Crowninshield, B. B. (1867–1948) USA


Born October 13, 1867 in New York, Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, into the wealthy Crowninshield family with long-standing ties to the sea. The family estate Crowninshield House was built by his father in 1870. His father was Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (1837–1892) and mother was Katherine May Bradlee (1844–1902). His great-grandfather Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (1772–1851) ...

... had served as Secretary of the Navy and his great-granduncle George Crowninshield Jr. (1766–1817) built the first luxury yacht in the United States, Cleopatra's Barge in 1816. Because of his many relations, he was known as "B.B." Crowninshield.

After graduating from Harvard in 1890 he speculated in real estate before signing on as a draftsman with John R. Purdon, a respected yacht designer in Boston with several knockabout designs to his credit. Crowninshield struck out on his own 18 months later, starting a yacht design and brokerage firm which quickly prospered. He would rise to become one of America's most respected yacht designers during a period which is now regarded as the golden age of American wooden yacht design.

He designed the schooner Adventuress, which was launched in 1913 and has been named a National Historic Landmark. Crowninshield is now best remembered for his working schooners and his America's Cup contender Independence (George Lawley & Son shipyard, 1901) for Thomas W. Lawson. He was also responsible for designing the Dark Harbor sloop. He designed the unique seven masted schooner Thomas W. Lawson, named for his patron.

He married Priscilla Janet Macphail on May 12, 1900. In 1902 he was fined and was sued for $10,000 for assaulting Adolphus G. McVey, the yachting editor of the Boston Herald, for a remark about his wife. After nine years, he was ordered to pay $448. His wife was found dead in a bathtub of a Boston hotel on October 8, 1915. She was checked in as "Mrs. Bowdoin", but the death was ruled accidental. "B.B." Crowninshield then married Laura A. Wildar in 1916.

Crowninshield served with the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps in northwestern France in 1916 and was present at the battle of Verdun.

From 1917 to 1926 he was President and General Manager of the Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company of Fall River, Massachusetts. Crowninshield resumed his work in naval architecture in 1926 and was appointed Inspector of Hull Building for the United States Navy in 1943. His inspections on behalf of the navy were conducted at shipyards in Manchester, Ipswich, and Amesbury, Massachusetts, until 1945. In 1940 his book, Fore ‘n Afters was published.

"B.B." Crowninshield died August 12, 1948 in Marblehead.