Herreshoff Marine Museum and Ameerica's Cup Hall of Fame
Herreshoff Marine Museum

The Curator's Log 2014: November

November, 2014
Charles Frederick Herreshoff 2nd and the Herreshoff Motor Company
Part One: Boats Before Autos
This is the first of a two part series about naval architect, engineer and automobile entrepreneur Charles Frederick Herreshoff 2nd and the Herreshoff Motor Company he founded.

Early Years
Charles Frederick Herreshoff 2nd (1880-1954) was born in Nice France. His father, James Brown Herreshoff, third son of Charles Frederick Herreshoff was the older brother of John Brown and Nat Herreshoff. James was an accomplished chemist and inventor; baking powder, process to manufacture sulfuric acid, naphtha driven motorcycle with internal combustion engine; Herreshoff Patented Safety Coil Boiler, to name a few.

As a young man Charles may have apprenticed at the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. (HMCo). He studied naval architecture and engineering at Glasgow University, returning to the USA to work as a yacht designer, engine and auto parts engineer and automobile manufacturer. We do not have a record of all his yacht designs but, like Nat, he achieved success in varying types of vessels as evidenced by the three winning designs discussed below. He also appears to have shared one other trait of his Uncle Nat, a dislike for having his photo taken; I have found only one image in the New York Times archives. (Figure 1)

Racing Yachts
While still enrolled at Glasgow University he designed the Glasgow-built (A & J Inglis Co.) 65-footer NEVADA winner of the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition Cup against three larger cutters including TUTTY, the 1900 65-footer champion of England, Scotland and Ireland. These cutters were designed to the 1st Linear Rating Rule, 1896-1900 that included a girth measurement to penalize skimming dish and fin and bulb forms. It did not achieve its purpose; Charles designed NEVADA as a rule beater, a semi-fin type with small displacement, a very shallow body, 11 feet shorter on the waterline than TUTTY, but with long overhangs. To many she resembled Capt. Nat’s 1900 New York 70s (70 foot waterline and 106 feet overall) with the same composite construction of wood double planks over steel frames and a similar rig. (Figure 2) 2

Returning to the USA, Charles was employed for a time as a design draftsman at the HMCo. From 1904 to 1908 he continued designing yachts while working as Chief Engineer of the American and British Mfg. Co. (A&BMCo) Bridgeport, CT making parts, engines and running gears for autos, including the engine for the 1908 Thomas-Detroit. Charles’ engine replaced a failed Thomas-Detroit design, facilitating his later move into the auto industry.

In 1905 he designed the Lawley built 52 foot overall IROQUOIS, winner of that year’s Canada Cup. (A perpetual challenge between yacht clubs of the two nations bordering on the Great Lakes.) Six yachts were built (three in each country) to an agreed 30-foot waterline class. Writing about the Canada Cup, W.P. Stephens commented, “…unlike most international trophies, it serves to produce an admirable type of yacht, and of such a size as best meets the conditions of lake yachting”. All six keel boats, were well constructed with special steel floors, knees, braces and single headsails; IROQUOIS, the exception, carried two. (Figure 3) 3 Some likened IROQUOIS to a “smaller replica of …NEVADA”. 4

IROQUOIS, sailing for the Rochester Yacht Club, won the American trial races proving to be “far superior in heavy weather and the equal of her competitors in … in light weather”.5 Her Cup opponent was the Toronto Yacht Club’s William Fife designed 48 foot overall TEMERAIRE. The contest was five races alternating between an 18-mile triangular course and a 16-mile windward/leeward course. Both Fife and Charles Herreshoff attended the races. (The Rudder has a photo of Fife at the Cup, but not Charles.) The weather proved to be the dominant factor as TEMERAIRE was not the equal of IROQUOIS in very light weather. IROQUOIS won the 5th and deciding race in light airs. 6

Charles also engaged in “auto-boat” (powerboat) racing. The American Powerboat Association was founded in1903 and held its first Gold Cup race in 1904 out of the Columbia Yacht Club on the Hudson River. In 1905 the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers initiated the Hudson River Water Carnival and a year later turned operation of the event over to the Motorboat Club of America. The boats were divided into classes and featured events; a 101/4-mile reliability trial, races at 16 & 32 miles, short 1 mile and 1 kilometer sprints, and a 104-mile long distance run. Similar races were sponsored by the Eastern and New York Yacht Clubs.

Charles designed his first auto-boats in 1904, equipping them with gasoline engines, of his design, built by A&BMCo. Noted designers competing at the time (1904-1908) included Capt. Nat (SWIFTSURE, X.P.D.N.C., CALOOLA), Starling Burgess and Clinton Crane.7 Charles achieved his greatest success with the 1905 33-footer, 72 HP DEN and the improved 1907 DEN II; both designed for owner J. H. Hoadley.
  • September 1907 DEN II won the long distance auto boat race, a NYC- Poughkeepsie round trip at an average speed of 26.22 mph. (Figures 4 & 5)
  • August 1908 DEN II beat Capt. Nat’s X.P.N.D.C. at the Huntington Bay Regatta in heavy weather. 8, 9
Herreshoff Motor Co.
In Sept. 1908 he and a partner bought the former E. R. Thomas-Detroit factory and announced plans for the Herreshoff Motor Co. to produce a “light car, not intended to compete with the big touring cars that have sold for fancy prices in the past, but constructed with all the care and thoroughness for which the Herreshoff’s are noted”.10

To Be Continued.

John Palmieri

1 Yachting Encyclopedia
2 NEVADA, The Rudder, 1901, p. 363. NEVADA The Rudder, 1902, p. 159.
3 W.P. Stephens, The Canada Cup Match, The Rudder, Oct. 1905. Pages 532-38.
4 Canada Cup Yachts Fast, New York Times. July 31, 1905.
5 IROQUOIS Selected to Race in Canada Cup, New York Times. July 30, 1905.
6 W.P. Stephens, p. 538.
7 W.P. Stephens, The Power Boat in 1904, The Rudder, Dec. 1904, pp.637-40.
8 Michael Morabito, Design and Construction of Nat Herreshoff’s X.P.N.D.C., Proceedings CYS 2006. pp 207-33. (Morabito provides the engine specifications for DEN)
9 W.P. Stephens, 1907 Hudson River Water Carnival, Boating, Sept. 1907, pp .25-29.
10 The Herreshoff Auto: Car To Be Placed on the Market First Of Next Year. New-York Daily Tribune, Nov. 29, 1908.