Bowdoin B. Crowninshield

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Bowdoin B. Crowninshield
Bowdoin B Crowninshield.jpg
Bowdoin B. Crowninshield
Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield

(1867-10-13)October 13, 1867
DiedAugust 12, 1948(1948-08-12) (aged 80)
Other namesB.B. Crowninshield
EducationSt. Paul's School
Alma materHarvard University (1890)
OccupationNaval architect
Priscilla Janet McPhail
(m. 1900; her death 1915)

Laura A. Wildar
(m. 1916; his death 1948)
ChildrenWilliam W. Crowninshield
Parent(s)Benjamin W. Crowninshield
Katherine May Bradlee
RelativesLouise du Pont (sister-in-law)

Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield (October 13, 1867 – August 12, 1948) was an American naval architect who specialized in the design of racing yachts.[1]

Early life[edit]

Crowninshield was born on October 13, 1867 in New York City. He grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, into the wealthy Crowninshield family with long-standing ties to the sea. The family estate, Crowninshield House, was built by his father in 1870. His father was Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (1837–1892) and mother was Katherine May Bradlee (1844–1902). His younger brother Francis Boardman Crowninshield (1869–1950), married heiress Louise Evelina du Pont (1877–1958).[2]

Through his paternal grandmother Sarah Gool Putnam (1810–1880), he was distant cousin of architect J. Pickering Putnam (1847–1917).[3] His great-grandfather Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (1772–1851) had served as Secretary of the Navy, and his great-granduncle George Crowninshield Jr. (1766–1817) built the first luxury yacht in the United States, Cleopatra's Barge in 1816. His cousin once removed was Frederick Josiah Bradlee, Jr. (1892–1970) whose son was Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee (1921-2014). Because of his many relations, he was known as "B.B." Crowninshield.

He attended Prince School in Boston and graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1885, but transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated in 1890.[4]


Sloop Independence, 1901

After graduating from Harvard, he speculated in real estate before signing on as a draftsman with John R. Purdon, a respected yacht designer in Boston with several knockabout designs to his credit. Crowninshield struck out on his own 18 months later, starting a yacht design and brokerage firm which quickly prospered. He would rise to become one of America's most respected yacht designers during a period which is now regarded as the golden age of American wooden yacht design.

He designed the schooner Adventuress, which was launched in 1913 and has been named a National Historic Landmark.[5] Crowninshield is now best remembered for his working schooners and his America's Cup contender Independence (George Lawley & Son shipyard, 1901) for Thomas W. Lawson. He was also responsible for designing the Dark Harbor sloop.[6]

He designed the unique seven masted schooner Thomas W. Lawson, named for his patron.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He married Priscilla Janet McPhail (1869–1915) on May 12, 1900.[7] In 1902, he was fined and was sued for $10,000 for assaulting Adolphus G. McVey,[8] the yachting editor of the Boston Herald, for a remark about his wife.[9][10] After nine years, he was ordered to pay $448.[11][12] His wife was found dead in a bathtub of a Boston hotel on October 8, 1915. She was checked in as "Mrs. Bowdoin", but the death was ruled accidental.[13] Together, they were the parents of:

  • William Widlar Crowninshield (1909–1987),[4] who married Muriel Adese Longton (1915–2002).[14]

In 1916, he married Laura A. Wildar (1877–1952), daughter of Leonard John Wildar. Laura had previously been married to Charles T. Long, whom she divorced in August 1915.[15]

Crowninshield died August 12, 1948 in Marblehead.[4]

Existing examples of Crowninshield boat designs[edit]


  1. ^ "Bowdoin B. Crowninshield (1867-1948) Papers". Phillips Library Manuscript Finding Aids. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  2. ^ "Louise du Pont Crowninshield papers". The Winterthur museum. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  3. ^ Danvers Historical Society (1922). Historical collections of the Danvers Historical Society. Danvers Historical Society. p. 42.
  4. ^ a b c d "B. Crowninshield, Ship Designer, Dies; Former Head of Firm Planned 7-Masted Schooner". The New York Times. August 13, 1948. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  5. ^ James P. Deleado (July 9, 1988). "Adventuress nomination form". National Register of Historic Places. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  6. ^ Maynard Bray (January 1, 1997). "Three Knockabouts". In Peter H. Spectre (ed.). 100 Boat Designs Reviewed: Design Commentaries by the Experts. WoodenBoat Books. pp. 52–55. ISBN 978-0-937822-44-9.
  7. ^ "B.B. CROWNINSHIELD MARRIED.; Boston Yacht Designer Secretly Wedded Much to the Surprise of Friends". The New York Times. 14 May 1901. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  8. ^ "YACHTSMEN IN A FIGHT; Designer Crowninshield Attacks a Newspaper Critic. Adolphus McVey of Boston the Victim -- Crowningshield to Appear in Court on Charge of Assault". The New York Times. 24 July 1902. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  9. ^ "B.B. Crowninshield Sued; $10,000 Attachment Filed Against Him in an Action for Damages" (pdf). The New York Times. August 7, 1902. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  10. ^ "CROWNINSHIELD TALKS". The New York Times. 26 July 1902. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Yacht Designer Was Sued by Yachting Writer for Assault Made in 1902" (pdf). The New York Times. August 7, 1902. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  12. ^ "CROWNINSHIELD TO PAY $448.; Yacht Designer Was Sued by Yachting Writer for Assault Made in 1902". The New York Times. January 13, 1911. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  13. ^ "YACHTSMAN'S WIFE DROWNS IN BATHTUB; Mrs. B.B. Crowninshield Found Dead in Boston Hotel ;- Registered Under Assumed Name. WAS SOUGHT BY HUSBAND Left Home Thursday to Do Shopping, but Never Returned ;- Her Death Probably Accidental". The New York Times. 9 October 1915. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Muriel Crowninshield". Boston Globe. 2002. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Naval Architect to Wed:B. B. Crowninshield and Laura A. Wildar, Divorcee, Get a License" (pdf). The New York Times. October 12, 1916. Retrieved October 28, 2010.

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