22 August 1851

The first America’s Cup is won by the yacht America.

America's Cup
The America's Cup.jpg
The America’s Cup ewer
SportSailing match race
Most recent
 Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (3rd title)
Most titles New York Yacht Club (25 titles)
Official websiteAmericasCup.com

The America's Cup, affectionately known as the Auld Mug, is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America's Cup match races between two sailing yachts. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America's Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging for the cup. The timing of each match is determined by an agreement between the defender and the challenger. The America's Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy.[1][2][3] The next competition for the cup will take place in March 2021.[4]

The cup was originally awarded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, which was won by the schooner America. Originally known as the 'R.Y.S. £100 Cup', the trophy was renamed the 'America's Cup' after the yacht and was donated to the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which made the cup available for perpetual international competition.

Any yacht club that meets the requirements specified in the deed of gift has the right to challenge the yacht club that holds the cup. If the challenging club wins the match, it gains stewardship of the cup.

The history and prestige associated with the America's Cup attracts not only the world's top sailors and yacht designers but also the involvement of wealthy entrepreneurs and sponsors. It is a test not only of sailing skill and boat and sail design, but also of fundraising and management skills. Competing for the cup is expensive, with modern teams spending more than $US100 million each;[5] the 2013 winner was estimated to have spent $US300 million on the competition.[6]

The trophy was held by the NYYC from 1857 (when the syndicate that won the cup donated the trophy to the club) until 1983. The NYYC successfully defended the trophy twenty-four times in a row before being defeated by the Royal Perth Yacht Club, represented by the yacht Australia II. The NYYC's reign was the longest winning streak (in terms of date) in the history of all sports.[7]

From the first defence of the cup in 1870 through the twentieth defence in 1967, there was always only one challenger. In 1970, for the first time, there were multiple challengers, so the NYYC agreed that the challengers could run a selection series with the winner becoming the official challenger and competing against the defender in the America's Cup match. Since 1983, Louis Vuitton has sponsored the Louis Vuitton Cup as a prize for the winner of the challenger selection series.

Early matches for the cup were raced between yachts 65–90 ft (20–27 m) on the waterline owned by wealthy sportsmen. This culminated with the J-Class regattas of the 1930s. After World War II and almost twenty years without a challenge, the NYYC made changes to the deed of gift to allow smaller, less expensive 12-metre class yachts to compete; this class was used from 1958 until 1987. It was replaced in 1990 by the International America's Cup Class which was used until 2007.

After a long legal battle, the 2010 America's Cup was raced in 90 ft (27 m) waterline multihull yachts in a best of three "deed of gift" match in Valencia, Spain. The victorious Golden Gate Yacht Club then elected to race the 2013 America's Cup in AC72 foiling, wing-sail catamarans. Golden Gate Yacht Club successfully defended the cup. The 35th America's Cup match was announced to be sailed in 50 ft foiling catamarans.[8]

The history of the America's Cup has included legal battles and disputes over rule changes including most recently over the rule changes for the 2017 America's Cup.[9]

The America's Cup is currently held by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron,[10] who will stage the 36th defence of the Cup in March 2021.


The Yacht "America" Winning the International Race, by Fitz Henry Lane, 1851

The Cup is an ornate sterling silver bottomless ewer crafted in 1848 by Garrard & Co.[11] Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey bought one and donated it for the Royal Yacht Squadron's 1851 Annual Regatta around the Isle of Wight.

It was originally known as the "R.Y.S. £100 Cup", standing for a cup of a hundred GB Pounds or "sovereigns" in value. The cup was subsequently mistakenly engraved[12] as the "100 Guinea Cup" by the America syndicate, but was also referred to as the "Queen's Cup" (a guinea is an old monetary unit of one pound and one shilling, now £1.05). Today, the trophy is officially known as the "America's Cup" after the 1851 winning yacht, and is affectionately called the "Auld Mug" by the sailing community. It is inscribed with names of the yachts that competed for it,[12] and has been modified twice by adding matching bases to accommodate more names.

