December 3, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: December 3

An impressive little launch, another ESTELLE sighting, a Herreshoff boiler powers a fog horn, a superintendent leaves the plant, and a significant contract is signed

December 3, 1870

The ANEMONE (HMCo. #4) half model; currently on display in the HMM Model Room

The little steamer ANEMONE (HMCo. #4) has been laid up in the yard for winter storage, according to the Phoenix. Only ANEMONE was ever built to this one model, and she was built for personal use by J.B.H. Not only did the 22 year old Nat carve the model, but he also designed the engine. J.B.H. produced the engine in his own shop in Bristol. Contemporaneous newspaper accounts suggest it was an efficient little craft, reportedly "burning only three bushels of coal" in a 90 mile run to Norwich, CT in September 1870. Captain Nat was working at Corliss then, but still managed to find time to take the 38' launch all the way to New York in the summer of 1870 to watch the yachts racing in the Lower Bay.

December 1, 1877

DEXTER & the rather smaller ESTELLE photographed in Bristol Harbor, 1877; HMM archive

The Phoenix reports that the revenue cutter SAMUEL DEXTER is still here watching ESTELLE (indeed, the DEXTER would remain for quite some time, as we recently covered in a "From the Vault" post). At the same time, the Phoenix notes that a patented Herreshoff Safety Coil Boiler has been used to test the town's "large sized" fog horns. Apparently the coil boiler was quite effective in this application, to the point that "the tests were nearly continuous for a day or two at a time... the music - in a horn - is, to say in the least, slightly monotonous..." HMCo. didn't just build engines and boilers for boats; they also built them for land-based applications, often to produce power in industrial settings.

December 2, 1902

Alpheus A. Packard, HMCo. Superintendent, has resigned - according to the Bristol Phoenix. Alpheus A. Packard is another individual from the pool of talented HMCo. employees that deserves more attention in the analysis of the Company's history. He was born in Massachusetts in 1871 and demonstrated an interest in boatbuilding and sailing from a young age. He studied naval architecture and mechanical engineering at MIT, first began working for HMCo. in 1898 on the COLUMBIA (HMCo. #499) campaigns. He left to manage a shipyard in New Jersey. He was evidently close with N.G.H., as there are several mentions of him in the archives joining the Herreshoff's for sails in small family boats like COQUINA (HMCo. #404) and KILDEE (HMCo. #460). Even after he left for New Jersey, he continued to correspond with Captain Nat, eventually returning in July of 1902 to superintend the plant. This second stint was short-lived, however, for he left again just months later in December, as reported above. The exact reason for his departure is unknown, but it is possible he was caught between N.G.H. and J.B.H. in disagreements over details of the Cup Defender then in development, RELIANCE (HMCo. #605). This was not the end of Packard's story in the yachting world, however: from Bristol, he went on to form a partnership that same winter with none other than Starling W. Burgess in Packard's home town of Salem, MA. That partnership also did not last, but perhaps the most notable product of their years together was the Winter Harbor 21 class. Packard would go on to teach in the Department of Naval Architecture at MIT for a year, and was later involved with the construction of the J Class sloop YANKEE under Frank C. Paine. You can learn more about Packard's time with Burgess (and see a rare photo of him) in Lewellyn Howland III's biography of Burgess, "No Ordinary Being"

December 3, 1910

On this day 110 years ago, a contract was signed for the second of two utterly iconic HMCo. schooners: ELENA, HMCo. #706. The first was WESTWARD, HMCo. #692, which had just been launched the previous spring. In Captain Nat's own words, "In 1911, the fine forty-four feet waterline cruising sloop FLYING CLOUD [HMCo. #703] was built for the Grinnell brothers and the ninety-six feet waterline keel and centerboard schooner ELENA for Mr. Plant. She was intended to be an improvement on WESTWARD for racing and WESTWARD was brought home to sail with her. ELENA appeared to be faster to windward, but if Charlie Barr had lived and sailed on her [WESTWARD], there would have been some close racing..." ELENA and WESTWARD went at it "hammer and tongs" during the summer of 1911, according to L. Francis. ELENA would go on to win two Astor Cups and the King's Cup in the transatlantic race of 1928.

ELENA as photographed by Stebbins during the 1911 Astor Cup races off Newport. Though ELENA finished first in her class, WESTWARD won on corrected time that year; image courtesy Historic New England, Stebbins photographic collection.
Captain Charlie Barr at Wheel of WESTWARD; HMM archive