A schooner yacht of 170 tons measurement built in New York in 1851 for a syndicate headed by John Cox Stevens, commodore and founder of the New York Yacht Club. Her dimensions were: length 28.5 metres (93 ft 6 in.), beam 6.8 metres (22 ft 6 in.), draught 3.3 metres (11 ft), mainmast 24.7 metres (81 ft), foremast 24.2 metres (79 ft 6 in.). Designed by George Steers, she was constructed under his supervision in the New York yard of William Brown (see Fig. 1 on p. 644 for her plans). She was then raced in English waters in the year of the Great Exhibition, 1851, as an example of American shipbuilding. On 22 August 1851 she won with ease a race around the Isle of Wight organized by Britain's senior yacht club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, and was awarded the 100-guinea silver Queen's Cup. Though without a bottom, and looking more akin to a claret jug, the trophy is now known as the America's Cup. Of her performance the great Scottish yacht designer G. L. Watson wrote that she was ‘undoubtedly the great epoch-making vessel in yacht designing’.
She was bought by one Englishman and then another, was renamed Camilla, and after being laid up was bought ‘at the price of old junk’ (W. Thompson and T. Lawson, The Lawson History of the America's Cup (1911), 40), by the owner of a boatyard, who rebuilt her and sold her. In 1861 a former Royal Navy officer sold her to the Confederate States Navy. She had a gun mounted on her, was renamed Memphis, and was used as a dispatch boat and blockade runner during the American Civil War (1861–5). She was eventually scuttled in the St John's River, Florida, but was raised by the Federal Navy for use as a training vessel at the US Naval Academy at Newport, RI, and then Annapolis.
After taking part in the first defence of the America's Cup in 1870, she was rebuilt by General Butler, and used for cruising and racing until she was decommissioned in 1901 and put under covers in Boston. In 1921 she was presented to the Eastern Yacht Club at Marblehead which then sold her, for the sum of one dollar, to the US government. She was exhibited at the Naval Academy at Annapolis where, having been poorly maintained, she was placed in a shed in 1940. Two years later the shed's roof collapsed under a heavy snowfall and shattered many of her timbers. Despite protests by yachtsmen, who wanted her preserved, her remains were sold in 1945 for $990.90.
Rousmaniere, John, The Big Black Hull (1985).
Subjects: Maritime History.