1851: America wins the Cup

In 1851 Commodore John Cox Stevens, a charter member of the fledgling New York Yacht Club (NYYC), formed a six-person syndicate to build a yacht with intention of taking her to England and making some money competing in yachting regattas and match races. The syndicate contracted with pilot boat designer George Steers for a 101 ft (30.78 m) schooner, which was christened America and launched on 3 May 1851.

On 22 August 1851, America raced against 15 yachts of the Royal Yacht Squadron in the Club's annual 53-nautical-mile (98 km) regatta around the Isle of Wight. America won, finishing 8 minutes ahead of the closest rival. Apocryphally, Queen Victoria, who was watching at the finish line, was reported to have asked who was second, the famous answer being: "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second."[13]

The surviving members of the America syndicate donated the cup via the Deed of Gift of the America's Cup to the NYYC on 8 July 1857, specifying that it be held in trust as a perpetual challenge trophy to promote friendly competition among nations.

1870–1881: First challenges

Defender Columbia, 1871

No challenge to race for the Cup was issued until British railway tycoon James Lloyd Ashbury's topsail schooner Cambria (188 tons, 1868 design) beat the Yankee schooner Sappho (274.4 tons, 1867 design) in the Solent in 1868.[14] This success encouraged the Royal Thames Yacht Club in believing that the cup could be brought back home, and officially placed the first challenge in 1870. Ashbury entered Cambria in the NYYC Queen's Cup race in New York City on 8 August against a fleet of seventeen schooners, with time allowed based on their tonnage. The Cambria only placed eighth, behind the aging America (178.6 tons, 1851) in fourth place and Franklin Osgood's Magic (92.2 tons, 1857)[15] in the fleet's lead.[16]

Trying again, Ashbury offered a best-of-seven match race challenge for October 1871, which the NYYC accepted provided a defending yacht could be chosen on the morning of each race. Ashbury's new yacht Livonia (264 tons) was beaten twice in a row by Osgood's new centreboard schooner Columbia (220 tons), which withdrew in the third race after dismasting. The yacht Sappho then stepped in as defender to win the fourth and fifth races, thereby successfully defending the cup.[17]

The next challenge came from the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and was the first to be disputed between two yachts only. The schooner Madeleine (148.2 tons, 1868), a previous defender from the 1870 fleet race, easily defeated the challenger Countess of Dufferin (221 tons, 1876 design by Alexander Cuthbert). Cuthbert filed the second Canadian challenge, bankrolling, designing and sailing the first sloop challenge for the America's Cup in 1881. The small 65 ft (19.81 m) Canadian challenger Atalanta[18] (84 tons, 1881), representing the Bay of Quinte Yacht Club, suffered from lack of funds, unfinished build and a difficult delivery through the Erie Canal from Lake Ontario to New York. In contrast, the NYYC cautiously prepared its first selection trials. The iron sloop Mischief (79 tons, 1879 design by Archibald Cary Smith) was chosen from four sloop candidates, and successfully defended the cup.

1885–1887: The NYYC Rule

Defender Volunteer, 1887

In response to the unsuccessful Canadian challenges, the Deed of Gift was amended in 1881 to require that challenges be accepted only from yacht clubs on the sea. The Deed was further amended to provide that challenger yachts must sail to the venue on their own hull. Furthermore, Archibald Cary Smith and the NYYC committee devised a new rating rule that would govern the next races. They included sail area and waterline length into the handicap, with penalties on waterlines longer than 85 ft (25.91 m). Irish yacht designer John Beavor-Webb launched the challengers Genesta (1884) and Galatea (1885), which would define the British "plank-on-edge" design of a heavy, deep and narrow-keel hull, making for very stiff yachts ideal for the British breeze.[19] The boats came to New York in 1885 and 1886 respectively, but neither would best the sloops Puritan or Mayflower, whose success in selection trials against many other candidates proved Boston designer Edward Burgess was the master of the "compromise sloop"[20] (lightweight, wide and shallow hull with centerboard). This design paradigm proved ideal for the light Yankee airs.[21]

In 1887, Edward Burgess repeated his success with the Volunteer against Scottish yacht designer George Lennox Watson's challenger Thistle, which was built in secret. Even when the Thistle was drydocked in New York before the races, her hull was draped to protect the secret of her lines, which borrowed from American design. Both Volunteer and Thistle were completely unfurnished below decks to save weight.[22]

