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To my mind, one of the most significant books for ship historians and model builders in 2013, and perhaps the last 10 years is AMERICAN-BUILT PACKETS AND FREIGHTERS OF THE 1850'S,  An Illustrated Study of their Characteristics and Construction by William Crothers.


This book is a fitting end to a long career devoted to ships. Mr. Crothers was a draftsman in the design division of the Philadelphia Navy Yard until his retirement in 1972. He then devoted the rest of his life to the study of 19th century ships, their flags and signals.. He began drafting and selling plans of 18th and 19th century ships under the imprint of Sea Gull Plans and published a 500 page book on American Clipper Ships. A large collection of his research work can be found in the Mystic Seaport library.


His current book is a work of genius and dedication. I first saw the manuscript for this book in a carton of typewritten pages and a pile of hand drawn illustrations and charts. It proved to be too big a project for me to deal with and the project wound up at McFarland Publishers. They did an amazing job of organizing, editing and digitally formatting this huge pile of papers into a printable file.


Rather than reinvent the wheel I want to quote from the publishers description of the contents of this book. "This comprehensive volume appraises in minute detail the construction of these ships, outlining basic design criteria and enumerating and examining every plank and piece of timber involved in the process, including the keel, frames, hull and deck planking, stations, knees, deck houses, bulworks, railing and interior structures and arrangements. More than 150 illustrations illuminate the size, shape, location and pertinent specifics of each item. Complete with a glossary of contemporary industry terms, this work represents the definitive study of the mid-nineteenth century's great American-built square rigged vessels." There are also chapters on ship colors, flags and rigging.


There are two drawbacks to this book. The 8 1/2"x11" volume is bound as a paperback. I wish it was bound as a properly sewn hard cover. It is also very expensive at $95. Both of these factors might be due to the great deal of time, effort and expense in putting this book into a print ready digital file. It could not be helped. If the cost is too much for your budget then go pester your library to obtain a copy. In conclusion, if you are a student or modeler of 19th century vessels this book is a vital tool.


AMERICAN-BUILT PACKETS AND FREIGHTERS of the 1850's, An Illustrated Study of Their Characteristics and Construction

William Crothers, McFarland &Co., Publishers, Jefferson NC, 2013

8 1/2"x11", perfect bound, paper cover, 408 pages, b/w illustrations.

ISBN 978-0-7864-7006-8




Bob Friedman

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  • 1 year later...

Hi Bob:


I didn't see this review until now, but I've had this book for well over a year and it has been invaluable to me in understanding the design and construction of ships from that period.  A future project is a scratch build of a sectional model of the Dunbrody, an irish famine ship of the late 1840's.  The original was built in Canada in 1845, and from the construction plans it looks like it was built in a manner that Crothers describes in this book.  The book will be an excellent aid in the build.



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