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History of the NYYC's Model Collection

The model room Changes to yachts were often worked out on their models1851 was a standout year both for the NYYC and American yachting. The schooner America handily won what has now become known as the America's Cup. There is probably no yacht which has been modeled more and continues to be a popular subject and source of controversy. The NYYC owns several models of the America, however there are two that are significantly important. The first is George Steers builder's model of the schooner (model #19) built in 1/2" scale. The model was probably painted later, per a prescription set down by the Model Committee in 1905 to distinguish wooden hull vessels from composite and steel hulled vessels. This builder's model clearly shows the sleek lines and graceful form that made the America so fast.

Model #417 of the America is the full rigged presentation model, which was built by Gustav Graham for the New York State Commission to the Paris Exposition of 1900. In 1905, when the Model Committee re- organized the collection, this was the second full model officially entered in the club's collection. This model, although nicely done, is relatively simple. It was valued at $500 in 1905.

In the annual meeting of 1857 there were many revisions to the club rules (which later became the club's Constitution). An important one concerned the conditions of acceptability in the fleet and which allowed participation in the annual cruise requiring "a true model of the yacht so entered to be deposited with the Secretary,...". The reference to a "true model" is really saying the model must be a scale model. At this time there is no reference to a specific scale for the models, and the scale was left either to the designer or the model builder. Looking back through the club records, the most common scale was 1/2" to the foot, although 3/4" and 1/4" were also popular scales. 1/2" scale was popular for yacht designers and builders because the model was easy to handle and scale up on the lofting floor. At the same meeting in 1857 the NYYC accepted the America's Cup as temporary trustee for international competition, the first defense of which would happen in 1870.

In 1865 an article in the New York Herald complimented the club house at the Elysian Fields where "..., a most impressive collection of marine pictures, models, and numerous nautical objects had been assembled."

modelhistory sadie sSadie is the first yacht designed and built by the Herreshoff family mentioned in the records.It was at this time several important naval architects made their first contributions to American yacht design. Sadie of 1866 is the first yacht designed and built by the Herreshoff family that appears in the NYYC records. Model #77 is the builder's model of Sadie, carved, designed and sailed by J. B. Herreshoff, the elder brother of N.G. Herreshoff. J. B. Herreshoff was elected to membership in 1868 and sailed Sadie successfully for a number of years. Sadie is modeled in 1/2" scale and dates from 1866, the same year as the yacht. Later, J. B. Herreshoff, whose glaucoma prevented him from carving models and designing yachts could nonetheless "..., could make shrewd estimations of the speed and cost of racing yachts by merely passing his hands over the wooden models which his designer brother presented to him." The first builder's model carved by N. G. Herreshoff appears in the club records as model #310 of Navaho. Model #336, Defender is the second model listed as carved by N. G. Herreshoff and was the second of his successful America's Cup defenders. The model of Defender is carved in 3/8" scale and was built for W. K. Vanderbilt in 1895, the model dates from the same year. After the turn of the century Sidney Herreshoff carved most of the models and then later, the models are attributed as Herreshoff Mfg. Co. In all there are over 50 builders models by various members of the Herreshoff family in the club's collection with approximately 80 yachts listed in the club's records. All of the models by Herreshoff are half models as these were the primary design tool for a builder at this time.