June 21, 2022

The Herreshoff Brothers and their Torpedo Boats, Part VII

A series of papers on bringing innovation to the “New Navy”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Admiral Porter & Herreshoff

Surprising End to the Torpedo Cruiser Story, 1886-1895

by John Palmieri

See on-line THE HERRESHOFF CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ for detailed information on HMCo. # vessels including photos, half model images and descriptive documents

Figure 1a– Admiral of the Navy David Dixon Porter in his later years. Source US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Undated Photo # UA 459.07.01

Figure 1b– John Brown Herreshoff in 1881, age 40, in London to deliver two Videttes to the Admiralty. Mayall's Photo Studio, London

Figure 1c– John visibly aged 54 years aboard EUGENIA for 1895 America’s Cup races. Herreshoff family photo. Herreshoff Marine Museum

Figure 1d– Capt. Nat about 1894 (age 46). Herreshoff Marine Museum. Photographer unknown.

Introduction

[1] Quotes from “Report of the Secretary of The Navy, William C. Whitney Dec. 1, 1886.” P.16. & “App. No. 3 Report of the Admiral of The Navy, David Dixon Porter. November 15, 1886.” P. 57. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886. Washington GPO 1886. 

In 1886 David Dixon Porter now 73, had been Admiral of the Navy for 16 years. As senior officer of the Navy, but with no operational command, his annual reports to the Secretary of the Navy (widely distributed to Congress and the press) advocated for a technically advanced “New Navy”, often resorting to withering over-the-top criticism to make a point; for example, noting in his 1886 report, that in speed “…we have made no advance since 1861, when the (gunboats) SEMINOLE and IROQUOIS could make at sea …13 knots.”

[5] John R. Spears, The History of our Navy; from its origins to the End of the War with Spain (1775 – 1898); Vol V War with Spain, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1902. Pg. 90. Also “Report of the Secretary of the Navy Dec. 6, 1887, William C. Whitney”, Pgs. iii-iv. 

[6] “The Building of Warships; Annual Report of Secretary Whitney; The Poor Results Attained by the New Cruisers (i.e., the ABC cruisers)- Broad Plans for Making the Navy Stronger”, New York Times, Dec. 4, 1886.

[7] Sir Edward J. Reed, M.P. (late Chief Constructor of the British Navy) & Edward Simpson RADM USN (Late President US Naval Advisory Board), Modern Ships of War. (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888) Pgs. 167-8. Provides specifics on John Roach actions to provide domestic steel plating for the ABCD ships.

[8] The purchase of quality domestic steel would remain a major problem for about 15 more years. Paul E. Pedisich, Congress Buys a Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD. 2016. Pg. 62.

In 1870 he had established the Torpedo Station in Newport, created the Torpedo Corps, and assigned to it total system responsibility for the torpedo and the torpedo boat.  He had also experienced the thrill of riding Herreshoff’s spar torpedo boat LIGHTNING at full speed and had later submitted to Congress his own design of a torpedo cruiser (gunboat) featuring Herreshoff machinery This has all been covered in Parts 3 to 5, and we pick up the story from there.

[5] John R. Spears, The History of our Navy; from its origins to the End of the War with Spain (1775 – 1898); Vol V War with Spain, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1902. Pg. 90. Also “Report of the Secretary of the Navy Dec. 6, 1887, William C. Whitney”, Pgs. iii-iv. 

[6] “The Building of Warships; Annual Report of Secretary Whitney; The Poor Results Attained by the New Cruisers (i.e., the ABC cruisers)- Broad Plans for Making the Navy Stronger”, New York Times, Dec. 4, 1886.

[7] Sir Edward J. Reed, M.P. (late Chief Constructor of the British Navy) & Edward Simpson RADM USN (Late President US Naval Advisory Board), Modern Ships of War. (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888) Pgs. 167-8. Provides specifics on John Roach actions to provide domestic steel plating for the ABCD ships.

[8] The purchase of quality domestic steel would remain a major problem for about 15 more years. Paul E. Pedisich, Congress Buys a Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD. 2016. Pg. 62.

The only reference to ADM Porter we have found in Herreshoff records is Capt. Nat’s 1884 “Estimate of Machinery for Torpedo Vessel of Adl Porter’s Design” discussed in Part 5 and a copy of his 1886 Annual Report to the Secretary of the Navy that he provided to “Mr. Herreshoff”.[1][2] We have no other record of correspondence or meetings between the brothers and Porter. For John, they would have been in the HMCo business records or in the records of his extensive correspondence; very little of which survive.  If Porter had communications or visits with Capt. Nat, we would expect to find correspondence in Nat’s torpedo boat folders or a note of a visit in his diary; there is nothing. There is also no Herreshoff correspondence in the indexed records that are available online, of David Dixon Porter’s several collections.[3]

[5] John R. Spears, The History of our Navy; from its origins to the End of the War with Spain (1775 – 1898); Vol V War with Spain, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1902. Pg. 90. Also “Report of the Secretary of the Navy Dec. 6, 1887, William C. Whitney”, Pgs. iii-iv. 

[6] “The Building of Warships; Annual Report of Secretary Whitney; The Poor Results Attained by the New Cruisers (i.e., the ABC cruisers)- Broad Plans for Making the Navy Stronger”, New York Times, Dec. 4, 1886.

[7] Sir Edward J. Reed, M.P. (late Chief Constructor of the British Navy) & Edward Simpson RADM USN (Late President US Naval Advisory Board), Modern Ships of War. (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888) Pgs. 167-8. Provides specifics on John Roach actions to provide domestic steel plating for the ABCD ships.

[8] The purchase of quality domestic steel would remain a major problem for about 15 more years. Paul E. Pedisich, Congress Buys a Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD. 2016. Pg. 62.

 Contemporary newspaper accounts document that Porter visited Newport often and he had a summer home in Jamestown. It is apparent from his reports to the Secretary of the Navy that he had corresponded and/or met with John.  John was always a strong President, but he was more than that for the steam business, where he was the hands-on leader, and in the press the sole visible manifestation of the inventiveness of the HMCo.  Unlike the America’s Cup and large steel schooners, where over time his name was dropped from the pages of the newspapers, in steam he was the story. Steam vessels were the product of the “blind boat builder of Bristol” no other name was hardly mentioned.

