Smith Tug and Barge was founded at Rainier, Oregon on the Columbia River by Wilbur Smith. By the second half of the 20th century, it had come to dominate most log towing operations in the stretch of the river near Longview, Washington by holding significant contracts with local lumber companies.
After several mishaps when tugboat crews entered areas on the vessel's deck which were visually obstructed to the pilot, Smith undertook a design philosophy for their vessels involving sloped deckhouses that reduced or eliminated blind spots. This distinctive design led to their vessels being known locally as the "Studebaker Fleet" due to the resemblence to certain mid-century automobilies.
By the mid-seventies, the aging Smith began entertaining thoughts of selling the company, and in 1977 it was acquired by and absorbed into Knappton Towboat Company of Astoria, Oregon along with the associated companies of Longview Tug and Barge and Deep River Towing.