August 13, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: August 13

A delivery by rail, repairs and launchings, a summer vacation, the company band serenades the boss, and an excursion to Rocky Point

August 12, 1882

The second half of the 19th century was truly the Age of the Rail in the U.S. Though HMCo. was primarily a marine oriented company, their connection to other parts of the country via railway played an important part in their business too. For example, the Phoenix reports that "a large Herreshoff safety coil boiler, for the Marine City Mill, Michigan, was sent from the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.'s Works, Tuesday, to its destination by railroad..." There are a number of examples of not only engines but also HMCo. boats and at least one airplane hull being delivered from Bristol via rail.

August 4,* 1894

KATRINA (HMCo. #163); image from the HMM photo archive

In the Bristol Phoenix: "YACHTS AND YACHTING. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company launched on Tuesday forenoon, a small fin keel sloop of half-rate denomination [TRUST ME, HMCo. #448], which resemble *the 21 feet boat* lately built by them. Her hull is of mahogany, with seasoned oak coamings, and has a very roomy cockpit, with a patent balanced rudder of late design. She is sloop rigged with fin keel of Tobin bronze and lead bulb, and below water line has a coat of red paint. Her length over all is 22 feet, 16 feet water line, 5 feet 6 inches beam, and about 5 feet 6 inches draught. Only about one fortnight has been spent in her construction from the date of order, and is completely rigged and ready to proceed to her destination. She is built for Walter Langdon [Jr.] of Hyde Park, New York, and will leave here for Shelter Island, where he has a summer residence, whither she will be towed. A steam launch [HMCo. #180] was also completed for Steam yacht Siesta [sic, likely THESPIA], of American Yacht Club, owned by Geo. Green of N. Y. She is constructed of pine; her dimensions being about 18 feet over all, 16 feet 6 inches water line, fitted with Herreshoff's improved engines and boilers, and was also built in two weeks time, and was towed to Gold Spring, Long Island, by Steam Yacht Eugenia [HMCo. #178], Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Herreshoff and daughter, Miss Katharine Herreshoff, accompanying and will make a pleasant cruise to various watering places before, returning to Bristol Steam Yacht Katrina [HMCo. #163], which has been undergoing repairs, has been entirely refitted and painted throughout and will proceed to New York. The new fin keeler being built for N. J. Herreshoff is nearly completed and will soon be in the water..." 

EUGENIA [I], HMCo. #178; image from HMM photo archive

There's so much going on in this short column! So many yachts coming and going, deliveries, repairs, and radical fin-keelers left and right. A few of our favorite details as follows: common wisdom states that yachts have green bottoms and working boats have red bottoms, but color research via black and white photos is notoriously... difficult. So, this reference to the red bottom makes for an unusual contrasting note in this story. Also, the two-week construction time for Langdon's TRUST ME seems truly incredible today, but the archives indicate it was actually even less time than that: from contract to launch was twelve days. HMCo.'s skilled workforce and particular efficiency through vertical integration combined with the small vessel's relatively simple construction would make this possible, but twelve days is still impressive. "Half-rater" refers to a rating system that was commonly in use in the U.K. during this period. TRUST ME was actually the the third vessel built to that particular model, the first being the 1892 BEE (HMCo. #421) and the second our very own WEE WIN (HMCo. #425), also of 1892.

* We know this is actually "last week in Herreshoff History," but we missed it last week and it is too good not to share in its entirety

August 11, 1905

A Phoenix report on the HMCo. employees' band would indicate they are in decent spirits, despite the fact that the same page announces work will stopping in the yard until Monday, August 28. Perhaps the HMCo. employees are happy to take a break from work in these dog days of summer? According to the Phoenix, "Mrs. and Mr John B. Herreshoff received a pleasant serenade one night this week from the Herreshoff orchestra. This orchestra, which was organized about six months ago from among the employees at the Herreshoff boat shops, has appeared at several concerts, social affairs, and entertainments, etc., and is rendering creditable music. Asa W. Hathaway is the manager of the orchestra..." Asa W. Hathaway was the lead sailmaker at HMCo. for many years.

The Herreshoff Band in 1906; HMM photo archive

August 9 and 13, 1909

A Herreshoff band member publicly thanks his friends for their generosity in enabling his musical career. The Phoenix also reports on a pleasant summer outing for the HMCo. workforce to Rocky Point, an amusement park (and iconic Rhode Island institution) across Narragansett Bay in Warwick, RI. "The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company's employees, 63 in number, made an excursion to Rocky Point, on Friday of last week in the steamer Javelin, where they partook of an excellent shore dinner, returning home about six o’clock in the evening..."

Crowd gathered on the boat landing at Rocky Point Amusement Park, Narragansett Bay, Warwick, R.I.; images courtesy the Providence Public Library
Ferris wheel at Rocky Point park in Warwick, R.I.