[5] John R. Spears, The History of our Navy; from its origins to the End of the War with Spain (1775 – 1898); Vol V War with Spain, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1902. Pg. 90. Also “Report of the Secretary of the Navy Dec. 6, 1887, William C. Whitney”, Pgs. iii-iv. 

[6] “The Building of Warships; Annual Report of Secretary Whitney; The Poor Results Attained by the New Cruisers (i.e., the ABC cruisers)- Broad Plans for Making the Navy Stronger”, New York Times, Dec. 4, 1886.

[7] Sir Edward J. Reed, M.P. (late Chief Constructor of the British Navy) & Edward Simpson RADM USN (Late President US Naval Advisory Board), Modern Ships of War. (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888) Pgs. 167-8. Provides specifics on John Roach actions to provide domestic steel plating for the ABCD ships.

[8] The purchase of quality domestic steel would remain a major problem for about 15 more years. Paul E. Pedisich, Congress Buys a Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD. 2016. Pg. 62.

A Man of Great Genius, But We Are Blind to His Merits

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

Admiral Porter began his 15-page, 1886 Annual Report to the Secretary with a criticism of the slow speed of the ABCD ships, making them useless as commerce destroyers.[4]  He continued-

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

“For the past 20 years we have contented ourselves with watching the nations of Europe build ships, sending officers abroad to examine the improvements which have been made in construction and ordnance. We have obtained drawings of almost every important vessel built in Europe, but in spite how great our experience, acquired with so little expense, we commit more mistakes than were committed by the European states in their efforts to build up a navy… We adhere to (locomotive style) old fashioned, boilers consuming large amounts of coal not suited to a nation with no coaling stations around the world.” [5]

The solution-

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

“To gain the necessary speed it is requisite to decrease the weights and increase the power, which can only be done by a resort to the Herreshoff system, in which the boiler does not weigh more than half as much as the Scotch (i.e.  locomotive type) boiler and the engines not more than two thirds.”

He devoted 5 pages (See Attachment A) to Herreshoff and the Herreshoff System of Machinery featuring tubulous boilers. Figure 2 summarizes his commentary on Herreshoff and the lack of recognition by the “Government”, by which he meant the Bureau of Steam (BuSteam), the Bureau of Construction & Repair (BuC&R) and the Naval Advisory Board.  He followed this by enumerating six specific advantages of Herreshoff machinery. We believe they had been provided to him verbatim by John. 

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

1. The Herreshoff boiler produces power at half the weight of any other type in use, especially when combustion is forced to a maximum into a closed fireroom.

2. It operates at a higher rate of combustion per square foot of grate surface than any other type, “owing to its entire freedom from 'foaming' at all rates of combustion, and to the impossibility of the heat forcing the water from the metallic surfaces and burning them out.”

3. In a vessel of given displacement, with a carefully constructed tight fire room and adequate blowers, 20 ihp was obtained from each square foot of grate surface during a trial test.

4. The Herreshoff boilers can be safely used up to several hundred PSI. Isherwood ran experiments up to 260 psi and was prevented from going higher for lack of a steam gauge to indicate higher pressure. 

5. Herreshoff boilers are less height than other boilers- in small vessels they can be placed below the waterline- an important protective feature for a warship. 

6. Herreshoff engines can safely work at 5-600 rpm. The high reciprocating piston speed and high boiler pressure allows an engine of light weight in proportion to power. 

There were some caveats to his endorsement of Herreshoff.

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

1. Although Herreshoff machinery had only been applied to launch size vessels and STILETTO with one boiler supplying one engine, “Mr. Herreshoff” assured the same kind of engines and boilers can power the largest cruisers in which several boilers will be operated to supply one engine.

2. Besides Herreshoff, Belleville in France was applying tubulous boilers to small sea going vessels.  Although he judged the Herreshoff system more advanced, Belleville was well supported by the French Navy, (unlike Herreshoff's relationship with the U.S. Navy) and had a 4000 HP plant ready for trials in a 303-foot, 1600-ton gunboat. He concluded it remains to be seen which of the two nations will take the lead.

 Figure 2 – ADM Porter's 1886 Annual Report provided to “Mr. Herreshoff”. 

Although found in Capt. Nat's records, it is believed the report was sent to John.

Some Thoughts on Porter's Commentary

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

Championing Herreshoff machinery for larger warships

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

In 1885 ADM Porter spent the summer developing plans for a new gunboat/ torpedo cruiser.[6] As required by a provision of the laws establishing the Naval Advisory Board the Secretary of the Navy was directed to solicit plans for new warships by public advertisement.[7]  In response to the advertisement soliciting designs for new cruisers and gunboats, ADM Porter submitted his plans for a 260 foot, 5000 hp, torpedo cruiser/gunboat capable of 21-22 knots utilizing Herreshoff machinery.[8] Not unlike the French program for development of the Belleville boiler. In Porter's words, his proposal was met with “indifference” by the officers of the Board. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Further noting that in August 1886 Congress had appropriated $100K to build the first sea-going torpedo boat, he projected there was a real need for a 150-foot, 30-knot steel torpedo boat to outrun torpedo destroyers and that such a vessel should be equipped with Herreshoff quadruple expansion engines. Capt. Nat's Design Notebook 2 of 5 (1884 – Early 1894) includes quadruple expansion engines in a tabular ” cheme for Sizes for Light High-Speed Launch, Torpedo Boat and Yacht Engines” dated November 23, 1886.[9] John must have discussed this with Porter. HMCo's first quadruple engine equipped vessel was the 1888, 132-foot yacht SAY WHEN (HMCo #150), to be followed by the yacht BALLYMENA (HMCo #151) and the torpedo boat CUSHING (HMCo #152); the latter is the subject of Part 8 of this series. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Mr. Herreshoff… blind… optically…but with remarkably clear sight as regards… steam engineering. All credit is given to John. Capt. Nat is never mentioned- his accomplishments are recognized but assigned to his brother as if he had not been born.  This is common throughout the Herreshoff steam years. While Isherwood,  leaders of the Torpedo Corps, many Bristolians and some in the Bureaus  and competitors knew that Capt. Nat was the engineering genius driving the torpedo boat success, the popular understanding is best expressed by the following 1889 news article widely published across the US from coast to coast. At the time it was written, HMCo had delivered STILETTO to the Navy and had the first sea-going torpedo boat, CUSHING (TB-1) under construction. [10]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

“Mr. Herreshoff, the blind president of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, of Bristol RI seems as much out of his element in his present capacity as the blind sculptor (Vidal). Aside from Edison, the Government has recognized him as being one of the greatest inventors of the times. Many of the torpedo boats and steam launches now used by this and all the civilized governments on the globe, are the inventions of this sightless genius. His steam launches have made the highest speed with but few exceptions, and his torpedo boats are ranked among the most efficient in use. He works on his models in the quiet of the night shut up in the darkness of his room, but this is all the same to Herreshoff- The brightest mid-day would be to him as black as the darkest midnight.”

