip was written about in the Merrill, a newspaper in Greenville.


The newspaper clipping with this photo states, “Allan Hetteen, president of the Minnesota manufacturing firm that built these two power sleds, checks lashings on a truck that carried them today to Greenville from Yarmouth. The sleds and two others were to leave today from Greenville for a weeklong trek over the Moosehead Lake region, then on through the Allagash section to Patten. The vehicles are powered by a gasoline, two-cycled 13 h.p. motor that drives a tracked belt. Skis support the sled. Hetteen plans to demonstrate the craft’s usefulness in snow country. The trip is not a part of the motorcade that left Maine today for Canada.” (By Staff Photographer Merrill)

Allan Hetteen died in November 1973 from a tragic farm accident. It was a life and legacy that ended too soon. His son, Mike, of Roseau, relived a bit of Polaris history when he visited the glacier site where his dad, David Pearson, and Harold Johnson had tested those Comet snowmobiles 60-plus years earlier. It was his chance to reconnect with his dad’s work and remember the heritage his dad left behind.


History and photos were provided by Carmen and Bob Przekwas, with special help from Mike Hetteen. Photos are copyrighted.

Polaris Save the Date 1

Celebrate Polaris’s 70th Anniversary in Roseau on August 16 -18, 2024. You will see everything from Meet and Greets with the original race team to the current stunt riders. Displays will feature over 70 years of product development and much more. Live music, kids activities, Polaris rides, and tours will keep you entertained. Hotels are limited, so book today.