July 30, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: July 30

A cross country delivery the long way around, HMCo. issues a challenge, a settlement is reached, an electric launch is delivered, and a new superintendent is appointed

July 29, 1878

From the San Francisco Examiner, January 31, 1879

The catamaran ZARIFA was shipped to New York on this day 142 years ago. From there she would be loaded on the vessel ABNER I. [also reported J. / L.] BENYON to begin the journey to San Francisco. This would have been a long journey around Cape Horn in 1878, as first attempts at constructing the Panama Canal would not begin for another three years, and would not be completed until 1914. ZARIFA, aboard the BENYON, arrived in San Francisco on January 6, 1879. ZARIFA was the seventh of NGH's catamarans built in the 1870s. NGH had originally built ZARIFA intending to race her in the June 27 New York Bay Regatta (like AMARYLLIS the year before). NGH did not enter her in the race in the end, possibly due to the impending sale to Alfred S. Hall.

Watercolor of ABNER I. BENYON by Charles Rosner, ca. 1894 - 1941; image courtesy the Mariners Museum

July 27 and 31, 1880

The Challenge as printed in the Bristol Pheonix, July 31, 1880

HMCo. throws down the gauntlet in the Bristol Phoenix this week! The challenge involves the HMCo. steamer LEILA (HMCo. #40) and is another prime example of JBH's shrewd marketing abilities. Though HMCo. famously refused to pay for traditional newspaper advertising, JBH's marketing acumen is well documented. This is just one of several examples specifically involving the very fast steamer LEILA, such as her loan to the Navy for trials and testing. The 70 ton ANTHRACITE carried machinery designed by Loftus Perkins. This was just one of several steam related inventions Loftus claimed fame for, the others most notably relating to high-pressure steam tractors, an early refrigeration type unit, and portable steam oven technology for baking bread.

July 29, 1902

The Phoenix has much to report in and around the shops! A new superintendent is slated to begin work shortly, and the annual August vacation for workers in the yard is announced. The steam yacht BELLEMERE (ex BALLYMENA, HMCo. #151) has arrived for refitting and to pick up a new electric HMCo.-built launch (HMCo. #221). Work on serial HMCo. patron E.D. Morgan's 15 footer (the fabulously named WATURUS, HMCo. #585) begins. And finally, lead sailmaker Asa Hathaway and his wife return from a few days vacation.

Yes, "batteries" - you read that right! Check out the whole drawing for BELLEMERE (ex BALLYMENA)'s electric launch in the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection at the MIT Museum

In another column the same day, The Phoenix reports an update three years later on a tragic accident that had taken place at HMCo. during a nighttime launching: "Yesterday at Providence, Judge Blodgett in Common Pleas Division, ordered judgment to be entered and execution issued in the case of Luke Callan against William Mills and others of Providence... The plaintiff was hurt three years ago by the explosion of flashlight powder while the defendants were taking a picture of the launching of the cup defender Columbia..." You can read more about the original accident in a previous "This Week in Herreshoff History" post.