This vessel has attained almost mythic status in the
history of yachting. My purpose in creating this model was to demonstrate
the construction and interior layout of the hull, to better understand how
she was built and used. This gives people a better understanding of one of
the most beautiful and significant yachts in our history. There are a
number of interesting aspects of her design and building which are not
generally known, and which are displayed here for the first time.
This model is based on the hull lines taken from the actual yacht in 1851.
This was done by the British Admiralty when she was in England for the
race. The dockyard surveyors had a proven track record of accurate
measurement of many hundreds of vessels over a span of several centuries.
Thus these lines provide a true shape of the yacht at that point in time.
She measured 95' 6" on deck, 23' extreme beam, and drew 11' aft.
The other important source of information on her construction is the
Cedergren material. This consists of sketches, watercolor renderings of
her interior, and a scale plan, all made by Pehr Wilhelm Cedergren of
Sweden. He personally inspected the yacht when she was in England. This
information is to be found in the Log of Mystic Seaport Vol. 29 #3, Oct.
1977. I used this material to reconstruct her interior layout and
The framing dimensions come from the list of scantlings on the Stearman
sail plan, dated Oct. 31, 1851. This list also provides much additional
information on her construction. Poplar was used for the framing, with
apple wood for all other structural components. Dark apple contrasts with
lighter sapwood to delineate the scarph joints in the keel.
It is not generally recognized that the AMERICA was built with diagonal
iron strapping. This type of reinforcing is documented in the building of
the clipper GREAT REPUBLIC as well as other vessels. It appears to have
come into use right about 1850, and thus the AMERICA was one of the first
vessels to have it. There is a newspaper article which states that she had
diagonal iron braces, about four feet apart. This is the sports paper
Spirit of the Times, dated June 22, 1851. But most interesting are the
photographs taken inside the yacht when she was at Trumpy's yard at
Annapolis. These very clearly show these braces. Circumstantial evidence
also supports their use. The photos taken of the AMERICA show that she
never hogged, and this would be impossible with the small backbone she
had, unless there was some other system of support for the hull.
The methods of construction follow that which I found used on CORONET of
1885, and THOMAS F. BAYARD of 1880. The New York Marine register and New
York Lloyds standards provided information on how the knees and deck beams
were constructed and placed. The framing on the starboard side is cut away
in two areas to show how the iron braces were fitted. The first course was
laid against the inside of the framing, with the frames being cut away or
rabbeted so the iron was flush with the inside surface of the framing. The
next course of iron was laid at 90 degrees to the first, and riveted at
the crossings. The ceiling was scored and rabbeted to fit over the second
course of iron, and thus be flush with the framing on the inside of the
vessel. I have shown this on the model.
The deck fittings are of choice dark apple wood to imitate mahogany. Early
photographs of actual yachts show mostly natural finished deck furniture,
with white reserved for the inside of the bulwarks. The furnishings are
waxed to give a sheen that looks like gloss varnish at scale.
The early 1800's was a period of transition in the manner of laying the
deck planking. All vessels prior to about 1810 had the deck planks laid
'sprung', that is with a curved taper to match the shape of the hull. Thus
the planking would start out at the centerline running straight fore and
aft, but gradually curve so that it matched the curve of the side of the
ship. This is described as late as 1856 in the Practical Shipbuilder
by Lauchlin McKay, page 66. The evidence for this method being used before
that time is overwhelming. I laid the deck aft of the break in this
manner, and left all the deck plank off the deck forward of the break.
This follows the procedure used on the fishing schooners.
The stern carving is based on the original which is preserved today at a
yacht club. The trailboard decoration follows the design on the British
lines drawing as copied by Chapelle. All are carved from boxwood and
There are three figures on the model. John Cox Stevens, Commodore of the
New York Yacht club and a prime figure in the syndicate formed to create
the yacht, is seated in the cockpit. He gestures with his right arm
'across the pond' to indicate the future course of the venture. In his
left hand he holds a telescope, symbolic of navigation and vision for the
future. The other figure in the cockpit is George Steers, designer of the
AMERICA. At his right side are papers representing the correspondence
which brought about the birth of the yacht. In his left hand he holds a
ruler, symbolizing his role as designer. Another figure is placed in the focs'l just to show scale. Various crew items are placed there, and some
kitchen utensils clutter up the galley. A cat pursues an elusive quarry
along the top of the keelson. The doorknobs are turned from holly, and all
the brasswork is lacquered.
The model is mounted on cherry pedestals and placed on a plinth with black
walnut trim. The nameplate features my own calligraphic design.