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Burns, Otway, Jr. (1775–25 October 1850), privateer, shipbuilder, and state legislator, was born on Queen’s Creek, Onslow County, North Carolina, the son of Otway Burns and Lisanah (maiden name unknown), farmers. Little is known of Burns’s education or youth. Apparently he went to sea at an early age and became a skilled seaman. In 1806 the Onslow County Court apprenticed an orphan lad to Burns to learn navigation. Prior to the War of 1812, Burns was master of a merchantman engaged in the coastwise trade between North Carolina and New England....

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Claghorn, George (06 July 1748–03 February 1824), army officer and shipwright, was born in Chilmark, Massachusetts, the son of Shubael Claghorn, a soldier, and Experience Hawes. He was a great-grandson of James Claghorn of Scotland, who was captured at the battle of Dunbar and deported to the colonies by Cromwell. His father was a veteran of the Louisburg expedition of 1745. Claghorn himself eventually settled in New Bedford and in 1769 married Deborah Brownell of Dartmouth. They had eight children....

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Cramp, William (22 September 1807–06 July 1879), shipbuilder, was born in Kensington, Pennsylvania, a suburb later incorporated into northeastern Philadelphia; his parents’ names are unknown. After attending public schools, he studied under the naval architect Samuel Grice. He married Sophia Miller in 1827; they had eleven children. In 1830 Cramp established his own shipbuilding firm on the Delaware River, first in Kensington and then in a larger facility in Richmond. Over the next decades this shipyard grew to become one of the most important in the United States, constructing wood, ironclad, iron, and eventually steel ships. He remained president of the firm for forty-nine years, from its founding until his death in Atlantic City, New Jersey....

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Eckford, Henry (12 March 1775–12 November 1832), naval architect and shipbuilder, was born at Kilwinning, near Irvine (Clyde district), Scotland, the son of John Eckford and Janet Black, whose occupations are not known. At the age of sixteen Eckford was sent to Quebec, Canada, to study shipbuilding under the aegis of an uncle, John Black. He next relocated to New York City in 1796 and for three years labored in a boat shop. In 1799 Eckford married Marion Bedell of Hempstead, Long Island; they had nine children. That same year he established his own boat yard and from 1803 to 1806 enjoyed a profitable relationship with Captain Edward Beebe. Eckford soon became a designer known for ships possessing both strength and speed. Whenever a vessel he constructed completed its maiden voyage, he would personally interview the captain about its performance and make desired modifications at his own expense....

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Gibbs, William Francis (24 August 1886–06 September 1967), naval architect, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Warren Gibbs, a financier and corporate director, and Frances Ayres Johnson. A sickly childhood permitted him to stay home from school frequently; during these intervals he studied engineering and mathematics. Because his father disliked engineering, Gibbs majored in economics at Harvard before leaving in 1910 after three years. He then studied law at Columbia University, from which he received his LL.B. and M.A. in 1913. He practiced law for one year, continuing to pursue an avocational interest in naval architecture and marine engineering. Although he won his only court appearance, his disillusionment with the law and a prior agreement with his father led to a one-year “sabbatical.” During this period Gibbs designed a 1,000-foot, 55,000-ton ocean liner with a design speed of 30 knots capable of shaving ten hours from the transatlantic speed record. He was joined in this venture by his brother Frederick, who handled the economic aspects; their complementary roles in the giant project led to a lifelong fraternal partnership....

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Hall, Samuel (23 April 1800–13 November 1870), shipbuilder, was born in Marshfield, Massachusetts, the son of Luke Hall, a shipmaster, and Anna Tuels. Hall had little formal education. Since the North River at Marshfield was then a shipbuilding center, it was natural for him to be apprenticed as a shipwright. Hall served his apprenticeship in the shipyard of Deacon Elijah Barstow in Hanover and with his brothers, Luke and William, built several vessels in the Hanover-Marshfield area in the years 1825–1827. The ...

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Hichborn, Philip (04 March 1839–01 May 1910), naval officer and shipwright, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Philip Hichborn and Martha Gould. After he graduated from high school in 1855, Hichborn took work as a shipwright apprentice at the U.S. Navy’s shipyard at Charlestown. His reputation for excellent craftsmanship won him recognition from the navy in the form of special instruction in naval construction. After brief employment as a ship’s carpenter aboard the clipper ship ...

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Higgins, Andrew Jackson (28 August 1886–01 August 1952), industrialist and shipbuilder, was born in Columbus, Nebraska, the son of John Gonegal Higgins and Annie Long O’Conor. His father, a judge and newspaper editor, was a close friend of Grover Cleveland. Intense loyalty to the Democratic party inspired Judge Higgins to name his son after the seventh president. Andrew Jackson Higgins attended public schools in Columbus and Omaha and then Creighton Preparatory School from 1900 to 1903....

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Hunley, Horace L. (29 December 1823–15 October 1863), promoter and financier of three Confederate submarines, was born Horace Lawson Hunley in Sumner County, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, the son of John Hunley, a cotton broker, and Louise Lawson Hunley. In 1830, with his family, Horace moved, by way of Mississippi, to New Orleans, where his father had served during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans under General ...

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McKay, Donald (04 September 1810–20 September 1880), master shipbuilder, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, the second of sixteen children of Hugh McKay, a farmer, and Ann McPherson. He moved to New York in 1827 to study the art and science of shipbuilding, and for the next several years he worked for the firm of Isaac Webb. Later he was employed at Brown and Bell, where he learned his trade in the construction of some of the famous packet ships of the day. Noting McKay’s special talents, his employer Jacob Bell recommended him to William Currier, a New England shipbuilder, by whom McKay was employed to build ships at Wiscasset, Maine, and at Newburyport, Massachusetts....