September 10, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: September 10

A steam launch sighting from a Rocky Point correspondent, an aside on HMCo. numbers, a little labor history, a family obituary, a public bath house, HMCo. apprenticeships, and a Cup Defender remembered...

September 11, 1875

It is possible that this sighting via the Providence Journal refers to the steam launch SPITFIRE (HMCo. #18), which was completed in September of 1875. Six launches in total were built to this model between 1873 and 1875, beginning with the also aptly named FIREBRAND (HMCo. #11). SPITFIRE and sister vessel GEM (HMCo. #15) were both delivered by J.B.H. via steamer to plantation owners in Savannah, Georgia in 1875. A third, SPRAY (HMCo. #16), was delivered to a client in Norfolk, VA on the same trip. One wonders what such a delivery must have been like, just ten years after the end of the American Civil War.

The model for SPITFIRE (HMCo. #18), the last of six boats built to this particular N.G.H. designed model between 1873 and 1875.

Discerning readers may also wonder about a time discrepancy here: the series of vessels built to this model all have "HMCo." hull numbers, but they were all built three to five years before HMCo.'s official incorporation. What's that all about? "HMCo. number" could be described as an inaccurate term in the case of these earliest vessels, but we use it out of convenience today. Examination of the HMCo. Construction Record reveals "#1" was assigned to a vessel built in 1868, ten years before the brothers formally incorporated as HMCo. Though we commonly call these numbers "hull numbers" or "HMCo. numbers," they might be more accurately referred to as contract numbers. Currently, we believe the oldest HMCo. builder's plate still in existence showing a contract/hull/HMCo. number belongs to HMM's own WEE WIN (HMCo. #425, of 1892). We don't have any examples of pre-incorporation builder's plates in the HMM collection showing hull numbers, and so cannot say with certainty when builder's plates bearing these contract numbers first started appearing in the Herreshoff brothers' boats. That said, the Construction Record contains a wealth of information about the Herreshoff brothers' production after 1868 and especially for these early vessels. It is well worth the time to examine closely if you enjoy splitting historical hairs!

September 8, 1894

The Bristol Phoenix follows up on last week's notice of an increase in working hours at HMCo. from nine to ten hours a day. This week's brief note may be alluding to the HMCo. practice of furloughing workers when there was no work to be had, stating: "The Herreshoffs started up on Monday morning last, and ten hours will constitute a day's work. Better work ten hours than not work at all... Labor Day had just been recognized as a Federal Holiday three months earlier, in June of 1894 - a fact which surely would not have been lost on many Phoenix readers. The jury is out on the Phoenix's politics however, as towards the end of the same September 8th column they note: "Labor Day found more people loafing and out of work than at any time for a long number of years..." While federal recognition made the first Monday in September a holiday for federal workers beginning in 1894, Labor Day didn't become a truly nationwide day-off until well into the 1930s.

HMCo. employees photographed in March of 1882; image from the HMM archives

September 7, 1900

The Phoenix reports the death of J.B.H.'s son-in-law, husband of Katherine Kilton (neé Herreshoff), Lewis Henry DeWolf of Bristol, RI; he was 45 years old. "Lewis Henry DeWolf of this town died yesterday at Howard, where he has been treatment for several months past... He was the son of the late A. Sidney DeWolf [of the Bristol, RI DeWolf family] and spent a number of years In Mexico and also in Cuba Porto Rico and other West India Islands. He returned to Bristol a number of years ago and was employed as a receiving clerk at the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company..."  

September 7, 1909

Bristol's boys and men will finally get the public bath house they have always deserved! Extensive reporting on the plan appeared on front page of the Phoenix on August 17, and on September 7th the Phoenix reports that the work being done by HMCo. is "progressing well." We suppose the women and girls will just have to keep jumping of the HMCo. pier as they always had.

Though unrelated, this public bath house brings to mind another project undertaken by HMCo. some years later, in the form of a swimming pool for Mount Hope Farm. Now you too can examine the plans for the pump and filtration system of the Mount Hope pool of 1938 from the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection at the MIT Museum! Exactly what you'd always expected to find in the HMCo. collection of plans, we are sure.

Most likely Katherine (Katie) Kilton Herreshoff pictured mid-jump off the South Wharf at HMCo. in the 1890s; image from the HMM archive

September 9, 1919

The Phoenix declares there are "Tentative Plans for an Apprentice Class" at HMCo. in collaboration with the local vocational high school. It is an interesting concept, though how it would have differed from the normal course of beginning to work at a place like HMCo. and learning as you went, perhaps over the course of your entire lifetime, is hard to say. We do know that quite a few HMCo. employees were "lifers" who spent their whole careers at HMCo. No further articles in the Phoenix reference the development of any kind of formal apprenticeship program, so it is unlikely this particular collaboration came to fruition with the local vocational school. One also wonders if J.B.H. would have seen the value in - or even entertained - any kind of formalized apprenticeship program as suggested in the article were he still alive in 1919.

September 10, 1920

And finally, a little celebration of RESOLUTE from 1920. To be perfectly frank, we have no idea what this means. If any local Bristol historians or United States Tire Company historians out there care to enlighten us, we'd absolutely love to know what "a large historical book of the type familiar to all motorists" is. Let us know in the comments! Image courtesy of the Bristol Phoenix digital archive.

RESOLUTE under sail; image from the HMM photo archive