The primary collections in the Nautical division constitute a substantial archive of plans, photographs, film, and printed materials. Because of the fragile nature of these collections, handling is limited. The Museum, however, is committed to providing the widest possible access to this material.The collection summaries below describe the extent of holdings not currently available online. As funding permits, our new online database will continue to expand visual access to additional collections. Contact us for more detailed information on specific not-yet-digitized collections.
John G. Alden Collection
John G. Alden began his design career as an apprentice with B. B. Crowninshield (MIT Class of 1889) in 1902 and became a productive designer and experienced sailor by the time he departed to start his own Boston design office in 1909. His initial success was modest until he won his first Bermuda Race with Malabar IV in 1923. Alden’s subsequent Bermuda Race victories in 1926 with Malabar VII and Malabar X in 1932 provided his firm enduring fame and success. This long-lived design business finally closed for good in 2008. The holding company, Tillotson Corporation, gifted the extensive Alden design archives to the Hart Nautical Collections of MIT Museum. Most of the collection was cataloged and scanned by Niels Helleberg, a designer at Alden since 1971, who also helped direct the collection to MIT. Helleberg continued providing design and print services until closing his office in January 2014. The useful Alden website and database created by Helleberg was transferred by him to MIT Museum to assist with providing access to this collection going forward.
Atlantic Works Collection
The Atlantic Works, founded in 1853, built and repaired ships and engines at its plant in East Boston until about 1951. In 1946, George Webster, General Superintendent of Atlantic Works, gave a collection of 25 photographs to MIT. Subsequently, the Chief Engineer, Josiah P. Hayward, gave numerous drawings of Atlantic Works vessels to supplement plan material already in the collections. The drawings, roughly cataloged by contract number, are quite fragile, and in need of substantial conservation work.
William A. Baker Collection
In 1934, William A. Baker graduated from MIT with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. He was active in the American shipbuilding industry through World War II and up to the early 1960s. Best known as the designer of Mayflower II, which was built in England in 1955 for Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, Baker was one of the most prominent maritime historians and historic replica ship and boat designers of his era. In his final career, Baker was Curator of the Hart Nautical Museum (prior to the merger with MIT Museum in 1982) from 1963 until his death in 1981. Baker’s research and designs of American Colonial era vessels set a standard for thoroughness and precision that is still highly regarded today. In 1987, Mrs. William A. Baker gave the MIT Museum the bulk of Baker’s design drawings, technical files, and related research notes. These materials augment previously-received drawings, photographic materials, and research files. This unique collection was retrospectively catalogued in 1991-92. A detailed finding aid is now available as a PDF file.
The Guide to the William A. Baker Collection (PDF)
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
In 1980, Bethlehem Steel Corporation donated to MIT a large collection of plans and photographs related to the Quincy Yard. This collection consists of approximately 13,000 drawings and about 80,000 photographs and negatives. The drawings cover ships built from about 1900 to 1937, and the photographs cover the yard’s history to 1963, when Bethlehem sold it to General Dynamics. There are also some pre-World War I business and technical records. In 2003, approximately 5,000 architectural and engineering plans relating to the yard layout and plant were added to the collection by a gift from the US Maritime Administration. This new material is inventoried and searchable in a database. Overall, the collection requires substantial retrospective cataloging. Until this work is completed, access to this material is limited.
William Hand, Jr. (1875-1946) began designing yachts in 1898 and is best known for his pioneering V-bottom power boats, schooners and motorsailers. Winthrop Warner (MIT class of 1924) apprenticed in Hand’s office about the time Richard O. Davis was hired. Davis became Hand’s chief draftsman and later design partner. George I. Hodgdon, Jr. of Hodgdon Boat Works in East Boothbay Harbor, ME donated approximately 2,000 original plans to MIT in 1973. A 262 page guide is available at MIT Museum or by mail from the Hart curator.
General Dynamics – Quincy Shipyard Collection
Following the closing of the Fore River Shipyard in 1986, General Dynamics Corporation gave MIT a large collection of photographs, film, video and printed materials related to ship construction. These materials document General Dynamics ownership from 1964 through 1986. The collection is very large and not yet processed. Access is limited.
