June 18, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: June 18

Start of summer, a new propeller and some Providence industrial waterfront history, a gang of plumbers arrives in Bristol, trial runs and layoffs

June 16, 1883

The Bristol Phoenix notes that "The steam yacht Permelia [HMCo. #100] was on the Providence Marine Railway on Friday of last week, having a larger wheel [read: propeller] attached. She returned here the same evening." PERMELIA (HMCo. #100) was the second of that name to be built by HMCo. within two years, and was nicknamed ONE HUNDRED. N.G.H. recorded her best mean speed at 19.3 mph on her trial run with the new screw. It is interesting to note that the Phoenix reported her having been hauled at the Providence Marine Railway rather than at HMCo. More digging in the archive will have to be done to ascertain whether this was because the ways in Bristol were not up to the task for some reason or otherwise occupied, and/or how normal it might have been to have an HMCo. vessel hauled in Providence (we suspect not terribly). Irrespective, the Providence Dry Dock and Marine Railway Company has its own fascinating history and deserves mention here. It was located on Bold Point, along the waterfront in East Providence. Today you can see the location today from the East Bay Bike Path just after crossing the river from Providence, and at low tide in Green Jacket Shoals just off the point you can see remains of vessels and pilings now abandoned. URI has a short post about the drydock company here, and you can see more historic photos from the Providence Joural archive here.

Providence Dry Dock and Marine Co. circa 1910, courtesy of the Providence Journal

June 18, 1895

Yes, sometimes even HMCo. needed a few extra hands! The Phoenix reports that a gang of plumbers has arrived from Providence to work on the America's Cup Defender, DEFENDER (HMCo. #452) Additionally, divers are busy working to prepare the ways for launch day, and worryingly Captain Hank Haff has had a cancerous tumor removed from his jaw. We don't want to think about that one too hard...

June 16 and 19, 1896

The Phoenix reports that the New York Yacht Club held its 51st regatta in which six of the new HMCo. built "30 footers" compete. These fin keelers were a historic one design class - indeed, one of the very first - the Newport one design Thirties. You can read an extensive article about the class published in "Outing" in 1896, courtesy of the Herreshoff Catalogue Raisonné. In the same issue, the The Defender Club, ("members of which are steel works at the Herreshoffs'") throws a party. In more serious news, a fraudulent bill of sale (surely a deal too good to be true) leads to the arrest and eventual release of two young boys. The stolen vessel in question belonged to one of the draughtsmen at HMCo.

June 19, 1906

A matter of fact statement reveals a harsh reality in the Bristol Phoenix on June 19, 1906: "quite a number of employees at the Herreshoff boat shops were laid off Saturday night, work on the big yacht having been completed..." The vessel in question was likely the 126' LOA QUEEN (HMCo. 657), later called IROLITA. Trials took place on June 17, 1906 with Captain Nat and the owner J. Rogers Maxwell both aboard, also mentioned in the Phoenix. Notice of employee terminations was published just two days later. Such was life in a company even so large as HMCo. at the turn of the century: when there were contracts and work was flowing, men were employed but when the contracts ended, there was no guarantee of continued employment. This was not unusual for the times but perhaps reflected J.B.H.'s unwillingness to take on debt as a matter of business.

HMCo. employees, March of 1882; Image from HMM photo archive