Herreshoff, Capt'n Nat (1848-1938) USA


NathanaelGHerreshoffVThe  "Wizard of Bristol"

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff (March 18, 1848 – June 2, 1938), is a descendant of Frederick Herreshoff, a Prussian engineer who settled in Rhode Island in 1790, marrying Sarah Brown, daughter of John Brown, the leading shipbuilder in that state. Among their children was Frederick, born in 1808, ...

... and to him were born nine children, of whom Nathaniel was the fifth, born in 1848, near Bristol. In 1866, he entered theClara3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology and on his graduation, three years later, he began his career as a mechanical engineer at the Corliss Engine Works in Providence. His experiences in mechanical engineering included a part in the designing and erection of the great engine at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876.

As a young man, John B. Herreshoff, the third son, started in business as a boat builder at Bristol, and in spite of his blindness carried it on so successfully that early in the seventies his steam launches, with the Herreshoff compound engines and coil boilers, were famous in this country and abroad. The aid and co-operation of his brother Nathaniel in this work finally led to his abandonment of engine building, and the concentration of his energies on naval designing and marine engineering. For many years the two brothers have formed the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, designing and building all classes of steam and sailing yachts and torpedo boats.

ShadowNGH-MBSTheir first success with yachts was in the early 7o's, when they brought out a number of small cats, catamarans and sloops, among which was the sloop Shadow, built in 1872, which was long a champion in her class, and was the only American boat to defeat the Scotch cutter Madge in her first season in American waters, 1881. A little later came the steam launches and experimental torpedo boats, and then for many years the growing works were devoted exclusively to the production of larger and faster steam craft. All the time, however, Nathaniel had at anchor off his house some small cruising yacht, Consuelo, Clara or a similar craft, for pleasure and rest afloat.

GlorianaNLSHis advent in the field of racing design is due to the victories of the Fife cutter Minerva, in 1889 and 1890. He made a close study of this wonderful boat, and in 1891 designed for Mr. E. D. Morgan the 40-footer Gloriana, a keel cutter that was original in design and construction in every detail of hull and rig.

Captain Nat had equal success in designing both small boats and large, both power and sail. His power yacht STILETTO could cruise effortlessly at 20 knots and in 1895 made an eight hour run at an average speed of 26 knots. He also experimented with catamarans, the first of which was the U.S. patented, 33 foot AMARYLLIS.

AmaryllisIn 1893, Captain Nat designed his first America's Cup defender, VIGILANT, for the C. Oliver Iselin Syndicate. She was a 124' centerboard sloop with a hollow board of bronze. DEFENDER was a 123' keel sloop with light-weight, sophisticated construction of aluminum and bronze plating on steel framing. His COLUMBIA of 1899 and 1901, fitted with a telescopic topmast, was the only Cup defender to turn back two Cup challenges until INTREPID in 1967 and 1970. COLUMBIA was a 131' keel sloop of Tobin bronze on frames of nickel steel. RELIANCE of 1903 was 143'8" long and carried more sail on a single mast than any vessel of its kind ever built. Her sail area of 17,000 square feet was more than twice that of the J-boat RANGER and nearly eight times that of a twelve meter. On a reach, RELIANCE was the fastest monohull Cup defender of all time. RESOLUTE of 1920, a 106'3" sloop was designed to the 75' waterline length provisions of the Universal Rule, which Captain Nat developed several years earlier to replace the former Seawanakha Rule. After losing the first two races, she came back to defeat SHAMROCK IV 4-3.

Herreshoff_N_PertMr. Herreshoff is a silent man, one who does little talking, but much thinking. He is averse to interviews and prefers to be judged by results. And in Reliance will come the supreme test of his skill. Nat Herreshoff was also a genius in building hulls and fittings, which, while lighter than those of competitors, stood up to the work they were designed to do. No one had greater impact on keeping the America's Cup in this country than Captain Nat.

Herreshoff’s interest in ships never abated. In retirement he “tinkered” in a shop at his home in Bristol and his winter holidays in Florida were given largely to sailing a small boat which he handled as zestfully as the cruder craft which he sailed as a boy on Narragansett Bay.
As late as his 86th year “Old Nat” was in full possession of his faculties except for a slight impairment in hearing. His family had relinquished the ship building plant except for ownership of some stock, and he had no part in its management. But he frequently was called upon to give advice to his successors.

Capt’n Nat died June 2, 1938 at his Bristol home. He was in his 91st year and had been ill for a year. He was married twice. His first wife was Clara A. De Wolf of Bristol, to whom he was wed December 26, 1883. She died November 28, 1905, survived by a daughter and six sons. The second Mrs. Herreshoff was Ann Roebuck, the marriage taking place October 7, 1915.

During his long career, the "Wizard of Bristol" has designed and built more than 2,000 ships and produced more than 18,000 plans. 



VIGILANT - 1893 DEFENDER - 1895 COLUMBIA - 1899/1901 RELIANCE - 1903 RESOLUTE - 1920