April 29, 2021

TMHH: “Beautiful Photographs of Famous Boats That Have Made Yachting History”

An ad from 101 years ago, and an introduction to our new column, This Month in Herreshoff History !

After a yearlong run, our Bristol Phoenix focused "This Week in Herreshoff History" column is broadening its reach to become "This Month in Herreshoff History"! Once a month we will highlight material from the Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Library and the HMM archives to bring you stories of HMCo. and the America's Cup from national and international historical maritime publications like YACHTING, MOTORBOATING, RUDDER, and others...

April 1920:

This month 101 years ago YACHTING ran an ad that could double as a Herreshoff fanatic's word search. The full page ad features a long list of well-known yachts photographed by the New York City based photographer, Charles E. Bolles (1847-1914). After Bolles' death, YACHTING acquired a large collection of his negatives and tried to make a business of selling prints at a price "within reach of every yachting enthusiast..." Indeed, even accounting for inflation and the fact that these were not created in Bolles' own studio, $1.50 to $5.50 for a print from an original negative sounds eminently reasonable when compared to 21st century auction prices. (An alternative frame of reference: the April 1920 issue of YACHTING in which the ad appears cost 35 cents, according to the cover price.) Whether or not this was a successful business venture for YACHTING, we certainly agree that "these pictures possess an artistic merit equal to their historic value" and wish we had access to every photo of every vessel listed... not to mention the "collect them all" appeal of such a comprehensive index!

In considering this list, it is interesting to note how very long the list of steam yachts is compared to the list of only four "motor boats". This is an indicator of the times: Bolles' life's work coincided with the end of the steam power era and the very beginning of the combustion engine's rise.

Today we know that YACHTING wasn't able to maintain a true monopoly over Bolles' work - the Rosenfeld studio acquired many of his negatives from the 1880s through early 1900s America's Cup years, for example, and Bolles himself had submitted many prints to the Library of Congress. Today you can explore more of his work in the Mystic Seaport Museum's online catalog, much of which was acquired along with the Rosenfeld Collection.

But back to Herreshoff: how many HMCo. yachts can you spot in this listing of almost 500? And what other famous yachts do you recognize? We encourage you to utilize the Herreshoff Catalogue Raisonné to cross-reference your best guesses!

Click here to view larger version.

Detail of the Bolles shot of COLUMBIA (HMCo. #499) from above; image courtesy the Library of Congress