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Massachusetts Institute of Technology  /  MIT Museum
Building N51   265 Massachusetts Avenue   Cambridge, MA 02139
Open Daily 10am – 5pm  /  Closed Major Holidays

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Hart Nautical Collections List

The 16 primary collection groups in Hart Nautical constitute a substantial archive of plans, photographs, film, and printed materials. Because of the fragile nature of these collections, handling is limited. The Museum, however, is committed to providing the widest possible access to this material. As funding permits, our new online database will continue to expand visual access to collections.

While ongoing retrospective cataloging and additions to the database continue, the best way to explore and use these collections is to become familiar with the online database, the collections summaries below and our access policies. Requests for copies of plans or photographs must be made in writing (via mail or email).

John G. Alden Collection
Atlantic Works Collection
William A. Baker Collection
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Captain Arthur H. Clark Collection
Allan Forbes Whaling Collection
Davis-Hand Collection
Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection
Charles H.W. Foster Collection
General Dynamics - Quincy Shipyard Collection
McInnis-Lawley Collection
Gordon Munro Collection
George Owen Collection
Frank C. Paine Collection
Hart Nautical Library
Model Collection
General Collection

John. G. Alden Collection

Alden schooner design # 21, 1911.

John G. Alden Collection

John G. Alden began his design career as an apprentice with B. B. Crowninshield (MIT Class of 1889) in 1902 and became a productive designer and experienced sailor by the time he departed to start his own Boston design office in 1909. His initial success was modest until he won his first Bermuda Race with Malabar IV in 1923. Alden's subsequent Bermuda Race victories in 1926 with Malabar VII and Malabar X in 1932 provided his firm enduring fame and success. This long-lived design business finally closed for good in 2008. The holding company, Tillotson Corporation, gifted the extensive Alden design archives to the Hart Nautical Collections of MIT Museum. Most of the collection was cataloged and scanned by Niels Helleberg, a designer at Alden since 1971, who also helped direct the collection to MIT. Helleberg continued providing design and print services until closing his office in January 2014. The useful Alden website and database created by Helleberg was transferred by him to MIT Museum to assist with providing access to this collection going forward.
Alden Designs

New boiler for Washington Mills, Lawrence, MA.

Atlantic Works Collection

The Atlantic Works, founded in 1853, built and repaired ships and engines at its plant in East Boston until about 1951. In 1946, George Webster, General Superintendent of Atlantic Works, gave a collection of 25 photographs to MIT. Subsequently, the Chief Engineer, Josiah P. Hayward, gave numerous drawings of Atlantic Works vessels to supplement plan material already in the collections. The drawings, roughly cataloged by contract number, are quite fragile, and in need of substantial conservation work.

Construction of Baker’s 17th century replica Maryland Dove in 1977.

William A. Baker Collection

In 1934, William A. Baker graduated from MIT with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. He was active in the American shipbuilding industry through World War II and up to the early 1960s. Best known as the designer of Mayflower II, which was built in England in 1955 for Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, Baker was one of the most prominent maritime historians and historic replica ship and boat designers of his era. In his final career, Baker was Curator of the Hart Nautical Museum (prior to the merger with MIT Museum in 1982) from 1963 until his death in 1981. Baker's research and designs of American Colonial era vessels set a standard for thoroughness and precision that is still highly regarded today. In 1987, Mrs. William A. Baker gave the MIT Museum the bulk of Baker's design drawings, technical files, and related research notes. These materials augment previously-received drawings, photographic materials, and research files. This unique collection was retrospectively catalogued in 1991-92. A detailed finding aid is now available as a PDF file.