Hart Nautical Library
The library contains approximately 3,000 volumes, including journals, rare books, and logs, and other unpublished items. The Bryant Collection makes up the majority of the rare volumes, with additions from the Forbes, Foster, and Clark Collections. Currently, the library is arranged into broad subject areas, including maritime history and literature, naval architecture, and marine engineering. At present no catalog exists for this collection.
Martin Klein Collection
Martin Klein (MIT Class of 1962) began his long and distinguished career in side scan sonar technologies working with MIT Professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton in 1961. He later became Program Manager of Sonar Systems for Edgerton’s company, EG&G and headed development of the first commercially successful side scan sonar system. In 1968, Klein formed Klein Associates, Inc., which soon became an industry leader. Klein was involved in many pioneering applications of side scan sonar and related technologies for search, survey and science missions, such as reconnaissance of lost U. S. Navy submarines and discovery of the first ancient shipwreck using remote sensing.
Martin Klein has been very active in assisting the museum to collect historic objects and data related to side scan sonar technology. In 2014, Klein donated his substantial archives and slide collection that document his leading role in this field as well as the broader sonar and subsea sensing industry. The collection contains over 4,538 photographs, archival records and objects. These records, including images for over 4,000 slides are available for searching in the museum’s online database.
Three generations of Lawleys built fine yachts and working vessels in Massachusetts from the 1860s through the 1940s. The last in line was Fred who attended MIT as a naval architecture student in the late 1890s. George Lawley and Son Corporation was the major competitor to Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo). The Lawleys designed yachts and were the only other major New England yard that independent designers could use since HMCo. did not take on outside designers until the 1920s. The total output of both yards was comparable – combined production exceeded 6,000 boats over all years of operation. When the Lawley yard closed for good in the late 1940s, Walter J. McInnis collected many of the extant plans and models. In 1965, he gave approximately 3,500 plans and 10 half models to MIT. The vessel plans date from 1894 to 1940. A granddaughter of Fred Lawley recently donated unique photographs and other Lawley family archives.
Gordon Munro Collection
Gordon Munro was one of the first naval architects to experiment with the design of motor-sailors and was employed by George Lawley & Son yard for part of his career. In 1968 his widow gave his plan files, photographs and models to MIT. The plans, roughly 300 in number, are filed by design number and cataloged by both number and name.
George Owen Collection
George Owen graduated from MIT in 1894 and was a professor in the Institute’s Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from 1915 to 1941. From 1901 until his death in 1959, he produced over 200 designs of yachts and commercial vessels. He was a highly successful designer of Universal Rule yachts and an expert yachtsman.
In 1999, the Museum completed a comprehensive cataloging project of the collection. Recently, substantial additional gifts relating to Owen have been presented to the MIT Museum. This material has been processed and integrated to produce a definitive guide listing 3,700 plans, photographs, and models related to Owen. Search the collection online.
The Guide to the George Owen Collections is divided into five chapters in pdf format, containing 370 pages of item-level data:
- Introduction and List of George Owen’s Designs (PDF)
- Series I: The Plans (PDF)
- Series II: Professional Papers and Photographs (PDF)
- Series III: Models and Artifacts (PDF)
- Series IV: Personal and Family Life Images (PDF)
Including the half models mentioned in the above collections, the total inventory of half models in the Hart Nautical Collections is approximately 270 half hulls. With the ship and boat models listed earlier, the total number of both full and half models in this collection represents about 370 ships and boat hulls. In addition to the above models, there are several steam engine models. The Model Collections have been retrospectively inventoried.
Frank C. Paine Collection
Frank C. Paine, one of the most important yacht designers of the first half of the twentieth century, was the son of General Charles J. Paine, an early benefactor of MIT’s Department of Naval Architecture. Paine’s work dovetails neatly with the material from the Lawley & Son yard, since many of his designs were built there, and Paine was company president for many years. After his death in 1952, 21 of his half models and about 2,300 plans were given to MIT. The plans are presently cataloged by both design number and vessel name.