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Bowdoin B. Crowninshield (1867-1948) Papers

Bowdoin B. Crowninshield (1867-1948) Papers

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BOWDOIN B. CROWNINSHIELD (1867-1948) PAPERS, 1870-1946


Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publication and Records Commission.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Crowninshield, B. B. (Bowdoin Bradlee), 1867-1948
Title:Bowdoin B. Crowninshield (1867-1948) Papers
Quantity:7.5 linear feet (15 boxes)
Abstract:The Bowdoin B. Crowninshield papers are comprised of the business and personal papers of the naval architect and shipbuilder.
Collection Number:MH 19

Series List

SERIES I. Business Papers
A. Correspondence
B. Naval Architecture Record Books
C. Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company Record and Account Books
D. United States Navy Shipbuilding Papers
E. Miscellaneous Papers
SERIES II. Personal Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Bowdoin B. Crowninshield papers are comprised of the business and personal papers of the naval architect and shipbuilder from 1870 to 1946. The bulk of the papers concern Crowninshield's work in naval architecture from 1898 to 1940. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Business Papers includes correspondence, letter books, record books, account books, shipbuilding papers, and legal papers, which document his work as a naval architect and shipbuilder. Subseries A. Business Correspondence is almost entirely made up of letters between Crowninshield and Thomas W. Lawson concerning trials of the America's Cup contender Independence. The letter books contain outgoing correspondence to suppliers, shipbuilders, and prospective customers relative to his design and shipbuilding activities.

Subseries B. Naval Architecture Record Books provide specifications of Crowninshield's ships listed by design number. These design numbers correlate with the numbers used on the B. B. Crowninshield drawings currently in the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum's Maritime Department. The records often identify the shipbuilder, the name of the customer, and sometimes include notes on the performance of the vessel during its trial runs.

Subseries C. Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company Record Book contains similar descriptions of the vessels built at Fall River and the project numbers in the record books correlate with the Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company photo album in the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum's Photography Department. The account books document Crowninshield's activities in a number of marine industries. However, the accounts are not always in chronological order, and groups of account regarding a specific year may be found in a number of locations within a single volume. Researchers interested in accounts relative to certain partnerships or the Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company, should consult volumes containing accounts during the years of the partnership's existence (see Appendix I). Of particular interest is the 1906, 1926-1928 account book, which contains listings of "Situations Wanted" from 1926 to 1928. These are descriptions for individuals of varying levels of training and experience seeking jobs in a number of capacities relative to yachting, fishing, and maritime commerce. The 1914-1915, 1927-1928 account book includes marine insurance accounts from 1914-1915. Also included in this subseries is a photograph album, with some loose photographs, of ship hulls built by Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company.

Subseries D. United States Navy Shipbuilding Papers documents Crowninshield's activities as Inspector of Hulls Building during World War II. The correspondence and memoranda folder contains mostly administrative material regarding submission of time sheets, pay of civilians, travel orders, and gasoline rationing. There is some correspondence pertaining to George Turnquist (Ensign, U.S. Navy) and some material about requests for duplicate ship plans. A copy of the 1942 Navy Day speech by Rear Admiral H. T. Smith, given at the Quincy Chamber of Commerce Hall, is enclosed with a typewritten letter dated December 22, 1942. The 1943-1944 notebook contains notes on inspections of newly built naval vessels, and their trial runs, in addition to a draft letter to the Marblehead Assessors Office concerning Crowninshield's inability to pay real estate taxes.

Subseries E. Miscellaneous Papers includes a 1902-1926 scrapbook which contains news clippings and photographs of vessels designed or built by Crowninshield, often with his personal handwritten notes. Among the miscellaneous papers is an agreement releasing Crowninshield from liability to Thomas W. Lawson for claims against design faults of the Independence.

Series II. Personal Papers contain Crowninshield's diaries, scrapbooks, and legal papers. The deeds/indentures folders concern purchases or sales of property and include rental agreements. The construction contracts relate to improvements made to Crowninshield's personal properties. The bills of sale for yachts document Crowninshield's interest in the schooners, Harmony and Fortune, and the boat, Quill. Miscellaneous papers include proof of citizenship document signed by United States Secretary of State James G. Blaine, and documentation of Crowninshield's enlistment and discharge from the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.

Biographical Sketch

Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield was born on October 13, 1867, in New York City, to Benjamin W. (1837-1892) and Katherine M. Crowninshield. He received his A. B. from Harvard in 1890. Crowninshield formed three real estate brokerage partnerships in Great Falls, Montana, from 1890 to 1891, and then moved to Boston, starting a real estate business there in 1893. In 1898, he established his practice in naval architecture in Boston, originally in partnership with Frank Tandy. He was involved in many marine-related activities throughout his career, including design, construction, brokerage, insurance, and personnel management. He designed the America's Cup contender Independence in 1902, and also the seven-mast steel-hulled schooner, Thomas W. Lawson. Crowninshield served with the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps in northwestern France in 1916 and was present at the battle of Verdun.

From 1917 to 1926 he was President and General Manager of the Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company of Fall River, Massachusetts. Crowninshield resumed his work in naval architecture in 1926 and was appointed Inspector of Hull Building for the United States Navy in 1943. His inspections on behalf of the navy were conducted at shipyards in Manchester, Ipswich, and Amesbury, Massachusetts, until 1945. In 1940 his book, Fore ‘n Afters was published.

Crowninshield married Priscilla MacPhail in 1901. Priscilla died in 1915, and he married Laura Widlar one year later. He died on August 12, 1948.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Blaine, James G., 1830-1893
Burbank, Ralph N.
Howard, William Lee, 1860-1918
Krogman, Harold W.
Lawson, Thomas William, 1857-1925
Smith, H. T.
Tandy, Frank
Turnquist, George
Crowninshield and Burbank
Crowninshield and Krogman
Crowninshield Shipbuilding Company
Crowninshield, Burbank, and Howard
Fortune (Schooner)
Harmony (Schooner)
Independence (Schooner)
Quill (Boat)
Account books
America's Cup
Insurance, Marine
Naval architects
Naval architecture
Yacht racing


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Bowdoin B. Crowninshield (1867-1948) Papers, MH 19, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material is a reorganization and integration of 18 boxes of manuscripts, and seven volumes. Two boxes of deeds and legal papers were the gift of Mrs. Francis B. Crowninshield (acc #14, 313). One folder of correspondence concerning Thomas Lawson's yacht Independence was purchased from Howard S. Mott (acc #16, 045). The balance of the collection was donated by Mrs. Bowdon B. Crowninshield (acc #12, 297). Some deeds relating to the estate of Crowninshield's father, Benjamin W. Crowninshield (1837-1892) were removed for processing with the balance of his estate papers. One copy of Edward Burgess' American and English Yachts has been removed for inclusion in the library's print collection.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, January 1988. Updated by Hilary Streifer, November 2014.

Related Material

Crowninshield, B. B. Fore 'n Afters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940.

Shipbuilding, Design, and Construction, 1822, 1833, 1898-1899, undated. Ship. Mss. 37.

Francis Boardman Crowninshield Family Papers, 1801-1948. MSS 402

B. B. Crowninshield Drawings. Maritime Art and History Department, Peabody Essex Museum.

Appendix I

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