April 20, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: April 20

Safety coil boilers, tasty joinerwork, launchings, postponements, and - finally - something worth celebrating

GLEAM (HMCo. #65) was christened by JBH's daughter, Katherine Kilton Herreshoff

April 21, 1880

The steamer GLEAM (HMCo. #65) was launched on this day in 1880, as noted by the Bristol Phoenix. This steam yacht carried one of the Herreshoff "safety" coil boilers, which were designed by JBH, and patented in 1876. These boilers were notable for how quickly they could be gotten up to temperature and also for their improved safety, as they were less prone to explosion than comparable boilers.

Forest and Stream also reported on the launching a few days later and alluded to the fame the Herreshoff yard had already achieved even at this early date in their operations: "It it unnecessary here to expatiate upon the steamer's model. The capacity of the Herreshoffs in this direction is too well-known. They copy no one, take nothing as a sample, but confide in their own ability to produce just what they want. The Gleam, as her dimensions will show, is intended for use on the great stretches of sheltered waters and reaches of the sea which indent the Atlantic coast. Her lines are, of course, as fine, easy and graceful as it is possible to combine with reasonable accommodation and almost railroad speed. She has U frames throughout, very slight hollow forward, bold 'midship body, with some flare to her sides and an exceedingly fine run. These, with just the right amount of sheer, stylish outwater and an English cutter stern --- each part fitting the other --- a smart looking schooner rig and tasty joinerwork, all go to produce a vessel which is a pleasing harmony to the eye and a serviceable and well arranged design for practical use."

April 25, 1914 and April 20, 1920

Like so many things, the 1914 America’s Cup was postponed due to the outbreak of WWI. Racing for the Cup wouldn't resume for another six years. RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725) was contracted in September 1913, launched on April 25, 1914, and didn't race until 1920. She was the last America's Cup Defender designed by Captain Nat, but was not the last Defender built by HMCo. As we shall see, the trials finally held in Bristol in April 1920 resulted in a bit of a excitement - and front page news - in the small town of Bristol.

RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725) under sail; image from the HMM historic photo archive