1889–1903: The Seawanhaka Rule

In 1887, the NYYC adopted the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club's rating rule, in which Bristol, RI naval architect Nathanael Herreshoff found loopholes that he would use to make dramatic improvements in yacht design and to shape the America's Cup's largest and most extreme contenders. Both Herreshoff and Watson proceeded to merge Yankee sloop design and British cutter design to make very deep S-shape fin-keeled hulls. Using steel, tobin bronze, aluminium, and even nickel for novel construction, they significantly lengthened bow and stern overhangs, further extending the sailing waterline as their boats heeled over, thus increasing their hull speed.

Challenger Valkyrie II, 1893

The next America's Cup challenge was initially limited to 70 ft (21.34 m) waterline in 1889, but the mutual-agreement clauses of a new 1887 Deed of Gift caused the Royal Yacht Squadron to withdraw the Earl of Dunraven's promising Watson designed challenger Valkyrie while she was crossing the Atlantic. Dunraven challenged again in 1893, pleading for a return to the longer 85 ft (26 m) limit. In a cup-crazed Britain, its four largest cutters ever were being built, including Watson's Valkyrie II for Dunraven's challenge. Meanwhile, the NYYC's wealthiest members ordered two cup candidates from Herreshoff, and two more from Boston yacht designers. Charles Oliver Iselin, who was running the syndicate behind one of the Herreshoff designs called Vigilant, gave the naval architect leave to design the yacht entirely as he willed. Herreshoff helmed Vigilant himself and beat all his rivals in selection trials, and defended the cup successfully from Valkyrie II.[23]

Urged to challenge again in yet larger boat sizes, Dunraven challenged again in 1895 with a 90 ft (27.43 m) waterline limit. The Watson designed challenger Valkyrie III received many innovations: She would be wider than the defender, and featured the first steel mast.[24] The NYYC ordered another defender from Herreshoff, which he had built in a closed off hangar and launched at night so as to conceal her construction: Defender used an aluminium topside riveted to steel frames and manganese bronze below waters. This saved 17 tons of displacement, but later subjected the boat to extreme electrolysis after the Cup races. Valkyrie III lost the first race, was deemed disqualified in the second race following a collision with Defender before the start line despite finishing first, and in turn withdrew from the contest. The unraveling of the races left Dunraven in a bitter disagreement with all parties over fairness of the cup committee concerning claims. After he asserted that he had been cheated, his honorary membership of the NYYC was revoked.[25] Henry "Hank" Coleman Haff, was inducted into America's Cup Hall of Fame in 2004 for his sailing of Defender in 1895 and bringing the cup back. At age 58, Hank Haff was the oldest cup winner in the history of the race.[26]

The climate was estranged until Scottish businessman Sir Thomas Lipton became the financial backer for the Royal Ulster Yacht Club's 1899 challenge. William Fife was chosen to design the challenging yacht Shamrock because of past success in American waters.[27] The yachts increased yet again in size, and this time Herreshoff fitted a telescopic steel mast to his defender Columbia, but his largest contribution was to recruit Scottish-American skipper Charlie Barr. The latter had helmed Fife designs[28] in Yankee waters before, and he had shown perfect coordination with his hand-picked Scandinavian crew. But Barr successfully helmed Columbia to victory, and Lipton's noted fair play provided unprecedented popular appeal to the sport and to his tea brand.

Although upset with the Shamrock, Lipton challenged again in 1901, turning this time to George Lennox Watson for a "cup-lifter": Shamrock II, Watson's fourth and final challenger, was the first cup contender to be thoroughly tank-tested. To defend the Cup, businessman Thomas W. Lawson funded for Boston designer Bowdoin B. Crowninshield a daring project: his yacht Independence was capable of unrivaled performance because of her extremely long sailing waterline, but she was largely overpowered and unbalanced and suffered from structural issues. Furthermore, Lawson's failure to commit to the NYYC's terms for defending the Cup defaulted the Independenceʼs elimination. Herreshoff had again received a commission from the NYYC, but had failed to secure Charlie Barr to skipper his new yacht Constitution. Instead, the Columbiaʼs syndicate kept Barr's crew and tried another defense. Unexpectedly, Barr led the Columbiaʼs crew to win the selection trials, and to successfully defend the cup again.

