June 25, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: June 25

Oyster pirates, more Cup defense training, Fourth of July races, baseball in Bristol, and a switch to a "reduced" schedule in a "dull" season

June 28, 1894

Per the Phoenix, the "Steam yacht Viva, J. B. Herreshoff owner, has been leased by Mr. Langdon of Shelter Island, NY for the season, and sailed for her destination on Tuesday last." This vessel was originally named GOVERNOR HAMILTON (HMCo. #102) and was built in 1883 for the state of Maryland for the "Oyster Navy" (also known as the Oyster Police Service). This police force was established to guard against poaching of the valuable commodity on hundreds of thousands of acres of beds during the often violent Oyster Wars in the Chesapeake during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th centuries. VIVA ended up back under J.B.H.'s ownership in 1895 before being sold again in 1896. You can see VIVA / GOVERNOR HAMILTON's plans on the MIT Museum website.

Oyster pirates dredging after dark in 1884; wood engraving courtesy of the Library of Congress digital archives

June 25, 1895

Continuing with last week's mention of Cup Defender preparations and Captain Haff's illness, "The big sloop Colonia [HMCo. #435] that is used by the cup defender syndicate to train Defender's crew arrived in Bristol harbor Saturday morning from New Rochelle in charge of mate Berry, who is acting skipper during the absence of Capt. Hank Haff through illness. The Colonia's crew has been increased to 86 men since she was here last, and they will remain until after the Defender [HMCo. #452] is launched..." Further preparations for more racing are again announced just a few days later in Phoenix.

June 23 and 26 1896

KILDEE (HMCo. #460) under sail with COQUINA (HMCo. #404) in tow; photo by Agnes M. Herreshoff, now part of the HMM photo archive

The Phoenix reports a seemingly friendly challenge: "At the regular meeting of the Naval Reserve Torpedo Company held Friday evening... the matter of selecting a crew to take part in the races at Providence July 4th was discussed. In the meantime rowing practice will be held In the harbor each evening until the race... A communication was received from the boat's crew of the steel shipbuilders of the Herreshoffs works, inviting the Reserve crew to a race in the harbor Thursday evening, July 2, the Reserves to allow the Herreshoff crew to use one of the Reserves' boats for practice several evenings previous to the race and also during the race. No action was taken on the matter..." News of another kind of race was published the same week, noting that N.G.H. would be entering KILDEE (HMCo. #460).

June 28, 1898

Missing baseball this coronavirus season? Get your vintage fix through the Phoenix! "The Powers Bros, team came over from Fall River Saturday afternoon and played the Bristol Common nine. The visitors were not in the hunt after the first inning, when the Bristols banged the ball in all directions, sending 12 men to bat and flooring seven runs. The home team tried a new pitcher, Hibberts, an employee at the Herreshoff works, who, a few years ago, had considerable experience as a professional twirler. He did remarkably well considering the fact that he had not pitched in several years..." Yes, the HMCo. crew were a multi-talented lot...

June 28, 1904

Three vessels were built to this half model, including MARGARET (HMCo. #621) between 1904 and 1905. MARGARET is the only one of the three still out in the wild today; model currently on display in the HMM Model Room.

The idea that a "regular" work week should be five days and about 40 hours didn't become the norm until the after the Depression in the U.S. At HMCo. in 1904, a summer reduction in business meant hours were reduced to just 45 a week, as reported by the Bristol Phoenix: "the approaching dull season at the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.'s shops has necessitated the cutting down of the number of help in various departments, and last Saturday a summer schedule of 45 hours a week was begun. By this arrangement the men will work nine hours a day for five days each week, the shops being closed all day Saturday. So far as is now known the main work in the boat shops during the summer will be that of repairs. The last boat of the season to be turned out was the Margaret [HMCo. #621], a 39 foot sloop of the racing type..."