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Samuel S. Crocker (1890-1964) Papers

Samuel S. Crocker (1890-1964) Papers

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SAMUEL S. CROCKER (1890-1964) PAPERS, 1916-1987


The processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications 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:Crocker, Samuel S., 1890-1964
Title:Samuel S. Crocker (1890-1964) Papers
Quantity:17.5 linear feet (32 boxes, 5 flat files)
Abstract:The Samuel S. Crocker papers contain design papers relating to Crocker's work as a naval architect and cover 1916 to 1987, with the bulk of the material related to the years 1924 to 1964.
Collection Number:MH 13

Series List

SERIES I. Shipbuilding Papers
SERIES II. Other Business Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Samuel S. Crocker papers contain design papers relating to Crocker's work as a naval architect and cover 1916 to 1987, with the bulk of the material related to the years 1924 to 1964. The later dates are the years during which Crocker maintained his naval architecture firm. Most of the material dated after 1964 (Sam Crocker's year of death), concern repairs or refits to boats built previous to 1964. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Shipbuilding Papers contain sketches, correspondence, naval architecture calculations, contracts, specifications, orders, and bills relating to the design and construction of Sam Crocker's boats. Crocker assigned a design number to each design and the papers are organized in accordance with those numbers. Originally, these materials were divided into "design" and "orders and bills" categories, both arranged by design number. However, over the years, these two categories were merged, so that all documents pertaining to a particular design number are in consecutive folders. Contracts for the use of the designs can be found within the design plans for that particular design number. In some cases, there are materials for multiple boats filed under the same design number.

This series affords a detailed view of yacht design and building in New England during the early to mid-twentieth century. From a technological standpoint, it shows the lines, characteristics, weights, sail areas, and other technical aspects for most of Crocker's vessels. The papers list and date most of Crocker's boats and identify almost 400 boat names and over 700 owners. The builder's name is shown for about 270 boats. The papers link Crocker to clients, builders, sailmakers, engine builders, and marine suppliers. There are contract prices for 30 percent of the boats, and the total cost to the owner for about 15 percent, as well as prices for sails, engines, components, furnishings, and equipment. Among Sam Crocker's designs for multiple production are the following boats: Sea Dawn (#100), 36 feet long, designed in 1927 for The Rudder magazine; Target class (#147), 22 feet long, designed in 1932 for a contest; Stonehorse Junior (#159), 23 feet long; Compass class (#175) , 18 feet long, designed in 1936; New Bedford 35 (#198), 35 feet long, designed in 1939; Trade Winds (#252), 26 feet long, designed in 1949 for The Rudder magazine; and Crocker 20 (#266), 20 feet long, designed in 1954. Crocker was working on design number 344 at the time of his death. Included within some of the design plans are photographs and fabric samples for specific ships.

Also included in this series is a photocopy of Crocker's diary, in which he listed all of his designs, their dimensions, and other information. This photocopy was created on July 23, 1987, when the original was lent to the Peabody Essex Museum by Crocker's son, Sturgis. There are also other detailed lists of Crocker's designs and yachts built.

Series II. Other Business Papers contain materials from files other than the design papers, such as account books and marine insurance brokerage records. The account books, which cover the years 1924 to 1958, list various expenses and receipts concerning design, construction, and brokerage activities. There are some photographs of individual vessels with the marine insurance brokerage records, which are listed in order of design number. Also included in this series are magazine articles and some miscellaneous related materials.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel (Sam) Sturgis Crocker, a naval architect, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, on March 29, 1890 to Samuel Sturgis Crocker (1858-1932), a tea and coffee merchant, and Mary Eleanor (Alden) Crocker. The Crocker family can be traced back to William Crocker, who arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1634.

Sam studied naval architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1909 to 1911, after graduating from high school in Newton. He worked as a draftsman and designer for two naval architects: George Owen, from 1911 to 1916; and John G. Alden, Sam's cousin, from 1919 to 1924. He also operated his own boatyard in Marion, Massachusetts, starting about 1916. During World War I he built submarine chasers at Lawley's Yard in Neponset, Massachusetts. In 1924 he opened his own naval architecture firm, which he maintained in Boston until 1956, at which time he moved the firm to Crocker Boat Yard in Manchester, Massachusetts. During World War II and the Korean War, he worked on boat planning and construction with Simms Brothers in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Sam was also a marine insurance agent and yacht broker during part of his career.

Although Sam designed several successful class boats for multiple construction, his specialty was in developing designs to suit the individual preferences of an owner. (See Appendix II for a list of owners of yachts who built from Crocker designs.) Most of his vessels were yachts with an auxiliary engine, but his designs also included other types of boats: pure sail, power only, and commercial fishing boats. Most of his designs were for vessels 20 feet to 40 feet in length. The shorter boats are mostly from the earlier days to Crocker's career. Typically, when a boat was built from his designs, he supervised construction for the owner and purchased the materials needed (such as engine and sails), which, according to the contract, were to be supplied by the owner. (See Appendix I for a list of builders who used his designs.)

Sam married Ethel May Smith and they had three children together: Anna May, Samuel Sturgis, and George Pray. Samuel, known as Sturgis Crocker, was born in Middleboro, Massachusetts in 1916. He built many boats from his father's designs at Crocker Boat Yard, which he had started with his wife, Eileen, in 1946. Sturgis turned over control of the Boat Yard to his son, Samuel Sturgis Crocker, in 1986. The Crocker Boat Yard is now run by Sturgis' grandson, Skip Crocker, and while the Yard has not built a boat for some time, it remains a full-service yard specializing in repair, maintenance, storage, refits, and restoration for boats of all sizes (Crocker's Boat Yard, Inc.). Sam died in Beverly, Massachusetts on November 28, 1964.

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.

Alden, John G., 1884-1962
Crocker, S. Sturgis, b. 1916
Owen, George, 1871-1959
Crocker Boat Yard
George T. Lawley and Sons
Simms Brothers
Marine insurance
Naval architects
Naval architecture


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

Samuel S. Crocker (1890-1964) Papers, MH 13, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by S. Sturgis Crocker, the son of Samuel S. Crocker (1809-1964), during 1986 and 1987 (accessions #23,951; #24,295; #24,426; and #24,593). The collection is a reorganization of six boxes of correspondence, design papers, calculations, orders, bills, and account books. The materials had previously been stored at Sturgis Crocker's boatbuilding years, where they had been used for reference in the yard's activities.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Victor A. Lewinson, Robert P. Spindler, January 1988. Updated by Hilary Streifer, January 2015.

Related Material

Carrick, Robert W. and Richard Henderson. John G. Alden and His Yacht Designs. Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Company, 1983.

Crocker, S. Sturgis. Sam Crocker's Boats: A Design Catalog. Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Co., 1985.

Crocker's Boat Yard, Inc. "About Crocker's Boat Yard." Accessed December 23, 2014.

Doherty, John Stephen. A Ketch Called Tahiti: John G. Hanna and His YachtDesigns. Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Company, 1987.

Stone, Orra L. History of Massachusetts Industries: Their Inception, Growth, and Success. Boston: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1930.

Samuel S. Crocker's boat plans, hull models, and a small craft, the Bessie, are in the Maritime Art and History Department of the Peabody Essex Museum

Appendix I

Appendix II

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