August 20, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: August 20

The dog days of summer (and the HMCo. summer holiday!) mean less to report out of the shops, but this week we have two contracts of note and a small fire to put out

August 20, 1890

The model used for MISSISQUOI and 19 other HMCo. built high-speed steam launches; model currently on display in the HMM Model Room

The contract for the high speed steam launch MISSISQUOI (HMCo. #166) was signed on this day 130 years ago. All in all, 20 vessels were built between 1884 to the model N.G.H. used for this design. Many of them ended up being tenders for such famous vessels as ATALANTA, railroad magnate Jay Gould's enormous Philadelphia-built steam yacht, and the Fish Commission research vessel U.S.S. ALBATROSS. MISSISQUOI was commissioned by an owner in Burlington, VT, to be used on Lake Champlain. Later, the launch would be purchased by Robert E. Tod, serial Herreshoff customer and owner of KATOURA (HMCo. #722), the largest sailing vessel ever produced by HMCo.

August 18, 1905

FIRE! Fire risk in a boatyard is always a terrible prospect. This week the Bristol Phoenix reports on a fire in a Herreshoff-owned house on the factory campus occupied by J.B.H. and Captain Nat's nephew, Albert. Luckily, the blaze was eliminated before doing undue damage, or spreading elsewhere in the yard. The Herreshoffs took fire risk extremely seriously. They had their own fire brigade, handbook, alarm and system of buckets and hoses stashed around the yard to deal with fires quickly should they arise. There were very specific rules about where you could smoke on the HMCo. campus (boiler or blacksmith shop only, as both were already relatively fireproof!) and always a night watchman - partly to look out for mischief, but certainly also to keep an eye out for fire.

HMCo.'s equivalent of an employee handbook - note last line: "Smoking will be allowed between 12 and 12:55 noon, in the blacksmith shop and boiler house. It is strictly forbidden while at work and at all other parts of the premises..."; Artifact from the HMM Herreshoff Collection

August 20, 1930

The order to build the S-boat OSPREY (HMCo. #1179) was signed on this day 90 years ago. OSPREY is still actively raced in Rhode Island and it is not uncommon to see the boat at HMM's annual Herreshoff Regatta - which is coming up very soon! To see photos and results of regattas past or to learn more or sign up yourself, check out our regatta page on our website. It is wonderful to see how many historic Herreshoff vessels, replicas, and other classics from the period - as well as classically inspired ("spirit of tradition") boats - appear for these events. One wonders what Captain Nat would think to see a few of his boats returning to Bristol to race each year, some more than a hundred years after they first went down the ways here.

S-class construction drawing blueprint; detail courtesy of the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection at the MIT Museum

This post was edited on 08/29/20 to correct OSPREY's order-to-build date. It was erroneously stated as OSPREY's contract date in an earlier version.