Another startling description was presented in 1893 at the Marine and Naval Engineering/ Naval Architecture Division of the International Engineering Congress, by Lloyds Chief Surveyor, Benjamin Martell. [11]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

“Mr.  J. B. Herreshoff, whose name is so intimately associated with American ship designing, before devoting his attention to steam yachts had utilized the principle of the catamaran for yacht purposes, and by genius arrangement had acquired considerable success. Among the small sailing yachts of his design, the “Shadow” had a triumphant career in America during the year 1881. The name of Herreshoff among ship designers deserves more than a passing notice, His many successes have been achieved under difficulties under which many less resolute men would have succumbed. Although afflicted with blindness, he practically carried out his own designs, and even sails his own vessels for the purpose of gathering experience of their performances.”

Did Martell of Lloyds really believe that John was the one who designed a successful sailing catamaran, SHADOW, the coil boiler, etc.? Or did he write these words of exaggeration to honor John, because of the severe obstacles he had overcome to be the President of a respected and innovative shipbuilding company?

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

Consider another data point Capt. Nat's biography of his brother written in about 1926. It reads in part.[12]

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

“The designs for his early boats were made by himself (John) aided in many cases by his father. In 1864 he took a partner and the firm's business was changed from John B. Herreshoff to Herreshoff and Stone. This lasted for 2 years, when John took over the business alone, continuing this way without much expansion until 1878 when he was joined by a younger brother, and under the name of Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. (“In a few years the business increased” is crossed out) This gave John B. (“in the business” crossed out) more time for the office and business part of the work while his brother attended to designing and detail part of construction, resulting in increased amount of work done and expansion of the plant, to the extent that over 400 workmen were employed instead of 20 or 30 before the change. So it was the Company's intent to improve wherever possible and to turn out only the best work. Herreshoff products became noted and Mr. J.B.'s traveling to get work became unnecessary as orders came without going for them.”

Little encouragement… to adapt engines and boilers to a larger class of vessels This contrasts with Bellville's experience in France and with the British experience.  In the latter case having seen the benefits of Herreshoff's first water tube (tubulous) boiler (the coil boiler) in the 59-foot spar torpedo boat HERRESHOFF (HMCo #44), Thornycroft and Yarrow, with Admiralty encouragement, quickly adopted the technology and went one better with the three drum water-tube design in 130+ foot sea-going torpedo boats and larger torpedo boat destroyers. It also begs the question why ADM Porter did not mention the British.

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

Engineers generally, both in and out of the Navy, seem opposed to the Herreshoff system, although I have yet to hear any good reasons for there being so; but one of the most able of the profession we have ever had in the Navy, Chief Engineer B. F. Isherwood is a strong advocate of it.  ADM Porter here is primarily thinking of the Herreshoff water tube boilers but going back to the 1881 trials report of the 100-foot, 250 hp, steam yacht LEILA (HMCo #40) an Isherwood led board concluded Herreshoff built remarkable vessels because of their system, referred to as the “Herreshoff System of Motive Machinery” and the “Herreshoff System of Steam Yachts”. The vessels built by this system featured:[13]

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

● Lightness of hull & machinery

●  Excellence in design, material, workmanship

●  Speed

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

●  Extreme rapidity to raise steam

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

●  Safety- freedom from accidents

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

●  Progressive development & improvement in design and process.

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

What are the reasons for opposition to Herreshoff and the Herreshoff system?

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

1. John and Capt. Nat were fiercely independent, building only to their own design, and not collaborating with anyone. Capt. Nat devoted his free time to self-study rather than communal gatherings with professional colleagues

2. As the torpedo boat business developed, starting with LIGHTNING in 1875, competitors considered that Herreshoff had a preferential position with BuOrd, the Torpedo Corps and the Newport Torpedo Station. As we will see in Part 8 there is some evidence to support this in the procurement of CUSHING (TB-1).

3. By always proposing to meet the torpedo boat contract specifications with a Herreshoff design, rather than build to the “Bureau design” (Beginning with the procurement of (TB-2) in 1890 two options were offered to meet the specifications; build to a Bureau provided design, or build to a contractor design.) they were in fact in competition with the Bureau as well as competing shipbuilders.  It was inevitable that their design would be compared with the Bureau design. Since Herreshoff was always lighter in hull structure and machinery, sacrificing safety and reliability for lightness became a no-no in Bureau reports to Congress. For example: Chief Bureau of Steam Engineering, Geo. W. Melville Oct. 15, 1892, on “Weight of Machinery”.[14]

“In a previous report the Bureau called attention to the dangerously low limit of weight of naval machinery approached by modern designers, the tendency being to sacrifice weight, and with it safety for the sake of producing machinery that will on the measured mile develop more horsepower per ton of weight then ever produced before. … (as I have reported before) we could design and build machinery just as light as anybody else's …but … sooner or later such machinery would fail when most needed. “

In spite of these warnings, service records demonstrate that failures due to aggressive lightness of structure and machinery were not an issue with Herreshoff torpedo boats.