Lipton persisted in a third challenge in 1903. With the aim to fend off Lipton's challenges indefinitely, the NYYC garnered a huge budget for a single cup contender, whose design would be commissioned to Herreshoff again. Improving on the Independence and his previous designs, the new defender Reliance remains the largest race sloop ever built. She featured a ballasted rudder, dual-speed winches below decks, and a cork-decked aluminium topside that hid running rigging. The design focus on balance was exemplary, but the extreme yacht also required the skills of an excellent skipper, which defaulted choice options to Charlie Barr. Facing the equally bold challenger Shamrock III, Barr led the Reliance to victory in just three races.[29]

1914–1937: The Universal Rule

Despite the immense success of the Reliance, she was used only one season, her design and maintenance keeping her from being used for any other purpose than for a cup defense. The extremity of both 1903 cup contenders encouraged Nathanael Herreshoff to make boats more wholesome and durable by devising a new rule. Proposing in the same year the Universal Rule, he added the elements of overall length and displacement into the rating, to the benefit of heavy, voluminous hulls and also divided boats into classes, without handicapping sail area. This went against the American Yacht Clubs' and the British Yacht Racing Association's general desire to promote speed at all costs for cup boats, but the NYYC adopted Herreshoff's proposal. Lipton long pleaded for a smaller size of yachts in the new rule, and the NYYC conceded to seventy-five footers in 1914. Lipton turned to Charles Ernest Nicholson for his fourth challenge, and got a superb design under the inauspicious shape of Shamrock IV, with a flat transom.[30] She was the most powerful yacht that year, and the NYYC turned out three cup candidates to defend the cup: of George Owen's Defiance and William Gardner's Vanitie, it was Herreshoff who designed the wisest of all contenders.[31] His last design for the cup, the Resolute, was small, which earned significant time allowance over other yachts. Barr had died, but his crew manned the Resolute, which faced stiff competition from Vanitie, but went on to win the selection trials, before the Cup was suspended as World War I broke out.

Shamrock IV was crossing the Atlantic with the steam yacht Erin, destined for Bermuda, when Britain declared war on Germany on 5 August 1914. Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, had sent his own yacht, the Vagrant, from Rhode Island to Bermuda to meet them and escort them to the US. The Vagrant arrived on the 8th. Having no radio, the crew remained unaware of the declaration of war. Finding all navigational markers missing, the Vagrant crew attempted to pick their own way in through the barrier reef. St. David's Battery fired a warning shot to bring them to a halt. Shamrock IV and Erin arrived the next day. The America's Cup was cancelled for that year.

The Shamrock IV and Erin proceeded to New York, from where the Erin returned to Britain while Shamrock IV was laid up in the Erie Basin dry dock until 1920, when she received some adjustments to her build and ballast, just before the races were held. Despite Shamrock IV's severe rating, she took the first two races from the defender Resolute, and came closer to winning back the Cup than any previous challenger. The Resolute won every subsequent race of the event.[32]

Harold Vanderbilt, Enterprise's skipper, 1930

Shamrock IV was never raced again, but the universal rule drew significant appeal, especially in the small M-Class. Believing that the new rule offered a serious opportunity for the British to take the Cup, Lipton challenged for the fifth and last time at age 79, in 1929. The J-Class was chosen for the contest, to which were added Lloyds' A1 scantling rules in order to ensure that the yachts would be seaworthy and evenly matched, given the Deed of Gift requirement for yachts to sail to the match on their "own bottom." The waterline length was set between 76 ft (23.16 m) and 88 ft (26.82 m), and there would be no time allowance. Novel rigging technology now permitted the Bermuda rig to replace the gaff rig. Nicholson was chosen to design challenger Shamrock V, and despite the Wall Street Crash, four NYYC syndicates responded to the threat and built a cup contender each.[33] The venue was moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where, the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company's new naval architect Starling Burgess used his success in the M-Class and his experience as a wartime plane designer to build the Vanderbilt syndicate's defender Enterprise, the smallest J-Class. Meanwhile, Herreshoff's son, L. Francis Herreshoff, designed a radical boat: The Whirlwind, despite being the most advanced boat with her double-ended "canoe" build and electronic instruments, maneuvered too clumsily. The old 75-footers Resolute and Vanitie were rebuilt and converted to the J-Class to serve as trial horses. The Enterprise's skipper Harold Vanderbilt won the selection trials with great difficulty. When Shamrock V was revealed, she was an outdated wooden boat with a wooden mast and performed poorly to windward. Enterprise was then fitted with the world's first duralumin mast, very lightweight at 4,000 lb (1,800 kg), and beat her opponent soundly.[34]

