November 20, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: November 19

Steel steamships of the future, a steam yacht for Mr. Chickering, building to a new rule, and the company reorganized

November 20, 1880

HMCo. #44; engraving printed in The Graphic, 1879, and the Scientific American, April 1879, courtesy the HCR

The Phoenix fiercely defends American steel, skill and ingenuity! A recent report in the Journal of Commerce of New York focuses on British advances in steel shipbuilding but ignores American manufacturing of the same. The Phoenix cites the "skill and ingenuity of American artisans," and HMCo.'s excellence in production in particular. In 1878, an experimental steam torpedo boat (HMCo. #44) was shipped to the U.K. alongside a wooden launch (GYMNOTUS, HMCo. #47) for George R. Dunnell under order from the Admiralty for the British Navy. The description of #44 doesn't exactly match the Phoenix account of an all steel-plated vessel - HMCo. #44 was planked below the sheer and plated above - but it may be the vessel the Phoenix is referring to here. This strange looking craft is an example of HMCo.'s early international marketing strategy, and not a bad illustration when it comes to "steamships of the future" !

November 20, 1886

The steam yacht MARINA (HMCo. #105) is purchased by one C.F. Chickering, according to the Bristol Phoenix. Could this be a Chickering of the piano family fame and fortune? If so, it is not the only Herreshoff-Chickering connection in the museum's archives. There were several Chickering pianos in the extended Herreshoff family, including one that was certified the as the oldest extant in 1924 in a competition run by the piano company to celebrate their centennial. Today the Metropolitan Museum of Art can boast of an even older Chickering in their collection, but we're still impressed by the 1823 model in the Herreshoff line.

MARINA (HMCo. #105); HMM photo archive
Letter from the president of Chickering & Sons to Mr. Lewis Herreshoff, 1924; HMM archive

November 21, 1891

The Phoenix reports that "business is brisk" at HMCo.; E.D. Morgan has ordered another boat - DRUSILLA, HMCo. #417 - and a 2 1/2 rater is under construction and destined for the U.K. The 2 1/2 rater is WENONAH (HMCo. #415).

DRUSILLA (HMCo. #417) as photographed by Stebbins in 1892; image courtesy Historic New England Stebbins Photographic Collection

November 19, 1904

The contract for DORIS (HMCo. #625) was signed on this day 116 years ago. DORIS was "the first yacht of any consequence to be built to the Universal Rule," according to L. Francis Herreshoff. The vessel is still with us today, and is currently undergoing restoration.

DORIS (HMCo. #625) as photographed by Stebbins in 1908; image courtesy Historic New England Stebbins Photographic Collection

November 18, 1924

On this day 96 years ago, HMCo.'s incorporation under the Haffenreffer family in partnership with A. Sidney and Nathanael Herreshoff was announced in the Bristol Phoenix. You can read more about the status of the company in the challenging period between J.B.H.'s death and the Haffenreffer years in our two part series on the Prudence Island clam bake from a few weeks ago.