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Clyde Leavitt plans of Davis' ' Lexington'

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After a several decades' hiatus from modeling, I have once again opened my thumbworn copy of Charles Davis' The Built-Up Ship Model and once again feel a hankering to build that lovely little ship he erroneously named Lexington


I am sufficiently versed in the research to know that what he really drew was more similar to the British cruiser class brigs, with some tweaks. But the Caldercraft Cruiser model just is not the same, and I have my doubts about the Mamoli kit of Lexington as well.


In 1947 Clyde M. Leavitt published, through Popular Mechanix magazine, a full set of plans for the Davis version. I have seen small photos of the sheets, and they look like just what would be needed to do a credible plank-on-frame model.


My question is: where do I find a copy of the Leavitt plans, if the Davis 'Lexington' is what I want to build? And are they valid?





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  • 5 months later...

Dear Gerard:


This is my third attempt to reply to your question.  I don't know where the other replies went to , but I'm trying again.


First off, I can't refer you to a commercial supplier of Leavitt's plans.  And by the way, those plans appeared in Mechanix Illustrated magazine.  I never saw the 1947 MI issue but while in high school (the mid 1960's) I came across a MI special edition from the early 1950's; a compilation of modeling articles from preceding years.  Leavitt's article was in that special edition along with a notice to send $3.00 for plan #428.  I did - cash - and by golly, they sent me the plans.  I began work on the model soon after and quickly realized I was in over my head and put the project off.  I never lost interest in the Lexington though and was content to wait until my modeling skills matured.  


In 1978, I came across Charles Davis' The Built-Up Ship Model.  Davis' book was first published in 1933, preceding Leavitt's article by quite a margin.  As time went on, I acquired other plans for the Lexington; George Parker's, published in 1976; Rolf Hoeckel's, published in 1985 and in the early 2000's, Clay Feldaman's Lexington practicum.


In 1994, I acquired the Nautical Research Guild's Ship Modelers Shop Notes.  Beginning on page one is Howard Chapelle's article "The Ship Model That Should Not Be Built".  The Lexington is among those ships he admonished modelers to avoid and his article speaks to your question of validity.  No historical plans for the Lexington exist.  

I was shocked and confused.  At that point in time I had four sets of plans for the Lexington!  (A nagging question remained though - above the water-line, Parker's plans did not resemble the others).  I was in correspondence with Harold Hahn at that time over questions about another model and asked him about the veracity of the various Lexington plans.  Here is his reply: "Most authorities believe that the popular design for the Lexington that Charles Davis dreamed up would be more correct for a ship built in the early 1800's.  Actually, I have a plan for the Lexington that Davis had drawn earlier which is quite different.  The early references you have including Clyde Leavitt were simply copies of Davis' design.  That is also true of the Crabtree model...I don't know of any authentic plans for a Continental Navy brig."  I will add that Feldman's version conforms to Davis' design.


Faced with the facts from Chapelle and Hahn, I decided to shelve my Lexington project.


If, after all this you are still interested in building the Lexington, I would be glad to send you full-size copies of Leavitt's plans taken from my originals.  The copies show wear present on the originals but are completely usable.


As far as I know, all that is known about the Lexington is that is was a commercial vessel, the Black Duck, converted for naval use.  Its beam and length-on-deck are known and that it sank in the Caribbean.




Charles Green, Boise, ID 


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Thanks Charles. I did in fact acquire Leavitt's plans a few months back and have been gingerly proceeding ever since ( see photo of my attempt at the ships' boats ). I understand Chapelle's viewpoint; but my interest in building her is simply I think that this particular design is very lovely, and that August Crabtree built her, and I want to attempt to see how close I can get to his lofty level. That she does not represent an actual ship is immaterial to me. 


I agree that Feldman and Parker are describing different ships. 


However, I have Hoeckel's plans too from his monograph Amerikanische Kriegsbrigg. In his bibliography in the back of the monograph, he cites the following:  Leavitt, Clyde M, The Brig 'Lexington', Handbook for Model Builder #112, S. 128/137. Fawcett Inc., Greenwich CT. I have been unable to find a copy of this handbook, so if you know a source, please let me know. Between Leavitt, Hoeckel, and Davis, I think the basis of a good model are at hand if my hand/eye skills are up to it. I haven't build a ship model in 40 years, but I did build a 15' sail-and-oar Lincolnville Salmon Wherry a few years back.

Ship's boats.jpg

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Not to pour cold water on your project, but Davis' Lexington is a fiction - a pretty one, but still a fiction. Davis' book entranced me as an 11-year old when I found a copy in my local library. I renewed the book over and over at the time. I wanted to build a framed model too! Many years later, I did, but not of Lexington.


A few years back Dr. Clay Feldman did a study of what he thought Lexington really looked like. His articles appeared in The Nautical Research Journal. I can't quote the date, but someone like Kurt Van Dahm would know.

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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Clay's articles appeared in eight articles (as a practicum) in Seaways' Ships in Scale magazine during all of 2005 and early 2006 and in the"Nautical Research Journal" article  -Summer, 2004; Vol 49, #2.

The NRG has the entire series of reprints in a book put together by Clay - Building the Continental Navy Brig Lexington – A Practicum by Clayton A. Feldman, MD: A step-by-step practicum, including detailed plans, construction photos, drawings and diagrams on building a plank-on-bulkhead model in 3/16” = 1’ scale with a hull length of 16-inches. Dr. Feldman’s extensive research on the Lexington that was published in our Nautical Research Journal is also included. 

The cost is 39.9 + shipping (about $5) on a CD or flash drive.  Available from the NRG Store - link at the top of the MSW home page.


All that said I agree with Druxey - fiction but pretty.





Kurt Van Dahm






Nautical Research & Model Ship Society of Chicago

Midwest Model Shipwrights

North Shore Deadeyes

The Society of Model Shipwrights

Butch O'Hare - IPMS

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2 hours ago, Gerarddm said:

That she does not represent an actual ship is immaterial to me. 

Point well made.

The ships boats look very nice..

“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”
― Jimmy Buffett

Current builds:    Rattlesnake (Scratch From MS Plans 

On Hold:  HMS Resolution ( AKA Ferrett )

In the Gallery: Yacht Mary,  Gretel, French Cannon

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  • 5 weeks later...

The current issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes an article  by Ian McLaughlan on this very topic (The fake Lexington and the Enterprise mystery).  In the article, Mr McLaughlan an expert on small sailing warships, compares Davis’ plans with those for a British Cruizer Class brig and plans that have been found that supposedly apply to USS Enterprise.


Well worth reading!




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