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History of the NYYC's Model Collection

modelhistory corsair sThe model of Corsair II was donated by J. Pierpont MorganThe Admiralty Board model, the "old ship" is the oldest model in the club's collection dating from between 1675-80. Under the rule of Charles II a plan was implemented to replace a then-decaying navy. This became known as the 'The Thirty Ships of 1677' and consisted of one 1st rate ship, nine 2nd rate ships and twenty 3rd rate ships. Based on the measurements of the model taken by Simon Stephens of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, UK, the model falls within the dimensions of the 2nd rate ships. Although we have not been able to identify her as a specific ship, her dimensions and details most closely resemble the Mordaunt. One theory offered by Mr. Stephens is this model possibly could have been used for proposed design modifications. Another theory is this model was commissioned by a private individual for their personal use. She is a 90 gun warship, and although she is in excellent condition for her age, the model has been re-rigged inaccurately and has had some decorative fittings added such as the lanterns on the stern. There is one very unique feature to this model, which is the fashion the planking is attached to the frames. The boxwood veneer has been fastened with small brass nails, which is uncommon for models of this period. J. Pierpont Morgan probably acquired this model while conducting business in England. Commodore Morgan was a great collector of art and his tastes in models was no less. There were at least four other Admiralty Board models which were passed down to his grandson Junius Morgan, Jr. and which are now in the possession of the Kriegstein family; one of the most important private collections of Admiralty Board models in the world. This model was first hung over the fireplace in a "votive" style before being placed in its current location on the Quarter deck.

The models of the Corsair (#416) and USS Gloucester (#445) are the first steam-yacht models officially entered in the club's collection. These models are typical examples of the confusion I mentioned earlier. Although these models are known as "builder's" models, they are in fact presentation models. Mostly, they were presentation pieces for the owners or companies, which commissioned the ships. Although some of these models were built in model shops within the shipyards most were sub-contracted to model building companies. These early presentation models were primarily built in the UK where, since the 17th century, they had been building detailed models for the Royal dockyards. As the art developed, the level and quality of the detail improved until the mid 19th and early 20th centuries were the models became art.

The model of Corsair was built by John Henderson of D&W Henderson for J. Pierpont Morgan in 1900. This model represents the pinnacle of British/Scottish presentation model building. In particular the details on the bridge, the binnacle, telegraph and map cases as well as the emphasis on the ships boats are well done. The deck is of veneer that has been scored, the deck lines drawn in India ink and varnished. The companion model of the USS Gloucester shows the Corsair as she was rigged when J. Pierpont Morgan loaned her for service to the U S Navy. The quality of the detail is the same level, although the vessel is stripped down as a warship. One interesting difference between the two models is in the deck. The USS Gloucester the deck has been painted a cream color before the planking lines were drawn in.

Finally in 1904 the Model Committee instituted a new set of scales for models entering the collection. They were as follows: 1/8" scale for yachts over 300' LWL; 3/16" scale for yacht over 200' LWL; 1/4" scale for yachts over 100' LWL; and 3/8" scale for yachts under 100' LWL. The half models were to show the starboard side and were to be painted to correspond to the colors of the yacht. Models, which were already in the club's collection, were grandfathered. This is how the rule remains today with the exception of One Design yachts which are to be modeled in 3/4" scale. The idea was to make the models of sailing yachts all one scale.