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

Capt. Nat Not a Member of the Steam Club

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

There is another factor at play. Captain Nat was relatively young- a “modern designer” of many vessel types. He had grown up with steam, but he was not solely committed to the advancement of steam technology.  “My early ambition was to in direction of Steam Engineering, and I followed that line until I was convinced internal – combustion engines were better… My early bringing up around sail boats, gave me a love for them that lasted and was revived, and my success with them has given me a world-wide reputation.”[15] His Navy customers and critics were older, had served in steam through years of slow technical and professional advancement following the Civil War, and were conservative in their approach to new designs. They were both proud of accomplishments and under significant pressure from Congress and the line officers of the Navy.  Beginning in 1879, steam engineers of the Bureau had founded and staffed many of the mechanical engineering departments in the country's universities.[16] Then in a body blow to the Engineering Corps an 1882 law directed a 100-man reduction in the Corps, from 270 to 170 through reduced promotion; one promotion for every two vacancies.[17]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

In 1887 George W. Melville (1841-1912), (Figure 3) who had served continuously as a Navy steam engineer from 1861, became the new Chief BuSteam. He held that position till 1903 and was the most important leader of the Engineering Corps since Isherwood. He immediately set out to prepare machinery plans for the “New Navy”, improve the professionalism of the Corps, free it of the staffing limitation, champion merging the Engineer Corps into the Navy line, and -taking up Porter's challenge- lead the introduction of the water tube boiler, above launch size, into navy service.[18]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Captain Nat and Melville were acquainted since the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, where Melville had the overall responsibility for the Machinery Hall in the Main Exhibition Building in which the power source was the large Corliss Engine assembled and operated under the direction of Capt. Nat. Their paths crossed again during preparations for the Greely Relief Expedition of 1884. At Isherwood's recommendation two of the relief vessels were equipped with Herreshoff steam cutters. Melville was Chief Engineer of one of those vessels, the THETIS.[19]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

In September 1888 Melville led a group of engineer officers to establish the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) with a journal to publish the results of “experiments, records of trial trips, breakdowns, etc., of ships of the Navy, and also for the purpose of reading papers and discussing debatable subjects in naval engineering.”[20] Neither Capt. Nat nor John (who were both members of the British INA since their first trip to England) joined the naval steam engineer led ASNE, while numbers of their future competitors for the torpedo boat business did. Capt. Nat was however a member of the governing council of the larger Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers (SNAME) founded in 1893. [21]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Figure 3 – Rear Admiral Geo W. Melville, Engineer-in-Chief BuSteam; Popular Science Monthly Vol 64 Dec. 1903

International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering /Naval Architecture 1893

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

In connection with the World's Columbian Exposition of. 1893, Melville was chairman of the 7-day (July 31- Aug. 6) Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering /Naval Architecture.[22] Attending were all the recent Chiefs of the Bureau of Steam, including Isherwood, Chief Constructor of the Admiralty, and over 70 of the most eminent naval architects and marine engineers of America, Britain, France, and Italy; including Herreshoff's former agent, now Editor of Engineering, George Dunell, Froude and British torpedo boat builder Alfred Yarrow. US attendees included the president or director of engineering of practically every warship builder, marine machinery or boiler manufacturer including those with whom Herreshoff would compete for the torpedo boat business. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Capt. Nat And John were among the missing. On June 14 HMCo launched their first America's Cup defender VIGILANT (HMCo #437 and Capt. Nat worked every day subsequently to deliver the boat to Iselin on July 18th and continued working through the defender trials ending in early September.[23] Thus in 1893 while HMCo had delivered just three of its eight torpedo boats to the US Navy (LIGHTNING 1876, STILETTO 1887, CUSHING 1890), sailing vessels and the America's Cup were already taking priority over the steam business. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Commodore Melville opened the proceedings by summarizing the advancements in marine steam engineering made since publishing of an 1881 paper on the practice by Mr. F. C. Marshall. Engine piston speeds had doubled and steam pressures nearly tripled. This was followed by the presentation of 45 papers distributed as follows;

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

● Steamships/Warships- 20

●  Marine Machinery- 19

●  Naval Architecture- 4

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

●  Sail- 2

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

Herreshoff in the Papers of the Engineering Congress 1893

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

1.  Lewis Nixon, the superintending naval architect for Philadelphia warship builder Wm. Cramp & Sons commented on torpedo boats “of the CUSHING type”. In discussing CUSHING, he did not mention she was Herreshoff designed and built but observed on the seaworthiness of the “type”. No actual war test has ever been made of boats of the CUSHING type… England, France, Germany, and Russia have built in large numbers, however as so far as their seagoing capacity has been tested in the annual maneuvers, “considerable diversity of performance has been reported- the bulk of comment being unfavorable. Our own little CUSHING however has proved a fairly able sea boat and we made many trips between Long Island Sound and the capes of the Chesapeake, maintaining good speed and being relatively comfortable for such a craft.” [24]

2.  Benjamin Martell, chief surveyor to Lloyds Register wrote on contributions to the rise and progress of naval architecture in America. It includes the glowing tribute to John Brown Herreshoff already quoted in this paper. Further in discussing American steam yachts he notes, “Those built by the Herreshoff embody many ingenious contrivances.” He never mentions Capt. Nat.[25]

3.  Charles Ward, Proprietor & Manufacturer of Ward's Tubulous Boiler, and boiler competitor to Herreshoff wrote an excellent summary of the development of the tubulous (water tube) or coil boiler for marine use. Here again we see development credit assigned to John because it refers to a Mr. Herreshoff “under physical disadvantages.”                                                                                                                                                              

“About the same time that Mr. Perkins was laboring in London, Mr. Herreshoff was, with wonderful energy and skill under physical disadvantages, perfecting his coil boiler, his first patent dating 1877. From that time to the present this gentleman has wrought many changes in his coil, from the single to the double, to which he has added the coil feedwater heater and superheater, until at recent dates, after having aroused the engineering world with his wonderful coil generator, he abandons it in favor of one of for the box sectional design (i.e. Square boiler). Now we see mention of his improved Thornycroft (used in CUSHING).”[26]

4.  In over 1800 pages of the Proceedings there must be some reference to Capt. Nat- and so there is! Archibald Rogers includes in his paper on the development of the ice yacht a short paper on the resistance and speed of an ice boat “so kindly written for me” by Mr. N. G. Herreshoff and displaying his “well-known ability as an engineer and his fondness for mathematical problems.”[27]

Development and Competition for the Tubulous

(Water Tube) Boiler

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

Melville understood the need to adopt the tubulous boiler to power the larger warships, and in an 1899 paper discussing that development, he cited the advantages and disadvantages compared to the cylindrical (fire tube) boiler. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Figure 4 -Water Tube Boilers Advantages & Disadvantages Compared with Cylindrical (Fire Tube) Boilers

(Geo. W. Melville, Engineer-in-Chief USN, Vice President SNAME, “Causes for the Adoption of Water Tube Boilers in the U. S. Navy”. Read at the 7th general meeting of SNAME New York, Nov. 16-17, 1899.)

