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History & Heritage

history1a

About the New York Yacht Club 1844-

By Michael Levitt, communications director NYYC

The Isle of Wight in the Solent has long been the epicenter of yachting in England. In 1851, a schooner painted black arrived there looking to win races. This was the yacht America, owned by John Cox Stevens, the first commodore of the NYYC and other club members. (Photo shows America, winner of a race in 1851 in England and a trophy that came to be called the America's Cup.)

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Early American Yachting

Image: Illustration of Cleopatra's Barge from Peabody Essex Museum

Yachting, or sailing for recreational purposes, can be traced in the United States to George Crowninshield of Salem, Massachusetts.  Crowninshield, described as a "swell and a dandy," was  a member of a prominent and wealthy mercantile family whose trading ships sailed between American and European ports during the early days of the Republic. 

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Founding of the NYYC

Gimcrack was the first flagship of John Cox Stevens, first commodore of the NYYC. Later, he was part of the syndicate that owned America that won what became the "America's Cup" in 1851 in England.

John Cox Stevens and eight other progressive New York yachtsmen met aboard Stevens new yacht Gimcrack during the afternoon of Tuesday, July 30, 1844. Gimcrack was anchored off the Battery at the foot of Manhattan Island.

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John Cox Stevens -- First Commodore of the NYYC

John Cox Stevens was the first commodore of the NYYC and the prime mover in the America syndicate. The trophy America won in 1851 became the America's Cup. This portrait of Commodore Stevens and his family is excerpted from The Low Black Schooner by author and NYYC member John Rousmaniere.

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NYYC's First Clubhouse 1845-

By Michael Levitt, communications director NYYC

George M. Isdale Jr., commodore of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), announced on December 18th, 1999, that the first clubhouse, built in 1845, has arrived at Newport, RI. The building, described in historical records as "a little edifice in the gingerbread style of the period," is today situated on the club's Harbour Court property.

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Yachting Ensign

Prior to the enactment of income tax laws in the early twentieth century, the federal government obtained most of its operating funds from the collection of tariffs and customs duties levied on foreign goods entering American harbors.  All vessels were subject to inspection, including private yachts.  As the popularity of yachting increased, the burden of customs inspections became tiresome and unnecessary.

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New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta

The NYYC Annual Regatta presented by Rolex

By Lindsay Shuckhart, NYYC’s curator of collections

NYYC's Annual Regatta 1868 by Currier & Ives.

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Navy Membership

The 1845 annual meeting at Windhams Tavern produced not only the first full slate of officers and the club burgee, but it marked the beginning of the New York Yacht Club's relationship with the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard which continues to this day.

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James Gordon Bennett, I Presume

James Gordon Bennett in white suit entertains friends on Namouna, including actress Lillie Langtry, to right.

James Gordon Bennett, Jr. was the son of James Gordon Bennett, the founder and publisher of the New York Herald. The son was groomed to be publisher all his life, and as sole owner and publisher, he busied himself throughout his long life in finding ways to spend the largest assured income in America

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First Woman to Join the NYYC: 1894

By Charles A. Dana, Commodore 2001-2002

Lucy Carnegie was the first woman to join the NYYC; the year was 1894, and it was not all smooth sailing. Much debate was heard in the board room and echoed in the New York Herald that wrote, "...Legal lore scintillated across the room. Eloquence leaped skyward in volumes.

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History of One Design Racing at NYYC

By Dan Nerney

The legendary yacht designer Captain Nathanael Herreshoff, an honorary member of the NYYC -- see photo above -- designed a fleet of boats back in 1896 called the Newport 30 class. This fleet would prove the genesis of a series of one-design classes organized within the NYYC.

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History of the NYYC's Model Collection

From a speech by Gregg K. Dietrich

I was honored when David Tunick, the chair of the Model Committee, asked me to speak about the collection. About three weeks ago I asked the librarian at NYYC to pull some information together for me on the collection, so I could add some anecdotes and details to my talk. Well, what I found were more questions and interesting facts about the model collection than I ever imagined.

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NYYC Model Collection The Early Years

By Peter J. Sweetser, chair of the Model Committee

The collection of the New York Yacht Club totals 1,230 models of which 147 are full-hull, rigged models, and the balance are half-models. Our earliest model dates from 1819, a builder's half-model of Hornet, which was originally a Maryland oyster sloop rebuilt in 1846 as a Hell's Gate Pilot Boat with a schooner rig.

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Clubhouses and Stations of the NYYC

On July 15, 1845, the New York Yacht Club opened its first clubhouse – one year after its founding. It was a one-room Gothic Revival building designed by noted architect A. J. Davis, on land owned by Commodore John Cox Stevens in Hoboken, New Jersey -- across from Manhattan. Over the next half century, the Club would occupy four additional clubhouses: two in Manhattan and two on Staten Island. The Club also maintained at one time nearly a dozen stations, small buildings and landings where members and friends could rendezvous, send a letter or make a telephone call. 

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The Clubhouse At Sea

By John Rousmaniere

In honor of the Centennial of the 44th Street Clubhouse on January 22-25, 2001, the NYYC published a book about the clubhouse written by member John Rousmaniere and designed by member B. Martin Pedersen. This is an excerpt.

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America's Cup History

By Michael Levitt

This gathering in England in the summer of 2001 is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the America’s Cup, “the oldest trophy in sports.” It began with a letter penned February 22, 1851. The writer was the Earl of Wilton, commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), in England. It was addressed to John Cox Stevens, the first commodore of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC).

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Earl of Wilton and the America's Cup

by Henry H. Anderson Jr., commodore

Prince Albert was the protagonist for the Great Exhibit -- the first world's fair -- the Earl of Wilton, commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) in 1851, was the protagonist for the £100 Cup. This was the first significant international regatta that led to the transformation of the sport of yachting from a national pastime to an international one.

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Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan

By John Rousmaniere

Photo courtesy of Pierpont Morgan Library

J. Pierpont Morgan's advice about yachting, "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it," is so familiar that it's trite. But what did the commodore of the NYYC, from 1897-99, really mean? Morgan measured the values of objects and people not so much by their financial cost (although finance was his business) as by their aesthetic or moral worth.

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Walter Cronkite on the New York Yacht Club

Yacht ensign was created by John Cox Stevens, the first commodore of the NYYC, to distinguish yachts from commercial vessels.

The New York Yacht Club has been an organization of remarkable achievement for all its 150 years. Auspiciously, it was founded on a yacht, and equally auspiciously, some might say, it was born with a certain autocratic air.

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Auld Mug's first appearance in Newport was its farewell

By M. Catherine Callahan / Newport Daily News staff

Twenty years ago today, the New York Yacht Club relinquished the America's Cup, the historic and prestigious yacht racing trophy it had proudly held since 1857. Men in blue blazers and women in sundresses attended the ceremony, which marked the Cup's first appearance in Newport.

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Profile of Olin J. Stephens

Written by and Published Courtesy of John Rousmaniere

Yacht designer Olin J. Stephens is Member Number 1 in the NYYC’s seniority list, having joined the club in 1930, or 78 years ago. This summer, as part of the NYYC Race Week at Newport Presented by Rolex, the club will celebrate a Classics Regatta and Olin J. Stephens 100th Birthday Celebration on July 18-20.

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