October 22, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: October 22

Two fires, plumbing updates, steam launches and Vedette boats, America's Cup speculation and signs of a faltering relationship with the Navy

October 21, 1871

"Chicago in Flames": a Currier and Ives print of the Great Chicago Fire; image courtesy the Chicago History Museum

The Phoenix reports on a fundraiser concert for Chicago Fire relief, organized by Lewis Herreshoff. The devastation of the Great Chicago Fire made the front pages everywhere in the fall of 1871, and the Bristol Phoenix was no exception. The deadly two day fire sparked relief efforts around the world, including a fundraiser in the little town of Bristol partly organized by Lewis Herreshoff. Read more about the fire itself here. Lewis was sibling number five in the lineup of the nine Herreshoff children, just after J.B.H. Like many of the Herreshoff siblings, he was quite musical. He also loved to swim and spend time on the water, and was N.G.H.'s companion on the trip on RIVIERA through Europe. According to his obituary in the Phoenix, he was a beloved figure around town.

October 19, 1878

The Bristol Phoenix reports that HMCo. gets plumbing! Actually we're not positive what the implications were here, as the earliest physical plant drawing in the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff collection at MIT is from 1881 and does not show any water pipes. You decide for yourself.

October 22, 1881

According to the Phoenix, orders have been placed for two steam launches for the Brits and two vedette boats for the French. The vedettes were HMCo. #85 and #86, and were the third and fourth built to those plans. The two launches were HMCo. #80 and #81. The Herreshoff brothers were open to taking contracts with foreign governments and navies in the early years of HMCo.'s operation, and clients included the Peruvian Navy, the French Navy, the British Navy, and the Russian Navy.

Detail of the construction drawing for hull numbers 85 & 86; image courtesy the MIT Museum digital archives
Construction drawing for HMCo. #80 and #81; image courtesy the MIT Museum digital archives

October 21, 1893

Read on for an article in the Bristol Phoenix on the America's Cup and "The Bristol Boat: Nat won’t give a fellow a chance to win”. VIGILANT (HMCo. #437) and COLONIA (HMCo. #435) are the topic of not a little smugness from the Phoenix, which notes that though they may be New York sponsored boats, they were built right here in Bristol. This stands in contrast with previous Cup Defenders and other contenders hailing from Boston. If you want to learn more about the selection process, take a look at our "From the Vault" post on Cup Defender Selection Series.

COLONIA (HMCo. #435) and VIGILANT (HMCo. #437) under sail; image courtesy Historic New England, Stebbins Photographic Collection
Two of the three candidates that didn't make it past the selection trials: COLONIA (HMCo. #435) and JUBILEE. PILGRIM, the third, not pictured; image courtesy Historic New England, Stebbins Photographic Collection

October 22, 1895

The Phoenix reports that the HMCo.-built torpedo boat CUSHING (HMCo. #152) is back in town for a visit.

CUSHING (HMCo. #152); US Navy Photo

October 25, 1895

Signs of friction in a public forum: the Phoenix reports that "Herreshoff think they can do better without naval inspectors." Check out some of our previous coverage on HMCo.'s relationship with the U.S. Navy by Curator Emeritus John Palmieri.

October 19, 1900

America's Cup speculation is on the rise again, reports the Phoenix! No surprises there. Head on over to the Phoenix Archive to read all about it.

October 23, 1900

In bad news from the waterfront, a fire destroys leased walker’s cove barn, two sailboats, lots of gear and several tenders. The loss was estimated at around $6,000. What was $6,000 worth at HMCo. in 1900? Well, the 67' cutter MARCHIONESS (HMCo. #546) was launched just five days later; that contract had been signed for $10,525 the previous July. EFFORT (HMCo. #541), a 52' cutter, had billed out at $5,500 that year. The 54' sloop PLEASURE (HMCo. #545), was launched in July and contracted for $7,000. The first version of a Newport 15, EAGLET (HMCo. #544) was 24' over all and a comparative steal at $750. Pricing, of course, was a complex business at HMCo., and direct comparison of the sticker prices of various yachts is a simplistic way of looking at things... but it is still interesting to consider!

October 22, 1901

HMCo. tangles with a neighbor over a question of shore privilege: "What may develop into a case for the courts to decide as to question of damages or rights may be the result of the extension Company Tuesday of this week Capt. Job Terry of Fall River, with his steamer Archer, commenced the work of driving a line of spiles several feet north of the present north pier and upon which the new addition to the saw mill is to be erected It is understood that Mrs. Elizabeth M Colt, who owns the properly next north of Burnside street, has protested against the driving of spiles on what is claimed as the shore privilege of her property. Mrs. Colt has secured the services of Attorney Arnold Gieeue of Providence to look after her Interests, and it is understood that notice has been served on the Herreshoff Company protesting against the occupancy of the shore privilege of Mrs. Colt Wednesday members of the harbor commission of the State were here to examine the location of the spiles..." Apparently this was not the only bone of contention between Mrs. Colt and HMCo., as the question of sewers also became one of public enquiry in an open letter published in the Phoenix that same week.

Detail courtesy the MIT Museum digital archives