August 6, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: August 6

A Sakonnet clambake, aquaplaning antics, a public housing proposal, swimming in Bristol and a different Captain Herreshoff

Image of man in an old fashioned swimsuit aquaplaning behind a small powerboat

August 9, 1921

A party of 48 men travels by many automobiles and one boat to Sakonnet. The clambake outing was organized by a local chapter of the Y.M.C.A. and included brothers A. Sidney deWolf Herreshoff and Nathanael Herreshoff Jr. in the one boat, naturally. The vessel in question was BUBBLE (HMCo. #285) designed by A. Sidney and much beloved by the family. The brothers entertained the party with their antics, including aquaplaning, a favorite pastime of that Herreshoff generation. Daring watersports aside, A. Sidney himself was a very reserved man. Indeed, searches for "A. Sidney Herreshoff" in the Bristol Phoenix more often return news of his Mrs. A. Sidney's activities around town. A. Sidney often does not get enough credit for his significant design contributions at HMCo., first under his father NGH's tutelage and eventually as lead designer himself during the Haffenreffer era from the 1920s through the firm's closure in 1945.

A. Sidney in BUBBLE towing his brother Nathanael Jr. behind. The Cup Defender RESOLUTE is moored in the background. This image was taken in 1914; from the HMM historic photo archive.
Two images of a woman standing on a man's shoulder while aquaplaning, or being towed behind a boat on a small board. Aquaplaning was a precursor to modern waterskiing.
Rebecca (Becky) Chase Herreshoff and A. Sidney Herreshoff demonstrate their superior aquaplaning athleticism, August 1925; HMM historic photo archive

August 1 and 5, 1941

Rudolph F. Haffenreffer, president of HMCo., declares his community minded attitude twice in one week: first, offering land for a public housing project and second, opening up one of his properties to the public for bathing. As noted in the second article, there were few places for Bristolians to cool off locally and the issue of public access to the water was - and continues to be - a serious impediment for many people, particularly at the height of summer. While there is no swimming allowed on the HMM property today due to safety concerns in our harbor, the docks and piers on our waterfront are generally open to the public in the evenings and we welcome you to come take a walk and enjoy the breeze. There is also a small town beach just adjacent to our property if you really need to cool off during your visit, as well as public access to the water at the nearby Colt State Park!

Swimming off the Herreshoff wharf in the 1890s; image from the HMM photo archive

August 4, 1942

A WWII era recruitment poster for the Red Cross Motor Corps, courtesy of the National Archives

The Bristol Red Cross Motor Corps marks its first birthday, lead by Capt. Herreshoff! No, not that Captain Herreshoff - this is Rebecca (Becky) Chase Herreshoff, wife of A. Sidney deWolf Herreshoff. The Bristol chapter of the Red Cross Motor Corps primarily ran the local ambulance service during the War, and the 13 women who were members on its first birthday had undertaken a rigorous training program to prepare them for duty. Not only were they schooled in emergency care and aspects of nursing, but also as auto mechanics for ambulance maintenance, and had participated in lecture on everything from map reading and blackout driving to wartime gas survival training. The Red Cross Motor Corps was established in 1917 during WWI by the American Red Cross to provide support to the war effort in a variety of ways, and was also involved with 1918 flu pandemic relief efforts.