February 11, 2021

This Week in Herreshoff History: February 11

Several swampings and a lot of lost carrots, runaway horses and torpedo boat castings, proposals for a new rule, a company reorganized and a whole fleet of dinghies on order

February 11, 1865

Two views of the half model for PRUDENCE and PATIENCE, now on display in the HMM Model Room

A sailing vessel belonging to Charles F. Herreshoff is reported sunk while filled with 12 tons of “fish guano” near the Herreshoff Wharf. There were four vessels in the family menhaden fishing business at the time: two 27′ purse seiners, HOPE and FAITH, and two 36′ carry away boats, PRUDENCE and PATIENCE. All four had been built by J.B.H. in 1864. It is unclear which of the four sank, but it may have been either of the larger vessels. This unfortunate occurrence was to be repeated in 1871 when PRUDENCE was reported sunk in a gale on November 15 while reportedly carrying a load of 600 bushels of carrots from Bristol to the other side of the bay. The Phoenix later reported that while PRUDENCE was recovered, the cargo was unfortunately not, having already floated away. The unlucky (or lucky?) PRUDENCE appeared yet again in the Phoenix in 1873 after she was reported stolen from her mooring in Portsmouth. The two thieves made for Newport and it was four days before the boat was yet again recovered. N.G.H. later wrote, “I remember the thrill I had in getting PRUDENCE under way alone and bringing her from a wharf uptown to our wharf. The masts of PRUDENCE and PATIENCE were twelve inches in diameter at [the] deck and rather tall, and the booms reached by their sterns, so the sails were large and heavy for one man to handle, as was intended, not saying anything of the job of unloading fish. They were big boats for catboats and would have been much better with lighter stayed masts, set farther aft, and [with a] jib and mainsail rig.” (From Recollections and Other Writings by Nathanael G. Herreshoff.)


February 11, 1896

The Phoenix reports that the Warren Foundry & Machine Co. has been engaged to produce the bronze castings for the U.S.N. torpedo boats then under construction at HMCo. On the same page, the Phoenix also mentions that the Herreshoff horses have attempted another escape with Mrs. DeWolf and Mrs. Herreshoff in tow. Apparently the women were uninjured, but the poor coachman was dragged for some distance when the horses made a break for the ferry. No further comment was made on the coachman’s condition.


February 11, 1898

Hyslop vs. Herreshoff: the Bristol Phoenix reports on the ongoing discussions of the NYYC to adopt a new set of racing rules. Both possible rules are predicted to produce boats “of poor speed” according to The London Field. John Hyslop was the official measurer for the New York Yacht Club during N.G.H.’s reign as their defending champion designer. Later, it would be a version of N.G.H.’s rule that would be adopted as the Universal Rule.


Measuring VIGILANT (HMCo. #437) in August 1895 in preparation for serving as a trial horse for DEFENDER (HMCo. #452); Hemment Collection, HMM archive


February 9, 1917

HMCo. is reorganized under new ownership, the Phoenix reports on its front page. This would have been very big news in a town where HMCo. was one of the larger employers, and where the name had been synonymous with champion boatbuilding internationally for more than 40 years. The teens were a period of financial difficulty for HMCo., following J.B.H.’s death in 1915. The yachtsmen who joined together to keep the company in business were partly motivated by their own yachts (several of which were then under construction) but also by the RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725) campaign, which had been suspended due to the Great War. Even so the syndicate were very much invested in seeing through, and in supporting Captain Nat until it was concluded. You can read more about that period in HMCo.’s history in a previous “From The Vault” post.


Click here to read the whole article from the February 9, 1917 issue of the Bristol Phoenix


February 14, 1936

On this day 85 years ago, HMCo. signed a contract for forty Tech Dinghies for $10,000. The Tech Dinghies were designed by Professor George Owen of M.I.T. for the university. That these dinghies very much resemble other frostbiters designed and built by Herreshoff is no surprise: George Owen began his own career in the drafting offices of HMCo. It may have been the height of the Depression but even so, $10,000 was quite a deal for M.I.T. That comes out to $250 per boat, which was 2/3 to 1/2 the price of other dinghies being sold and marketed by HMCo. at this time, such as the ill-fated Amphicraft line, which were sold as a package deal with trailer and rig for up to $560 (depending on the customer, fit, and finish).


Several tech dinghies in the shop, February 29, 1936; HMM archive