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History of the NYYC's Model Collection

modelhistory defender sModel of Defender, a Nathanael Herreshoff design that defended the America's Cup in 1895.A. Cary Smith made his first mark in the NYYC records with the yacht Vindex of 1871 for Robt. Center (model #116). In the archives at the club we find the yacht, which is modeled in 1/2" scale and is carved by Mr. Smith dates from the same year as the design. She is purportedly the first American yacht designed on paper without the use of a model. Whether the plans, or the model came first is not clear but the fact that A. Cary Smith is the listed model builder shows he was still checking his work with a model. There are a number of other yachts designed later by A. Cary Smith, which do not list him as the model builder. In particular model #165 Intrepid (a schooner) was built by C&R Poillon in 3/8" scale. As A. Cary Smith perfected the execution of plans on paper he left the carving of the models to the builders who used them to check his plans, a reversal of the traditional use. A. Cary Smith became the club's measurer in 1877.

In 1872 the NYYC moved to its first Manhattan residence at 27th street and Madison Avenue, described as being "...very comfortable, containing about 120 models and many marine pictures." All of the models listed were half models. In 1876 the first official full model and the oldest presentation model, that of Mohawk was acquired. The story of Mohawk is well known, a tragedy at the time, as she capsized at anchor when a sudden squall came upon her with all sails set and her hatches open. Half a dozen people lost their lives, including the owner Wm. T. Garner, purportedly while trying to save his wife who had been trapped by shifting furniture. How and why this was the first full rigged model acquired by the club is a unknown. The model of Mohawk is relatively simple by most presentation model standards; the builder remains anonymous, though possibly built by Stephens Dockyard of London or Gustav Grahm. She is built in 3/8" scale.

In 1882 as the collection grew, the Model Committee set down the first standard of scales for models based on the waterline length of the yacht. There were two scales; 1/2":1' for all yachts up to 80' load waterline length and 3/8":1' for all yachts over 80' load waterline length. This was later changed in 1904. In 1884 NYYC moved to its second Manhattan residence at 67 Madison Avenue. This space, with three floors, which could better serve the growing membership. One of the considerations was the growing model collection as can be seen from the two photos from either end of the Model Room. These are the first photos that show full models on display as part of the club's collection.modelhistory mohawk sThe tragic Mohawk. This was the first full-rigged model acquired by the club

Gustav Grahm is a prolific and important model builder for the NYYC, although virtually forgotten over the years. Mr. Grahm made his first contribution to the club's collection in 1886 with model #113 of the steamer Nooya modeled in 3/8" scale. Mr. Grahm was the first artisan who was commissioned to build numerous models for the club's collection in specific scales, thus replacing the traditional method of acquiring the models from the designer or builder. Mr. Grahm was also the first American model builder to create a significant number of full rigged presentation models for the club.

The first catalog of models was published by NYYC in September of 1887 with 235 Builder's and 1/2 models. The catalog listed the details of design and rig of the yacht, the builder and the owner but little or no information on the models themselves such as scale and model builder. The last two pages have a listing of Miscellaneous Models. The first model on the list is Sappho. She is listed as a full rigged model, and was presented to the club by Wm. P. Douglas in 1885. The model was built in 3/8" scale by the Model Dockyard in London and rigged by Gustav Grahm. The second model listed is that of Mohawk and the next three full models represent yachts that are no longer in the collection. The balance of the models listed in this miscellaneous group are the collection of primitive models donated to the club by Commodore Perry which he brought back from his journey to the Orient. These models are now on loan to the Mystic Seaport Museum. One interesting note from this catalog regards the model of a lugger. This model had lead added to the keel by the superintendent of the club who sailed it in Central and Prospect Park Boat Ponds with "satisfactory" results. Yachting does come in all sizes.

In January of 1901 the club moved to it's new, and present location at 44th Street. The land donated by J. Pierpont Morgan, and the building designed by Whitney Warren of Warren and Wetmore is best known for the dramatic model room where most of the collection is housed today. In addition to the land, J. Pierpont Morgan also donated a pair of full rigged presentation models of the Corsair (II) and USS Gloucester, as well as an Admiralty Board model originally listed as the Sovereign of the Seas but later listed in the club records as an "old ship". In 1901 the Model Committee published a second catalog of models in which were listed 367 Builder's & 1/2 models, and 14 full models. These were not all full rigged models, and in addition to the models listed in the Catalog of 1887 models of Yampa, Sachem, Enchantress, Defender, Vigilant (hull only), Corsair II, Virginia and Kanawha were added to the club's collection. Neither the Admiralty Board model nor the USS Gloucester are listed in the catalog of 1901, and probably had not arrived in time to be included.