George Steers

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George Steers
George Steers, (1819-1856)

George Steers (August 15, 1819 – September 25, 1856[1]) was a designer of yachts best known for the famous racing yacht America. He founded a shipyard with his brother, George Steers and Co, and died in an accident just as he was landing a major contract to build boats for the Russian Czar.

Early life[edit]

George Steers was born in Washington D.C., USA, in 1819. His father, Henry Steers, was engaged as Naval Constructor for the U.S. Government.

George never learned the trade of ship carpenter, but rather built vessels based on the design concepts he worked out for himself in his youth, growing up as a shipbuilder's son.[2] He became a journeyman for William H. Brown, in whose service he assisted in building the Arctic and another of the Collins steamers.

Designer of famous racing yacht America[edit]

Between 1841 and 1850, Steers built many yachts which were well known in their day. In 1850 he formed the firm George & James R. Steers with his brother.[3][4]

In 1849, George Steers designed the pilot boat Mary Taylor with a new form in a schooner. In 1850, Steers designed the pilot boat Moses H. Grinnell. The Grinnell was the first pilot boat to have long lean bow, which made it very fast. It was owned by George W. Blunt.[5]

George Steers is perhaps best known as the designer of the most famous racing yacht of all time, the schooner yacht America (1851), for which the America's Cup is named. No doubt influenced by the Mary Taylor and Grinnell, and the ship designs of fellow New Yorker John W Griffiths, the aptly named America established the American naval architecture of the day.[5]

He also built one full-sized ship, the clipper ship Sunny South, which was sold to foreign owners after a voyage around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and captured in the Mozambique Channel in 1860 with a cargo of over 800 slaves.[6]

Landed a large contract, but died young[edit]

On 25 September 1856, George Steers, while driving a pair of horses to Glen Cove, Long Island, in order to bring home (91 Cannon St.) his wife, who had been visiting, was thrown from his wagon and mortally wounded. He was only 37 years old. He had just negotiated for $1,000,000 worth of boats for the Czar of Russia.[2][7] He left a son behind him.

His last ship was the USS Niagara.

A procession of 800 citizens was followed by lodges of the Masonic Order, including the Mariner's Lodge (400 men), and 70 carriages of friends and relatives.[8] Steers is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.


  1. ^ New York Times: Funeral of Mr. George Steers[dead link], September 29, 1856: "The coffin [...] was inscribed [...] George Steers, Died Sept. 25, 1856, Aged 37 years, 1 month, 10 days". URL last accessed 2015-01-03.
  2. ^ a b George Steers, The Famous Long Island Shipbuilder, March 29, 1896, The New-York Times
  3. ^ Obituary record, April 19, 1896, The New York Times
  4. ^ George Steers - His Early Shipbuilding, October 7, 1856, The New York Times
  5. ^ a b Cunliffe, Tom, Pilots: Pilot, The World Of Pilotage Under Sail and Oar Wooden Boat Publications. Brooklin, Maine. 2001
  6. ^ Bruzelius, Lars (1997-03-22). "Clipper Ships: Sunny South (1854)". Sunny South. The Maritime History Virtual Archives. Retrieved Feb 13, 2011.
  7. ^ History of New York ship yards, John Harrison Morrison, Press of W.F. Sametz & Co., 1909
  8. ^ Funeral of Mr. George Steers. September 29, 1856, Wednesday, The New York Times

Further reading[edit]