A more specific comparison was provided at the 1893 Proceedings by boiler manufacturer Charles Ward.  Comparing the cylindrical style to the various designs of tubulous or water tube boilers such as developed by Herreshoff and others, he wrote that the latter were one-third the weight, capable at that time of 500 psi. pressure- more than 2½ times that of a cylindrical type and operated well without the material failures experienced by the cylindrical type when operated under forced draft. [28]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

In its quest to develop the tubulous boiler for large warships BuSteam applied experimental boards, developed so successfully by Isherwood, to the effort. One board experimented with the Belleville boiler aboard the yacht SHEARWATER, volunteered by her Boston owner.[29] [30] The Bureau also closely followed developments at Herreshoff. In April 1888 a board conducted tests comparing a new design square water level boiler with an old design square coil boiler, both with the same external casing dimensions and installed in identical 65-foot launches, JERSEY LILLY (HMCo #149) and OUR MARY (HMCo #148). There were some time and technical limitations to the trials, primarily related to insufficient demonstration under forced-draft; even so the Board was able to conclude- [31]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

● The new design performed well; raises steam in less than 10 minutes.

●  Did not require the close attention to the feed-water supply that was a criticism of all previous Herreshoff coil boilers by both the Admiralty and the U.S. Navy.

●  The new type of boiler was well adapted for large powers, and with regulating check-valves for the control of the feed-water supply, could be successfully arranged in batteries and in separate compartments. (Confirming a capability that John Brown Herreshoff had committed to ADM Porter in 1886- “Mr.  Herreshoff claims that same kind of engines and boilers used in his small vessels can be successfully employed in the largest cruisers required by our government.”) [32]

[2] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

In fact, a boiler of the new type, designed to develop 700-800 hp, was being put in the 132-foot LOA yacht SAY WHEN (HMCo #150), launched by the Herreshoff on April 24 1888. With a grate-surface of 58 sq.ft. and an 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 ft. steel casing, it weighed 11-12 tons.[33]

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

[11] “Priscilla Wins Again…”, New York Times, June 18, 1886. Frontpage.

In 1888 the Navy offered a competition to develop a tubulous, coil or sectional boiler for application to an armored coast defense vessel shown in Figure 4.  The vessel was to be driven by two triple expansion engines powered by four tubulous boilers providing ¾ of the hp and two cylindrical boilers the remainder. The boilers were to operate at 160 psi. The original competition specified a total horsepower of 4800, but that was increased in 1889, to 5400.[34] [35] The horsepower for the tubulous boilers 3600 (3/4 of 4800) at 160 psi was not unlike Herreshoff's 3500 ihp at 150 psi proposed for ADM Porter's 1884 twin-screw Torpedo Gunboat (Cruiser) of 1884. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

[11] “Priscilla Wins Again…”, New York Times, June 18, 1886. Frontpage.

On August 2, 1888, Secretary of the Navy Whitney signed the advertisement for manufacturers to submit plans and price for a tubulous, coil or sectional boiler for the armored coast defense vessel. Twenty-three firms including Herreshoff responded requesting the circular of requirements and plans necessary to prepare a submission. Proposals were due by September 15th. Eight bidders responded with nine designs: some not in conformity with requirements or without price quotes. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. did not respond. [36] The opportunity for an expanded boiler (and potentially engine) product line, begun in 1884 with Capt. Nat's preliminary design for ADM Porter, that then gained major support with ADM Porter's 1886 portrait of John Brown Herreshoff as a man of great “genius” in marine engines and boilers had come to an end.  ADM Porter never again wrote about Herreshoff and in declining health his annual reports ended in 1889 with a short non-controversial two pages.

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

[11] “Priscilla Wins Again…”, New York Times, June 18, 1886. Frontpage.

Why no bid? We have no writings from either Capt. Nat or John to answer the question. It may have been workload, it may have been a reassessment of business objectives, and then it may have been something in the Navy's procurement plan that they could not meet. Let us briefly explore the latter. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

[11] “Priscilla Wins Again…”, New York Times, June 18, 1886. Frontpage.

The Navy required-[37]

[40] Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy November 28, 1881. Washington GPO 1881 Pgs. 3, 5, 6.

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more

[23] “Report of the Secretary of the Navy Dec. 1, 1886, William C. Whitney”, Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1886. Washington GPO 1886. Pgs. 15-16.

1.  A boiler of about 900 hp, so four met the armored coast defense vessels hp requirement.

2.  Plans of the boiler and as installed in the vessel showing it met all the Navy provided arrangement requirements.

3.  Price for the four boilers to be delivered to the New York Navy Yard within six months after receipt of an order

4.  A certification that boilers of the same make are or have been in successful use at sea or on shore.

5.  After plan review, the Navy will select the boiler plans and arrangements which “appear feasible”. 

6.  Those competitors then can offer a boiler for test by the Navy with delivery within three months. Test boiler must be same type and approximate size as proposed for armored coast defense vessel and provided at no cost to the Navy. Navy will then pay the test costs of the “accepted boiler” and the cost of the fuel of the test of the second best.

Figure 5 – Armored Coast Defense Vessel- 256' LWL, 4486 tons, twin screw, 5400 ihp, 16 knots. Main battery one 16-inch gun and one 12-inch gun. $1.5M vessel contract awarded 1889 to Union Iron Works, San Francisco. [38]

There is nothing in these requirements that appear beyond the capability of Herreshoff to satisfy. The new design square water level boiler installed in SAY WHEN and also submitted to the Navy in plans for CUSHING (TB-1) was ” he same make” and almost identical to that required by the armored coast defense vessel. Since they had a history of making their new vessels available to the Navy for test, they would have deemed it unnecessary to provide a boiler at their cost to the Navy for test. 

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.

Coming Up Next

[4] Thomas Wildenberg and Norman Polmar. Ship Killers: A History of the American Torpedo. (Annapolis, MD, USNI Press, 2010) pgs. 16-17.

In Part 8 we complete covering the years 1886-1895 with the success of CUSHING (TB-1) and the frustration that followed.

[21] Frederick J. Rowan A.M.I.C.E., M.I.E.S. The Practical Physics of the Modern Steam Boiler. (P. S. King & Son, London; D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1903). Pg. 481.