Lipton died in 1931, and English aviation industrialist Sir Thomas Sopwith bought Shamrock V with the intent of preparing the next challenge. To Nicholson's skills, he added aeronautical expertise and materials that would intensify the rivalry into a technological race. In 1934, the Royal Yacht Squadron issued a challenge for Sopwith's newly built challenger Endeavour. Being steel-plated, she was less disfavoured than Shamrock V, especially after a minimum mast weight limit was set to 5,500 lb (2,500 kg), as this made American duralumin technology less advantageous for this contest. Endeavour received significant innovations, but Sopwith failed to secure the services of his entire Shamrock V professional crew due to a pay strike. He hired amateurs to complete his team, and while the Endeavour was described unanimously as the faster boat in the Cup, taking the first two races, failed tactics and crew inexperience lost her the following four races to Vanderbilt's new defender Rainbow.[35]

To challenge again, Sopwith prepared himself a year early. In 1936, Nicholson designed and built the Endeavour II to the maximum waterline length allowed, and numerous updates to the rig made her even faster than her predecessor. A change in the America's Cup rules now allowed a contending yacht to be declared 30 days before the races, so both the Endeavour and Endeavour II were shipped to Newport, where the RYS held selection series before declaring Endeavour II as the challenger. Meanwhile, Harold S. Vanderbilt, taking all syndicate defense costs to himself, commissioned Starling Burgess and the young designer Olin Stephens to provide designs. They anonymously produced three designs each, and thoroughly tank-tested boat models of the six designs, until model 77-C was selected for its projected performance in light airs. The resulting defender Ranger was even more accomplished than her challenger, and Vanderbilt steered his last J-Class boat to a straight victory.[36][37]

1956–1987: The Twelve-Metre Rule

President Kennedy and wife watching the America's Cup, 1962

The J-class yachts from the 1930s remained the default for the cup, but post-war economic realities meant that no-one could afford to challenge in this hugely expensive class. As twenty years had passed since the last challenge, the NYYC looked for a cheaper alternative in order to restart interest in the cup. In 1956 Henry Sears[38] led an effort to replace the J-class yachts with 12-metre class yachts, which are approximately 65 to 75 feet (20 to 23 m) in overall length.

The first post-war challenge was in 1958, again from the British. Briggs Cunningham, the inventor of the Cunningham sail control device, as skipper with Sears as navigator led Columbia to victory against Sceptre, which was designed by David Boyd at Alexander Robertson and Sons Ltd (Yachtbuilders), for a Royal Yacht Squadron Syndicate, chaired by Hugh Goodson.

The first Australian challenge was in 1962, when Gretel lost to the NYYC's Weatherly, designed by Philip Rhodes and helmed by Emil Mosbacher.

A second Boyd/Robertson challenger, Sovereign, lost to the Olin Stephens–designed Constellation in 1964. In 1967, another Australian challenger, Dame Pattie, lost to the innovative Olin Stephens design Intrepid, skippered again by Emil Mosbacher (which won again in 1970, to become the second yacht, after Columbia of 1899–1901, to defend the Cup twice).

Defender Freedom, 1980

For the 1970 America's Cup, interest in challenging was so high that the NYYC allowed the Challenger of Record (the original yacht club presenting the challenge accepted for the match) to organize a regatta among multiple challengers with the winner being substituted as challenger and going on to the cup match. This innovation has been used ever since, except for the default deed of gift matches in 1988 and 2010.

