Bowdoin B. Crowninshield

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Sloop Independence, 1901

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


Born October 13, 1867 in New York City, Crowninshield 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). Through his paternal grandmother Sarah Gool Putnam (1810–1880) he was distant cousin of architect J. Pickering Putnam (1847–1917).[1] 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 younger brother Francis Boardman Crowninshield (22 April 1869 – 19 May 1950), married heiress Louise Evelina du Pont (August 3, 1877 – July 11, 1958).[2] 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.

After graduating from Harvard in 1890 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.[3] 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.[4] He designed the unique seven masted schooner Thomas W. Lawson, named for his patron.

He married Priscilla Janet Macphail on May 12, 1900. In 1902 he was fined and was sued for $10,000 for assaulting Adolphus G. McVey, the yachting editor of the Boston Herald, for a remark about his wife.[5] After nine years, he was ordered to pay $448.[6] She 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.[7] He then married Laura A. Wildar in 1916,[8] and died August 12, 1948 in Marblehead.[9]

Family tree[edit]

Existing examples of Crowninshield boat designs[edit]


  1. ^ Danvers Historical Society (1922). Historical collections of the Danvers Historical Society. Danvers Historical Society. p. 42. 
  2. ^ "Louise du Pont Crowninshield papers". The Winterthur museum. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  3. ^ James P. Deleado (July 9, 1988). "Adventuress nomination form" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ Maynard Bray (January 1, 1997). "Three Knockabouts". In Peter H. Spectre. 100 Boat Designs Reviewed: Design Commentaries by the Experts. WoodenBoat Books. pp. 52–55. ISBN 978-0-937822-44-9. 
  5. ^ "B.B. Crowninshield Sued; $10,000 Attachment Filed Against Him in an Action for Damages" (pdf). New York Times. August 7, 1902. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Yacht Designer Was Sued by Yachting Writer for Assault Made in 1902" (pdf). New York Times. August 7, 1902. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Mrs. B.B. Crowninshield Found Dead in Boston Hotel—Registered Under Assumed Name" (pdf). New York Times. October 9, 1915. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Naval Architect to Wed:B. B. Crowninshield and Laura A. Wildar, Divorcee, Get a License" (pdf). New York Times. October 12, 1916. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  9. ^ "B. B. Crowninshield, Ship Designer, Dies; Former Head of Firm Planned 7-Masted Schooner". New York Times. August 13, 1948. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 

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