Joshua Humphreys (June 17, 1751 – January 12, 1838) was an influential and successful ship builder in the United States.
Humphreys was born in Havetown, Haverford Township, Pennsylvania, and died in the same place. He was the son of Joshua Humphreys and Sarah Williams, grandson of Daniel Humphreys and Hannah Wynne (daughter of Dr. Thomas Wynne). He was a nephew of Charles Humphreys. His residence, Pont Reading, is still a private residence.
As a youth, Humphreys was apprenticed to a shipbuilder in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolutionary War he was active as a designer, and played a major part in planning Randolph, a 32-gun frigate.
After the war Humphreys became a shipbuilder in Philadelphia. When Congress in 1794 passed the Naval Act of 1794 providing for the construction of six frigates, it called on him to design them. He was appointed Naval Constructor 28 June 1794 and began work on these ships, the beginnings of the U.S. Navy. Reputedly, one of the inspirations for his frigate designs was the South Carolina.
United States was built by Humphreys in Philadelphia, and was the first of the new ships to be launched on 10 May 1797. These vessels were larger and faster than other ships of their class and formed the core of the Navy during the War of 1812, and scored several victories against British ships. Humphreys' skill is evident by the fact that one of these ships, Constitution (Old Ironsides), is still afloat.
His six frigates were:
Building 197 of the Washington Navy Yard (the site of multiple murders on September 16, 2013, by a mentally ill former defense contractor) was completely renovated during 2014 and renamed in honor of Humphreys.
His uncle was Charles Humphreys, a member of the Continental Congress. His son was another noted naval architect, Samuel Humphreys. His grandson, General Andrew Atkinson Humphreys, served throughout the American Civil War.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- "Humphreys". Retrieved 2012-01-14.
- USS Constitution Rehabilitation And Restoration
- The Joshua Humphreys Papers, including financial records, hand-drawn diagrams, correspondence and other family documents, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.