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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....

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Meserve, Nathaniel (1705–28 June 1758), shipbuilder and provincial military leader, was born in Newington, New Hampshire, the son of Clement Meserve, a joiner, and Elizabeth Jones. In 1725 he married Jane Libby; they had two children. Meserve soon afterward moved to Portsmouth, where he prospered as a shipbuilder and, in 1740 built one of the town’s more elegant houses adjoining his shipyard....

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Russell, Joseph (08 October 1719–16 October 1804), merchant, shipowner, and manufacturer, was born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Russell II and Mary Tucker, farmers. Russell was raised in an early Dartmouth Quaker family and appears to have been an exemplary Quaker. In 1744 he married Judith Howland, whose family dated back to the earliest Quaker converts in Dartmouth. The couple had eleven children....

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Arthur Sewall. [left to right] William Jennings Bryan and Arthur Sewall. Color lithograph, c. 1896. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2130).

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Sewall, Arthur (25 November 1835–05 September 1900), shipbuilder and railroad and bank president, was born in Bath, Maine, the son of William Dunning Sewall, a shipbuilder, and Rachel Trufant. Sewall received a common school education in Bath. He was subsequently sent to Prince Edward Island to learn how to cut ship timber, and soon he was able to perform every job required in a shipyard. In 1854, during a peak period of wooden shipbuilding, he founded the firm of E. & A. Sewall with his older brother Edward and took over his father’s firm. When Edward died in 1879, the name was changed to Arthur Sewall & Co. Beginning with the 1,000-ton ...

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Slocum, Joshua (20 February 1844– November 1909?), circumnavigator, shipbuilder, and author, was born in Wilmot Township, Nova Scotia, Canada, the son of John Slocombe, a farmer and bootmaker, and Sarah Jane Southern. Slocum attended school only until age ten, when he was set to work to earn his keep. He left home permanently after the death of his mother when he was sixteen, working as a deep-water sailor. From that time on his life, for better and for worse, was defined by the sea....

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Webb, William Henry (19 June 1816–30 October 1899), shipbuilder and marine architect, was born in New York City, the son of Isaac Webb, a successful shipwright who operated a yard facing onto the East River in New York City (mother’s name unknown). There along a waterfront hardly a mile in length lay several shipyards that produced the bulk of the packet and, later, the clipper ships built in the United States until the Civil War. Webb had a private tutor, and he attended the Columbia College Grammar School....

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Westervelt, Jacob Aaron (20 January 1800–21 February 1879), shipbuilder and marine architect, was born in Tenafly, New Jersey, the son of Aaron Westervelt, a shipbuilder, and Vroutie Westervelt; his parents were cousins. At the age of seventeen, Westervelt, following his father, served as an apprentice to Christian Bergh, a successful shipbuilder in New York City. After completing his training in 1820, Westervelt established a business in Savannah, Georgia, where he built several vessels. Returning to New York in 1822 at the invitation of his old boss, he became a partner in the firm of Christian Bergh and Company. Westervelt’s timing could not have been better, for the age of the packet ship was dawning, and Bergh’s firm, located on the East River in Lower Manhattan proximate to three other shipyards on the East River, would be the common birthplace of nearly 150 packets that would be built in New York in the next thirty years. In 1825 Westervelt married Elizabeth M. Thompson, with whom he had eight children. Two of his sons would join his firm in the late 1850s and take it over at his retirement....