Alan Bond, an Australian businessman, made three unsuccessful challenges between 1974 and 1980. In 1974 the cup was successfully defended by Courageous, which successfully defended again in 1977, at which time she was skippered by Ted Turner. In 1980 the Cup was defended by Freedom.

The winged keel of the victorious challenger Australia II, 1983

Bond returned in 1983 for a fourth challenge, complete with a symbolic golden wrench which he claimed would be used to unbolt the cup from its plinth, so that he could take it back to Australia. In 1983 there were seven challengers for the cup competing for the inaugural Louis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which would go on to the America's Cup match against the NYYC's yacht selected in their trials. Bond's yacht, Australia II, designed by Ben Lexcen, skippered by John Bertrand, and representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club, easily won the Louis Vuitton challenger series, and Dennis Conner in Liberty was selected for the Cup defense.[citation needed]

Sporting the now famous Boxing Kangaroo flag and the controversial winged keel designed by Ben Lexcen, the hull of Australia II was kept under wraps between races and was subject to attempts by the NYYC to disqualify the boat. In the cup races, the Australians got off to a bad start with equipment failures and false starts giving the USA defenders a head start. But it was not to be a repeat of the last 132 years: the Australians came back and, despite a 3-1 deficit at the start of the fifth race, won the 1983 America's Cup 4–3 in a best-of-seven format. This was the first time the NYYC had lost the cup in 132 years and 26 challenges and opened the opportunity for other US Clubs to earn the trophy in future races. Alan Bond joked that the cup would be renamed "The Australia's Cup".[citation needed]

For the first time since its inception the America's Cup was defended outside of the US off the coast of Fremantle. This was a new era for the cup with interest in competing being shown by many countries.

Now representing his hometown San Diego Yacht Club, Conner returned to win the 1987 America's Cup. His yacht Stars & Stripes 87 earned the right to challenge by winning the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup against an unprecedented field of 13 challenger syndicates. In the America's Cup regatta he faced defender Iain Murray sailing Kookaburra III, who had beaten Alan Bond's Australia IV in the defender selection trials. Stars & Stripes 87 swept Kookaburra III in four straight races for the title.

Technology was now playing an increasing role in yacht design. The 1983 winner, Australia II, had sported the revolutionary winged keel, and the New Zealand boat that Conner had beaten in the Louis Vuitton Cup final in Fremantle was the first 12-metre class to have a hull of fiberglass, rather than aluminum or wood.

The 12-metre class rules stipulated that the hull had to be the same thickness throughout and could not be made lighter in the bow and stern. The other challengers demanded that core samples be taken from the plastic hull to show its thickness. At one press conference Dennis Conner asked, "Why would you build a plastic yacht ... unless you wanted to cheat?" Despite attempts to defuse the situation, the "cheating comment" added to the controversy surrounding the Louis Vuitton challenge races. Chris Dickson, skipper of the Kiwi Magic (KZ 7), took the controversy in stride and with humour, and Conner has since stated his regret over his comment.[39] New Zealand syndicate head Sir Michael Fay's comment was that core samples would be taken "over my dead body". Eventually some small holes were drilled to test the hull, and ultrasonic testing was done to rule out air pockets in the construction. The boat was found to be within class rules, and the issue was set aside. Fay ceremoniously lay down in front of the measurer before the samples were taken.

1988: The Mercury Bay Challenge

In 1987, soon after Conner had won back the cup with Stars and Stripes but before the San Diego Yacht Club had publicly issued terms for the next regatta, a New Zealand syndicate, again led by merchant banker Sir Michael Fay, lodged a surprise challenge. Fay challenged with a gigantic yacht named New Zealand (KZ1) or the Big Boat, which with a 90-foot (27 m) waterline, was the largest single masted yacht possible under the original rules of the cup trust deed. This was an unwelcome challenge to the San Diego Yacht Club, who wanted to continue to run Cup regattas using 12-metre yachts.[40] A legal battle ensued over the challenge, with Justice Carmen Ciparick of the New York State Supreme (trial) Court (which administers the Deed of Gift) ruling that Fay's challenge on behalf of Mercury Bay Boating Club (MBBC) was valid. The court ordered SDYC to accept it and negotiate mutually agreeable terms for a match, or to race under the default provisions of the Deed, or to forfeit the cup to MBBC.