[22] The details of HMCo #44 are taken from (1) “Torpedo Boat Experiments” Irish Times, Jan. 10, 1879, page 3. (2) “The Herreshoff Torpedo Boats” Recent Practice in Marine Engineering Two Volumes. Edited by William Henry Maw. Publisher: London Offices of Engineering, London & J. Wiley & Sons New York 1884. Pages 280-6. This document is available online at www.hathitrust.org. All quotes about HMCo #44 are from this paper.


[1] NGH “Estimate of Machinery for Torpedo Vessel of Adl Porter Design,” Naval Architecture & Eng'g. Notes; Book 2 of 5. Spring of 1884. Two pages. On page 2 Capt. Nat provides two engine designs A & B. He notes (in Nov. 1886) that B was adopted, but never finished. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[2] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Washington, GPO 1886. Inscribed, “Mr. Herreshoff compliments of the Admiral”. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[3] David Dixon Porter archival collections include ” avid D. Porter Papers, (1806-1890)” at Syracuse University. “David Porter Papers” Clements Library, Univ of Michigan, including a 200 page long “”My Career in the Navy Department”. “David D. Porter Family Papers”, Library of Congress.

[4] All quotes are from “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Appendix 3 to Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington GPO 1886. Pages 54-69. 

[5] There are various terms used to describe boilers in this paper. There are two primary types

1.    Fire tube including Scotch type, cylindrical, and locomotive in which hot fire box gases pass though tubes to heat water in a cylindrical drum.

2.    Water tube, including tubulous, coil, sectional, square, and three-drum in which water passing through the tubes is heated by hot gases in the firebox.

[6]”Porter”, Army and Navy Journal, Vol 23 Aug. 1, 1885, pg. 1

[7] Secretary of the Navy discussion regarding provisions of the Act of 1882 and public advertisement for warship plans. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1885 in Two Volumes.  Washington, GPO 1885. Vol I, Pgs. XVII-XVIII.

[8] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy” November 15, 1886. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington, GPO 1886. Pg. 59. ADM Porter did not identify the vessel's displacement, but it was probably 750- 1000 tons.  We have not found a record of the machinery in the Herreshoff archives.

[9] NGH, Design Notebook 2 of 5 (1884 – Early 1894). Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum. 

[10] “Blind Wonders” by John W. Wright of the St Louis Republic was a long two column article discussing, “the remarkable things which have been accomplished by persons deprived of sight”. It was republished in total or in part by numerous other papers from Oct- Dec. 1889;  for example the Boston Weekly Globe, Oct. 9, 1889 page 6, The Morning News, Savannah, GA, Oct. 23, 1889 page 2, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 7, 1889 page 2, Van Wert Weekly Bulletin, Van Wert OH, Nov. 20, 1889 page 3, Republic City News, Republic Kansas November 29, 1889 page 2, Shelton Mason County Journal, Shelton WA, Dec. 6, 1889 page 7.

[11] Benjamin Martell, Chief Surveyor to Lloyds Register, ” he Rise and Progress of Naval Architecture in America, and the Contribution of That Country to Improvements in the Art and to its Development”. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture July 31- Aug. 5, 1893, edited by Commodore George W. Melville Engineer-in-Chief U.S. Navy, Chief Bureau Steam Engineering. Two volumes New York, John Wiley and Sons. 1894. Vol 1, Paper III page 8.

[12] John Brown Herreshoff Bio as written by Nat Herreshoff. Compiled from Nat Herreshoff draft writings in Mystic Seaport L  F Herreshoff  Collection 138 Box 16 Folder 13; items 6 & 8.

[13] Discussion of the Herreshoff System derived from Isherwood, Zeller & Magee. ” eport of a Board of United States Naval Engineers on the Herreshoff System of Motive Machinery as Applied to the Steam-Yacht Leila, and on the Performance of that Vessel.” Washington, Bureau of Steam Engineering of the U.S. Navy Department, 1881.

[14] Report of the Chief Bureau Steam Engineering” Geo. W. Melville Nov. 15, 1892. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1892.  Washington GPO 1892. Pg 383.

[15] NGH letter to LFH January 2, 1935. Mystic Seaport, L F Herreshoff Collection 138 , Box 17, Folder 11.

[16] Frank M. Bennett, Passed Assistant Engineer, US Navy, The Steam Navy of the United States: A History of the Growth of the Steam Vessel of War in the US Navy, and of the Naval Engineer Corps. (W. T. Nicholson, Pittsburgh, PA, 1896). Chap. XXXXVI “The Connection of the Naval Engineer Corps with the Technical Education in the United States.” Pgs 732-36.

[17] “Would Benefit the Navy; Bills That Would Replenish Engineer Corps Ranks”, New York Times, Dec. 20, 1890.

[18] Prof. R. H. Thurston, ” ear Admiral G. W. Melville, USN, and Applied Science in Construction of the New Fleet”. Popular Science Monthly, Vol 64, Dec 1903. Pgs. 183- 86.

[19] HMCo 28-foot steam cutters #108 & 109. Their performance in the harsh arctic environment was mixed as described in the following from Report of Winfield S. Schley, Commander U.S. Navy, Commanding Greely Relief Expedition of 1884, Washington, GPO 1887. 

· “(BEAR, THETIS and ALERT) were carefully inspected, as they arrived (Feb – April 1884) in New York, by the several Chiefs of Bureaus (Isherwood included) and by myself. Decision to furnish each ship with a Herreshoff steam cutter, the ALERT with (the British) White's steam cutter.” P 15.

· “The Herreshoff steam cutters supplied to the THETIS and BEAR proved most excellent boats in a sea-way. For the uses of the general cruisers of the Navy they are very desirable additions, but for service in the Arctic, which is exceptionally severe and where the exigencies of hard usage and neglect are rather the rule, I must say the Herreshoff type did not meet my expectation. Simpler design of engine and boiler seems needed in that region, or at least a type which occasional neglect would injure to less extent than the Herreshoff. In both these cutters the coils burst; the spring safety-valves failed to work at a critical moment and nearly involved the loss of both cutters; the exterior condenser was unsuited and vulnerable when hauled on to the ice. On the other hand, their advantages over the ordinary launch used in the service were: the rapidity with which steam could be got up, their economy in the use of coal and water, and their speed”. P 68-9.

