Butler Duncan Jr., William (1853-1933) USA


03770VWilliam Butler Duncan Jr., known as Butler Duncan, was born in New York in 1853.
His father, William Butler Duncan was from Scotland, and completed his college education in this country. He became a banker in New York City and then President and Chairman of the Board of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company from 1874 until his death in 1912.

Butler Duncan graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1882, and stayed in the Navy for two years, serving on the old VADALIA. He retired in 1884, and began crewing on yachts. He joined the New York Yacht Club in 1889, serving as Rear Commodore in 1891 and 1892, and as Vice Commodore in 1893. He was on the Race Committee in 1900, and served on the Membership Committee for eleven years and on several rules committees.

On board the Defender were C. Oliver Iselin, E. D. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, Herbert C. Leeds, “Nat” Herreshoff, Newberry D. Thorne, Woodbury Kane, Mrs. C. O. Iselin, W. Butler Duncan, and David Henderson to represent the Valkyrie. Capt. Haff had the wheel of the Yankee boat.

In 1891 he was one of the organizers of the First Battalion of the New York Naval Militia, and was commanding officer of one of its divisions. He saw active service in the Spanish-American War on the USS YANKEE, and he served as a Commander in the Naval Reserve in World War I.

Butler Duncan's connections with America's Cup defense began in 1893 when he was one of the after guard on VIGILANT in her race against VALKYRIE II, on DEFENDER against VALKYRIE III in 1895 and, in 1899, he had the management of DEFENDER against COLUMBIA. He had charge of CONSTITUTION which lost to COLUMBIA in the trials of 1901. He was the club's representative on SHAMROCK II that year. In 1903 he sailed on RELIANCE as after guard, and in 1915 sailed on the cup defender, VANITIE with Cornelius Vanderbilt. ConstitutionColumbiaVHe was a member of the America's Cup Committee in 1914 and again in 1920. In 1930 he was Chairman of that committee. Since its inception until his death, he served as a member of the Committee on Racing Appeals.

Some of the yachts he owned were the cutter HURON, the New York "Thirty" DAHINDA, and the sound schooner VADALIA.

His cruiser, JAVELIN, was the boat from which he handled the cup races in his later years. He sailed with many prominent yachtsmen of the day, and was known as a skillful helmsman, winning both the Astor and the King's Cup in Vanderbilt's AURORA in 1910. His "Yachting Reminiscences from 1879 to 1925" is an interesting account of an era of yacht racing in which the larger sailing yachts owned by Oliver Iselin, W.K. Vanderbilt, August Belmont, and J. Pierpont Morgan, among others, were supreme. But much of his racing was done in boats no larger than a "Thirty."

Butler Duncan died March 30, 1933 after a six week illness, and was buried at sea off the New Jersey coast on April 2, from the destroyer COLE with full naval honors.

Huron Dahinda Javelin


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