February 25, 2021

From the Vault: A “Halo of Mystery”

A Word from Thomas Fleming Day

"Our American correspondent visits Fort Herreshoff under a flag of truce. He is received with suspicious ceremony, but is permitted to enter the citadel, and has an interesting interview with its commander…"

So begins a piece originally published in U.K.-based The Yachtsman in February 1893, self-described as "one of the most daring and hazardous feats of modern journalism." The brave young reporter, then 32 years old, was the inimitable Thomas Fleming Day (1861 - 1927). Though this piece is pure satire, HMCo.'s (and especially Captain Nat's) hostility towards reporters is well documented. In contrast, J.B.H. had a reputation for his more tempered attitude towards the press, particularly in HMCo.'s early years. Contrary to Captain Nat's desire for privacy, J.B.H. viewed publicity as a means of promoting the business, which is perhaps why Day placed him centrally here.

Day (right) photographed in 1911 with two companions; image courtesy the Library of Congress

Day himself was a man of many talents, from reporting, writing and editing to racing and designing. In 1893, he had already been the chief editor of The Rudder magazine for three years, and would continue in that role until 1916. Described by Gary Jobson for the National Sailing Hall of Fame as "a champion of amateurs," he advocated for broad participation in sports and accessibility to the water, and was the man behind the first race to Bermuda from New York in 1906. He was also a founding participant as captain of one of three small yachts at the start line that first year. Day's strong opinions and personality were often on display in his writing, as demonstrated by this piece that we have replicated in its entirety for your enjoyment here today. From the details therein it is entirely unclear whether Day set foot in Rhode Island or not, but it makes for entertaining reading. Join us, brave readers, on this harrowing journey 128 years back in time to Fort Herreshoff:

The special supplement featuring WEE WINN (HMCo. #425) also referred to above