· “The White steam cutter of the ALERT was an exceedingly handy boat. She was neither so fast nor so good a sea boat as the Herreshoff cutter. The engine is simple and easily kept in working condition. The boiler being of old type, too much time is consumed in raising steam, a fatal error in launches for Arctic service. This cutter compared with Herreshoff's for such service presents defects of equal importance. Her construction makes repair of injuries to hull very difficult.” P 69.

[20] www.navalengineers.org

[21] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

[22] Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture July 31- Aug. 5, 1893, edited by Commodore George W. Melville Engineer-in-Chief U.S. Navy, Chief Bureau Steam Engineering. Two volumes New York, John Wiley and Sons. 1894.

[23] NGH Diaries 1893 and NGH correspondence folders of 1893 documenting his location through the summer. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection at the Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[24] Lewis Nixon; Superintending naval architect, Wm Cramp and Sons, ” he New Vessels of the United States Navy”. Paper II Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[25] Benjamin Martell, ” he Rise and Progress of Naval Architecture in America, and the Contribution of that Country to Improvements in the Art and to its Development”. Paper III Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.  Dick

[26] Charles Ward, “Tubulous or Coil Boilers” Paper XXXVI Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[27] “Mr. Nathl G. Herreshoff's Explanation” Bristol, RI Dec. 1892 contained in Archibald Rogers “Development of the Ice-Yacht on the Hudson” Paper XXIX. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[28] Charles Ward, “Tubulous or Coil Boilers” Paper XXXVI. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893. Ward uses the term “locomotive type”, rather than cylindrical. The terms locomotive type, cylindrical and fire tube were all used to describe this type of boiler.

[29] “Annual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 2, 1887” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1887. Washington GPO 1887. Appendix 12 pages 350-1. 

[30] “Report of a Board… on the Bellville Boiler” ” nnual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 1, 1888″ Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Appendix 9 pages 354-62.

[31] “Report of a Board of Naval Engineers on the Tests of a Herreshoff Boiler, New Type, Fitted on the Launch JERSEY LILLY and of a Herreshoff Boiler, Old Type, Fitted on the Launch MARY ROSE, at Bristol, RI, April 19, 20, & 24, 1888.” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Pages 363-69.

[32] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Appendix 3 to Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington GPO 1886. Page 62.

[33] “Report of a Board of Naval Engineers on the Tests of a Herreshoff Boiler, New Type, Fitted on the Launch JERSEY LILLY and of a Herreshoff Boiler, Old Type, Fitted on the Launch MARY ROSE, at Bristol, RI, April 19, 20, & 24, 1888.” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Page 367. 

[34] “Tubulous, Coil and Sectional Boilers”, ” nnual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 1, 1888″ Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888 Washington GPO 1888. Appendix No. 9 pages 344-47.

[35] “The Coast Defense Vessel”, ” nnual Report, Chief Bureau of Construction and Repair”, Theo D. Wilson, Oct. 15, 1889.  Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1889, Vol. 2. Washington GPO 1889. Appendix 13, pages 510-12. 

[36] “Tubulous, Coil and Sectional Boilers”, pages 344-47.

[37] Ibid., Pages 344-46.

[38] “The Coast Defense Vessel”, Page 510.


[1] NGH “Estimate of Machinery for Torpedo Vessel of Adl Porter Design,” Naval Architecture & Eng’g. Notes; Book 2 of 5. Spring of 1884. Two pages. On page 2 Capt. Nat provides two engine designs A & B. He notes (in Nov. 1886) that B was adopted, but never finished. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[2] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Washington, GPO 1886. Inscribed, “Mr. Herreshoff compliments of the Admiral”. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[3] David Dixon Porter archival collections include ” avid D. Porter Papers, (1806-1890)” at Syracuse University. “David Porter Papers” Clements Library, Univ of Michigan, including a 200 page long “”My Career in the Navy Department”. “David D. Porter Family Papers”, Library of Congress.

[4] All quotes are from “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Appendix 3 to Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington GPO 1886. Pages 54-69. 

[5] There are various terms used to describe boilers in this paper. There are two primary types

1. Fire tube including Scotch type, cylindrical, and locomotive in which hot fire box gases pass though tubes to heat water in a cylindrical drum.

2. Water tube, including tubulous, coil, sectional, square, and three-drum in which water passing through the tubes is heated by hot gases in the firebox.

[6] “Porter”, Army and Navy Journal, Vol 23 Aug. 1, 1885, pg. 1

[7] Secretary of the Navy discussion regarding provisions of the Act of 1882 and public advertisement for warship plans. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1885 in Two Volumes.  Washington, GPO 1885. Vol I, Pgs. XVII-XVIII.

[8] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy” November 15, 1886. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington, GPO 1886. Pg. 59. ADM Porter did not identify the vessel's displacement, but it was probably 750- 1000 tons.  We have not found a record of the machinery in the Herreshoff archives.

[9] NGH, Design Notebook 2 of 5 (1884 – Early 1894). Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection, Herreshoff Marine Museum. 

[10] “Blind Wonders” by John W. Wright of the St Louis Republic was a long two column article discussing, “the remarkable things which have been accomplished by persons deprived of sight”. It was republished in total or in part by numerous other papers from Oct- Dec. 1889;  for example the Boston Weekly Globe, Oct. 9, 1889 page 6, The Morning News, Savannah, GA, Oct. 23, 1889 page 2, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 7, 1889 page 2, Van Wert Weekly Bulletin, Van Wert OH, Nov. 20, 1889 page 3, Republic City News, Republic Kansas November 29, 1889 page 2, Shelton Mason County Journal, Shelton WA, Dec. 6, 1889 page 7.

[11] Benjamin Martell, Chief Surveyor to Lloyds Register, ” he Rise and Progress of Naval Architecture in America, and the Contribution of That Country to Improvements in the Art and to its Development”. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture July 31- Aug. 5, 1893, edited by Commodore George W. Melville Engineer-in-Chief U.S. Navy, Chief Bureau Steam Engineering. Two volumes New York, John Wiley and Sons. 1894. Vol 1, Paper III page 8.

[12] John Brown Herreshoff Bio as written by Nat Herreshoff. Compiled from Nat Herreshoff draft writings in Mystic Seaport L  F Herreshoff  Collection 138 Box 16 Folder 13; items 6 & 8.