The Guide to the William A. Baker Collection (85 pages - 588 KB)

Lifting 70-ton turbine rotor aboard USS North Dakota BB-29, 1909.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation

In 1980, Bethlehem Steel Corporation donated to MIT a large collection of plans and photographs related to the Quincy Yard. This collection consists of approximately 13,000 drawings and about 80,000 photographs and negatives. The drawings cover ships built from about 1900 to 1937, and the photographs cover the yard's history to 1963, when Bethlehem sold it to General Dynamics. There are also some pre-World War I business and technical records. In 2003, approximately 5,000 architectural and engineering plans relating to the yard layout and plant were added to the collection by a gift from the US Maritime Administration. This new material is inventoried and searchable in a database. Overall, the collection requires substantial retrospective cataloging. Until this work is completed, access to this material is limited.

Lithograph of clipper packet ship Dreadnought of the Red Cross Line, 1854.

Captain Arthur H. Clark Collection

The first major collection of material received by the Museum, the Clark Collection consists of marine artwork, books, plans, and half models. The 1,400 pieces of artwork include prints, lithographs, etchings, engravings, and photographs, mostly depicting American and British ships and yachts between 1850 and 1900. There are also many European prints from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries that illustrate Europe's shipbuilding history. Also included are approximately 400 books relating to ship design, maritime law, and yachting, including some rare works. The plans number roughly 300, the majority of which are printed material. This collection features a number of clipper ship plans, including contemporary lines drawings on heavy paper or linen. The 16 half models include some very fine examples of the modeler's art. Models and plans are both catalogued by name of vessel or subject.

Japanese whaling boat from an 18th century scroll.

Allan Forbes Whaling Collection

Given to MIT in 1940, this collection was gathered by Allan Forbes, Sr., while he was president of the State Street Trust Company. It consists of over 2,000 prints and paintings from several countries depicting whales, whaling, and whaling vessels, ranging from sixteenth-century Dutch engravings to nineteenth-century Japanese woodcuts. A small collection of rare books about whaling is also part of this collection. Cataloged by general subject and country of origin.

Body plan for Countess, a 40 foot offshore racer.

Davis-Hand Collection

William Hand, Jr. (1875-1946) began designing yachts in 1898 and is best known for his pioneering V-bottom power boats, schooners and motorsailers. Winthrop Warner (MIT class of 1924) apprenticed in Hand’s office about the time Richard O. Davis was hired. Davis became Hand’s chief draftsman and later design partner. George I. Hodgdon, Jr. of Hodgdon Boat Works in East Boothbay Harbor, ME donated approximately 2,000 original plans to MIT in 1973. A 262 page guide is available at MIT Museum or by mail from the Hart curator.

Columbia dinghy.

Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection

John B. Herreshoff and his brother Nathanael (MIT class of 1870) formed the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo.) at Bristol, RI in 1878. HMCo. became the most famous yacht design and construction yard in American history. Over 14,000 plans and related design records were loaned to MIT at the close of business in the late 1940s by the General Manager of HMCo., Rudolph F. Haffenreffer (MIT Class of 1895). In 1961, the Haffenreffer Family donated this impressive collection to MIT. A 218 page guide is available at MIT Museum or by mail from the Hart curator. To view a larger selection of Herreshoff images and learn about a major exhibition project based on this collection, please visit the Herreshoff Legacy Project.

Elf, a 40 foot waterline-class yacht built by George Lawley & Son in 1888.

Charles H. W. Foster Collection

The Foster Collection was received in 1957 from the estate of Charles H. W. Foster, a well known yachtsman who participated in yacht design and was the author of the Eastern Yacht Club Ditty Box, the first history of this prestigious club. The collection consists of 5 half models, 46 books, and approximately 4300 photographs by Stebbins, Jackson, and Peabody, depicting yachts and some commercial vessels between the years 1885 and 1930. An online image catalog of this important collection is located in the Museum's online catalog. Use the advanced search function. Type a vessel name or subject in the title field, limit by year if useful and confine search to Charles H. W. Foster with the choose a value drop down menu to right of the field.

Concept sketch for an LNG submarine tanker from late 1970s.

