November 5, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: November 5

A torpedo boat contract, a family boat is launched, a draftsman leaves the company, a hero returns (and is met by an old favorite...)

November 5, 1875

LIGHTNING (HMCo. #20) photographed off Newport in 1876; image from the HMM historic photo archive

On this day 145 years ago the Navy steam torpedo boat LIGHTNING (HMCo. #20) was contracted for. LIGHTNING was the first of seven torpedo boats to follow built by HMCo. for the U.S. Navy. As L. Francis Herreshoff described in Wizard of Bristol, "in 1875 the U.S. Navy ordered the torpedo boat 'Lightning' which made the speed of twenty-two miles per hour. This was the first torpedo boat ordered to be built by the Navy although before this they had had steam launches which had been converted to torpedo boats. 'Lightning' was a long, narrow, double-ended launch only partly decked, fifty-eight feet long, and carried what is called 'spar torpedoes,' that is, bombs on the end of a long spar which were intended to be rammed against the side of a vessel below her armor plate." It took a crew with some fortitude to handle such a vessel!

November 5, 1895

KILDEE (HMCo. #460) in the background and INEZITA in the foreground, image from the Agnes M. Herreshoff photo album; from the HMCo. historic photo collection.

A head draftsman in the HMCo. offices heads out west to make his mark! Also KILDEE (HMCo. #460) is launched, and the Phoenix makes an oblique dig at the Providence Journal that we don't fully understand (if only the Journal was digitized and publicly available online!) KILDEE was a charming little knockabout originally built for Miss Florence DeWolf, N.G.H.'s sister-in-law. According to N.G.H., Florence won quite a few races in KILDEE before returning her to N.G.H.'s ownership. Underwater, KILDEE has a shape very similar to DEFENDER.

November 4, 1898

The fin-keeler ALERION [II] (not the one you're thinking!) and one of the ALICE's (HMCo. #405 in this case) are hauled for the winter at the Walker's Cove storage yard. N.G.H. gamely sets out in COQUINA to meet DEFENDER upon her return to Bristol. DEFENDER was returning to HMCo. to be refitted to serve as a trial horse for the next America's Cup selection series. HMCo. employees in Bristol are building a cradle and preparing the ways and wharfs for DEFENDER's arrival.