[13] Discussion of the Herreshoff System derived from Isherwood, Zeller & Magee. ” eport of a Board of United States Naval Engineers on the Herreshoff System of Motive Machinery as Applied to the Steam-Yacht Leila, and on the Performance of that Vessel.” Washington, Bureau of Steam Engineering of the U.S. Navy Department, 1881.

[14] Report of the Chief Bureau Steam Engineering” Geo. W. Melville Nov. 15, 1892. Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1892.  Washington GPO 1892. Pg 383.

[14] NGH letter to LFH January 2, 1935. Mystic Seaport, L F Herreshoff Collection 138 , Box 17, Folder 11.

[16] Frank M. Bennett, Passed Assistant Engineer, US Navy, The Steam Navy of the United States: A History of the Growth of the Steam Vessel of War in the US Navy, and of the Naval Engineer Corps. (W. T. Nicholson, Pittsburgh, PA, 1896). Chap. XXXXVI “The Connection of the Naval Engineer Corps with the Technical Education in the United States.” Pgs 732-36.

[17] “Would Benefit the Navy; Bills That Would Replenish Engineer Corps Ranks”, New York Times, Dec. 20, 1890.

[18] Prof. R. H. Thurston, ” ear Admiral G. W. Melville, USN, and Applied Science in Construction of the New Fleet”. Popular Science Monthly, Vol 64, Dec 1903. Pgs. 183- 86.

[19] HMCo 28-foot steam cutters #108 & 109. Their performance in the harsh arctic environment was mixed as described in the following from Report of Winfield S. Schley, Commander U.S. Navy, Commanding Greely Relief Expedition of 1884, Washington, GPO 1887. 

● “(BEAR, THETIS and ALERT) were carefully inspected, as they arrived (Feb – April 1884) in New York, by the several Chiefs of Bureaus (Isherwood included) and by myself. Decision to furnish each ship with a Herreshoff steam cutter, the ALERT with (the British) White's steam cutter.” P 15.

● “The Herreshoff steam cutters supplied to the THETIS and BEAR proved most excellent boats in a sea-way. For the uses of the general cruisers of the Navy they are very desirable additions, but for service in the Arctic, which is exceptionally severe and where the exigencies of hard usage and neglect are rather the rule, I must say the Herreshoff type did not meet my expectation. Simpler design of engine and boiler seems needed in that region, or at least a type which occasional neglect would injure to less extent than the Herreshoff. In both these cutters the coils burst; the spring safety-valves failed to work at a critical moment and nearly involved the loss of both cutters; the exterior condenser was unsuited and vulnerable when hauled on to the ice. On the other hand, their advantages over the ordinary launch used in the service were: the rapidity with which steam could be got up, their economy in the use of coal and water, and their speed”. P 68-9.

● “The White steam cutter of the ALERT was an exceedingly handy boat. She was neither so fast nor so good a sea boat as the Herreshoff cutter. The engine is simple and easily kept in working condition. The boiler being of old type, too much time is consumed in raising steam, a fatal error in launches for Arctic service. This cutter compared with Herreshoff's for such service presents defects of equal importance. Her construction makes repair of injuries to hull very difficult.” P 69.”

[21] William duBarry Thomas. “The Genesis of a Professional Society”. SNAME Transactions. Vol.101, 1993, pgs.31-9.

[22] Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture July 31- Aug. 5, 1893, edited by Commodore George W. Melville Engineer-in-Chief U.S. Navy, Chief Bureau Steam Engineering. Two volumes New York, John Wiley and Sons. 1894.

[23] NGH Diaries 1893 and NGH correspondence folders of 1893 documenting his location through the summer. Halsey C. Herreshoff Collection at the Herreshoff Marine Museum.

[24] Lewis Nixon; Superintending naval architect, Wm Cramp and Sons, ” he New Vessels of the United States Navy”. Paper II Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[25] Benjamin Martell, ” he Rise and Progress of Naval Architecture in America, and the Contribution of that Country to Improvements in the Art and to its Development”. Paper III Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.  Dick

[26] Charles Ward, “Tubulous or Coil Boilers” Paper XXXVI Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[27] “Mr. Nathl G. Herreshoff's Explanation” Bristol, RI Dec. 1892 contained in Archibald Rogers “Development of the Ice-Yacht on the Hudson” Paper XXIX. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893.

[28] Charles Ward, “Tubulous or Coil Boilers” Paper XXXVI. Proceedings of the International Engineering Congress, Division of Marine and Naval Engineering and Naval Architecture 1893. Ward uses the term “locomotive type”, rather than cylindrical. The terms locomotive type, cylindrical and fire tube were all used to describe this type of boiler.

[29] “Annual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 2, 1887” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1887. Washington GPO 1887. Appendix 12 pages 350-1. 

[30] “Report of a Board… on the Bellville Boiler” Annual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 1, 1888″ Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Appendix 9 pages 354-62.

[31] “Report of a Board of Naval Engineers on the Tests of a Herreshoff Boiler, New Type, Fitted on the Launch JERSEY LILLY and of a Herreshoff Boiler, Old Type, Fitted on the Launch MARY ROSE, at Bristol, RI, April 19, 20, & 24, 1888.” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Pages 363-69.

[32] “Report of the Admiral of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy 1886”, Appendix 3 to Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1886.  Washington GPO 1886. Page 62.

[33] “Report of a Board of Naval Engineers on the Tests of a Herreshoff Boiler, New Type, Fitted on the Launch JERSEY LILLY and of a Herreshoff Boiler, Old Type, Fitted on the Launch MARY ROSE, at Bristol, RI, April 19, 20, & 24, 1888.” Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888. Washington GPO 1888. Page 367. 

[34] “Tubulous, Coil and Sectional Boilers”, ” nnual Report, Chief Bureau of Steam, Geo. W. Melville Nov 1, 1888″ Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1888 Washington GPO 1888. Appendix No. 9 pages 344-47.

[35] “The Coast Defense Vessel”, ” Annual Report, Chief Bureau of Construction and Repair”, Theo D. Wilson, Oct. 15, 1889.  Annual Report of The Secretary of the Navy for the Year 1889, Vol. 2. Washington GPO 1889. Appendix 13, pages 510-12. 

[36] “Tubulous, Coil and Sectional Boilers”, pages 344-47.

[37] Ibid., Pages 344-46.

[38] “The Coast Defense Vessel”, Page 510.