General Dynamics - Quincy Shipyard Collection

Following the closing of the Fore River Shipyard in 1986, General Dynamics Corporation gave MIT a large collection of photographs, film, video and printed materials related to ship construction. These materials document General Dynamics ownership from 1964 through 1986. The collection is very large and not yet processed. Access is limited.

Unknown boat launching at Lawley yard in South Boston.

McInnis-Lawley Collection

Three generations of Lawleys built fine yachts and working vessels in Massachusetts from the 1860s through the 1940s. The last in line was Fred who attended MIT as a naval architecture student in the late 1890s. George Lawley and Son Corporation was the major competitor to Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo). The Lawleys designed yachts and were the only other major New England yard that independent designers could use since HMCo. did not take on outside designers until the 1920s. The total output of both yards was comparable – combined production exceeded 6,000 boats over all years of operation. When the Lawley yard closed for good in the late 1940s, Walter J. McInnis collected many of the extant plans and models. In 1965, he gave approximately 3,500 plans and 10 half models to MIT. The vessel plans date from 1894 to 1940. A granddaughter of Fred Lawley recently donated unique photographs and other Lawley family archives.

Motorsailer Betty

Gordon Munro Collection

Gordon Munro was one of the first naval architects to experiment with the design of motor-sailors and was employed by George Lawley & Son yard for part of his career. In 1968 his widow gave his plan files, photographs and models to MIT. The plans, roughly 300 in number, are filed by design number and cataloged by both number and name.

Sail plan of Owen’s P-class design Stranger, 1912.

George Owen Collection

George Owen graduated from MIT in 1894 and was a professor in the Institute's Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from 1915 to 1941. From 1901 until his death in 1959, he produced over 200 designs of yachts and commercial vessels. He was a highly successful designer of Universal Rule yachts and an expert yachtsman.

In 1999, the Museum completed a comprehensive cataloging project of the collection. Recently, substantial additional gifts relating to Owen have been presented to the MIT Museum. This material has been processed and integrated to produce a definitive guide listing 3,700 plans, photographs, and models related to Owen.

The Guide to the George Owen Collections is divided into five chapters in pdf format, containing 370 pages of item-level data:

Lines plan for R-class sloop Yankee, 1924.

Frank C. Paine Collection

Frank C. Paine, one of the most important yacht designers of the first half of the twentieth century, was the son of General Charles J. Paine, an early benefactor of MIT's Department of Naval Architecture. Paine's work dovetails neatly with the material from the Lawley & Son yard, since many of his designs were built there, and Paine was company president for many years. After his death in 1952, 21 of his half models and about 2,300 plans were given to MIT. The plans are presently cataloged by both design number and vessel name.

De Re Navali by Lazari Bayfii, 1531.

Hart Nautical Library

The library contains approximately 3,000 volumes, including journals, rare books, and logs, and other unpublished items. The Bryant Collection makes up the majority of the rare volumes, with additions from the Forbes, Foster, and Clark Collections. Currently, the library is arranged into broad subject areas, including maritime history and literature, naval architecture, and marine engineering. At present no catalog exists for this collection.

Ship models

Half model storage.

Model Collection

Including the half models mentioned in the above collections, the total inventory of half models in the Hart Nautical Collections is approximately 270 half hulls. With the ship and boat models listed earlier, the total number of both full and half models in this collection represents about 370 ships and boat hulls. In addition to the above models, there are several steam engine models. The Model Collections have been retrospectively inventoried.

Ship models

18th century hand colored engraving of the HMS Great Harry of 1514.

General Collection

Both the model and library collections above are composites of Hart General Collections and elements of the named collections above. The Hart General Collections are comprised of a wide variety of objects and archival materials acquired by individual gifts, bequests, purchases, and Institute transfers for more than 80 years. For example, the Hart Collections hold a large number of plans and photographs that have been transferred to Hart from MIT's Department of Naval Architecture over the years. A comprehensive inventory of the General Collections is underway.

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