Isaac Webb (shipbuilder)

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Isaac Webb
BornBetween September 1793 and June 1794
DiedBetween January 1840 and June 1840
ChildrenWilliam Henry Webb

Isaac Webb (born from September 1793 to June 1794 - died in 1840, before June) - shipbuilder, owner of shipyard Isaac Webb & Co. that he founded.

Later this shipyard was renamed Webb & Allen due to Isaac taking a partner. In 1843 his son William Henry Webb bought out his father's old partner John Allen and subsequently renamed the business William H. Webb.

Somewhere near Corlears Hook Isaac Webb founded shipyard Isaac Webb & Co. Map of New-York in 1831.

In September 1810, Henry Eckford took on 16-year-old Isaac Webb as an apprentice at his shipyard in New York. In the following years, Eckford would take on many other apprentices who would become important naval architects and shipbuilders, including Jacob Bell, William Bennett, David Brown, Andrew Craft, John Dimon, John Englis, Thomas Megson, Stephen Smith, and Sidney Wright.[1] After completing his training he opened his own shipyard, Isaac Webb & Co., near Corlears Hook in about 1818, later relocating to Stanton Street. Isaac eventually took on a partner and the firm was renamed Webb & Allen.[2] It looks like two other apprentices Jacob Bell and David Brown founded Brown & Bell shipyard in New York and built the famous sidewheel steamer USS Jacob Bell.

William Henry Webb, son of Isaac Webb, was born in New York on June 19, 1816. William was educated privately and at Columbia College Grammar School, demonstrating a natural aptitude for mathematics. He built his first boat, a small skiff, at the age of twelve, and in spite of his parents' wishes to the contrary, secured an apprenticeship at his father's shipyard at the age of fifteen.[3][4] At twenty, he was awarded a subcontract for the New York-Liverpool packet ship Oxford, his first commercial contract.[4][5]

After completing his six-year apprenticeship, William decided to further his education by traveling to Scotland in 1840 to visit the famous shipyards of the Clyde. However, during this journey his father Isaac Webb died suddenly at the age of 46 and 23-year-old William returned home to assume management of the shipyard.[2]

Upon examining the accounts, William discovered that his father's business was technically insolvent, and thus one of his first duties was to settle his father's debts. Having done so, he set about reinvigorating the business.[2]

William Henry Webb was a "born mathematician" in an era when shipbuilding was considered as much an art as a science.[4] He brought new levels of professionalism to the craft by combining the art of design with the discipline of careful mathematical calculation. For this reason, William has been described as America's first true naval architect.[2]

William was content to start small, however. For the first couple of years at the helm, the Webb & Allen shipyard, now located between Fifth and Seventh Streets on the East River, built a variety of mostly small sailing ships, including ferries, sloops and schooners. William bought out his father's old partner John Allen in 1843 and subsequently renamed the business William H. Webb.[6]


  1. ^ Selig, p. 36.
  2. ^ a b c d Cuneo.
  3. ^ "Wiliam H. Webb Dead: The Well-Known Authority on Marine Architecture and Former Ship Builder Succumbs Suddenly" - New York Times, 31 October 1899.
  4. ^ a b c "William Henry Webb", New York Times, July 11, 1897.
  5. ^ Dayton, Chapter 19.
  6. ^ Dunbaugh, Edwin L. and Thomas, William duBarry (1989): William H. Webb, Shipbuilder, Webb Institute, as reproduced Archived 2009-05-26 at the Wayback Machine at