Member Sign In

Member Sign In

History of the NYYC's Model Collection

The Model Collection 1905-Present

In January 1905 the Model Committee instituted a number of major changes with regard to the handling of the model collection. The first and one of the most significant was the start of a log of all the models in the club's collection. The log lists various details for the particular yacht and corresponding model. These details include the yacht's name/model scale/type of yacht/description of model/model builder/source/date/...etc. The models which were already in the possession of the club were recorded chronologically, with few exceptions, by the date of the yacht. Model #1 being the half model of Hornet which is not the oldest model in the club's collection but was the oldest ship being a Maryland Pilot boat from 1819 and converted into a yacht in 1847. There were some 44 full models, 216 builders models and 494 half model in the club's collection at the time. This log has since become known as the "Doomsday Book", the origin of the name being unknown. Presumably, in the event of a total loss of the model collection, it could be reproduced from the information in this book. It is very interesting to note the column for "value" which lists a value of $25 for most of the builders and half models at the time.

It had been decided at the Model Committee meeting of 1904, with the adoption of a new standard of scales that a large portion of the club's collection should be "reduced" to the proper scale. Thus during the course of 1905, 112 new models were added to the club's collection into the appropriate scales.

In addition to reducing a number of the half models to the new club scale; a collection of 23 U S Navy vessels in the form of half models were commissioned to be hung in the panels under the balcony. These models show the development of the U S Navy from the time of the USS Constitution, built in 1799, through the Great White Fleet and the vessels from just after the turn of the century. Most of these models were commissioned in 1906 from Boucher Mfg. Co. It was at this time Gustav Grahm and H. E. Boucher Mfg. Co. were commissioned to build numerous models for the NYYC, both half models and full rigged presentation models. Mr. Grahm, although having built the presentation model of the America, had been primarily building half models until this time. The culmination of his work was model #542 a presentation model of the schooner Atlantic of which he built two. In this model we can see the development of Mr. Grahm's building style from the model of the America which was built five years earlier. The model is much more sophisticated, there is much more detail and there is an obvious influence from the models that were coming from the UK, in particular the model of Corsair II. Granted the America was a simpler rig and layout, also, Mr. Grahm no doubt had access to the actual yacht Atlantic which inspired this masterpiece. In all he built 116 half and full rigged presentation models for NYYC between 1886 and 1907. Sadly, though my research is incomplete, I believe Mr. Grahm passed away while building model #599 of the yacht Constitution. This is the last model of his listed in the club's collection and she remains un-rigged.

modelhistory atlantic sThe three-masted schooner still holds the transatlantic racing record set in 1905 of 12 days, four hours, one minute, 19 seconds. The course was from Sandy Hook, off New York, to the Lizard off Cornwall, England.H. E. Boucher & Co. was one of the primary model builders for the NYYC. Boucher Mfg. Co. originally started as a naval architecture firm in NYC and by the turn of the century developed into one of the premier model building companies in the world. They employed over 100 people at the peak of their business and were only to be rivaled by Bassett-Lowke of the United Kingdom in size, quality and quantity of production. Aside from building scale presentation ship models, they also produced model trains, carriages, live steam engines and some very fine kits. In addition to the NYYC they built models for many other institutions and yacht clubs including the Smithsonian Institute.

The first presentation model built by Boucher for the NYYC was model #541 of George Lauder's schooner Endymion that is currently on display at Harbour Court. This model was delivered in 1905, as was a companion model that was built for the IHYC in Greenwich, CT where Mr. Lauder was commodore. The model of Gimcrack, which we saw at the beginning of this discussion is indicative of the minimum standard produced by Boucher. One would wonder, with over 90 Boucher models in the club's collection, which ones to discuss as a part of the body of work. Luckily, there are four models built by Boucher, which are masterpieces of modeling. They are the two cut-a-way models, one of Vanadis and the other of Iolanda both built in 1910 and the two dioramas of Elena and Westward built in 1914-15.

Diorama, a term used to describe models set in a "scene" or action setting is one of the most difficult types of models to build because, in order for them to be successful they must be convincing. The dioramas of Elena and Westward are displayed on either side of the entryway of the Model Room as you walk in. Focusing on model #669 of Westward, we see the large schooner under full sail, heeled over in a moderate breeze. This model, which would be scrutinized over the years by a knowledgeable NYYC membership, could have no missing rigging, and every line would have to be led correctly. This diorama has every detail, as well as sails which are very dramatic and convincing through the use of drafting linen (a material which is no longer produced or available). Drafting linen was used by engineers, architects and naval architects because of its rigidity and durability while drawings were reworked. In the case of these model sails they have held their shape and provide a convincing effect of sails.

The cut-a-way model of Iolanda is the most dramatic model in the collection of NYYC. The era of the steam yachts symbolized power, wealth and the strength of the American economy. The model of the steam yacht Iolanda represents all of this. A cut-a-way model is one which has had a portion or section of the hull sliced away to reveal some of the interior details. This model shows more than the usual model of this type. As we look at the model, moving from bow to stern we see such details as the chain locker, pantry, skylight, etc.

Accessioning slowed down during World War I & II as fewer yachts were built and the club's activities slowed down. One important acquisition was made between the wars, the donation of a Napoleonic Prisoner of War model which was given to the club by Lloyd Pheonix in 1925. Models such as this piece, were made by prisoners (predominantly French but also Dutch, Spanish and Americans) in English prisons during the Napoleonic wars. The models were made from the cow and lamb bones found in the stews and soups served to the prisoners. The prisoners worked in guilds with one making the hull, another making the cannons, another the spars, etc. The rigging was made from horsehair and linen thread they took from their cloths. Additional materials were acquired by trading with the guards or other prisoners. These other material included baleen, ebony, brass and gold. The models were then sold either to the guards or in open markets that prisoners of higher rank had access to. The model in the NYYC collection is in excellent condition, and although re-rigged the rigging is accurate and true to the original. The carving on the figurehead and the other details are well done. She is mounted on a bone base with baleen inlays and displayed in a modern case.