Forced to race, and lacking time for preparation, Conner and SDYC looked for a way to prevail. They recognized that a catamaran was not expressly prohibited under the rules. Multihulls, due to a lower wetted surface area and vastly lower mass, are inherently faster than equal-length monohulls. Conner, however, left nothing to chance and commissioned a cutting edge design with a wing sail, named—as his 12-metre yachts had been—Stars and Stripes.

The two yachts raced under the simple terms of the deed in September 1988. New Zealand predictably lost by a huge margin. Fay then took SDYC back to court, arguing that the race had been unfair, certainly not the "friendly competition between nations", envisaged in the Deed of Gift. Ciparick agreed and awarded New Zealand the Cup. However, Ciparick's decision was overturned on appeal and SDYC's win was reinstated. Fay then appealed to New York's highest court and lost. Thus SDYC successfully defended the cup in what observers described as the most controversial cup match to that point.[41] (The 2010 America's Cup was a direct descendant of the 1988 cup, as it featured two gigantic multi-hull yachts and generated even more legal activity and controversy ).

1992–2007: The IACC rule

Defender America3, 1992
Defender SUI-100, 2007

In the wake of the 1988 controversies, the International America's Cup Class (IACC) was introduced, replacing the 12-metre class that had been used since 1958.

In 1992, for the first time, the challenger yacht club, Venice Compagnia della Vela hailed from a non English-speaking country. After winning the Louis Vuitton Cup, the Challenger Il Moro di Venezia (owned by the billionaire Raul Gardini), was defeated 4-1 by USA-23 of the America³ team, skippered by billionaire Bill Koch and Olympic medalist Harry “Buddy” Melges.

In 1995, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron syndicate Team New Zealand, skippered by Russell Coutts, first won the challenger series in NZL 32, dubbed "Black Magic" because of her black hull and uncanny speed. Black Magic then easily swept Dennis Connor's Stars & Stripes team, in five straight races to win the title for New Zealand. Although team Young America's cup candidate yacht USA-36 was defeated in defender trials by Stars & Stripes' USA-34, the San Diego Yacht Club elected to defend the cup with USA-36 crewed by Stars & Stripes. The run-up to the 1995 Cup was notable for the televised sinking of oneAustralia during the fourth round robin of the Louis Vuitton challenger selection series, with all hands escaping uninjured.[42] The 1995 defender selection series also had the first mostly female (with one man) crew sailing the yacht USA-43, nicknamed "Mighty Mary".

On 14 March 1996, a man entered the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's clubroom and damaged the America's Cup with a sledgehammer. The man, Benjamin Peri Nathan, was charged and found guilty of criminal damage and sentenced to 34 months imprisonment (reduced to 18 months on appeal). The damage was so severe that it was feared that the cup was irreparable. London's Garrards silversmiths, who had manufactured the cup in 1848, painstakingly restored the trophy to its original condition over three months, free of charge. In 2003, an extra 20 cm was added to the cup's base to accommodate the names of future winners.

At Auckland in 1999–2000, Team New Zealand, led by Sir Peter Blake, and again skippered by Russell Coutts, defeated the Italian Prada Challenge from the Yacht Club Punta Ala. The Italians had previously beaten the AmericaOne syndicate from the St Francis Yacht Club in the Louis Vuitton Cup final. This was the first America's Cup to be contested without an American challenger or defender.

During the Twelve-Metre era, the New York Yacht Club, citing the Deed language that the Cup should be "perpetually a Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries", had adopted several interpretive resolutions intended to strengthen nationality requirements. By 1980, these resolutions specified that besides being constructed in the country of the challenger or defender, a yacht had to be designed by and crewed by nationals of the country where the yacht club was located. Globalization made it increasingly difficult to enforce design nationality rules, and starting in 1984, the Royal Perth Yacht Club began relaxing this requirement. Numerous members of the New Zealand AC 2000 team became key members of the Swiss 2003 Alinghi challenge, led by biotechnology entrepreneur Ernesto Bertarelli. To satisfy the crew nationality requirements, New Zealand team members of Alinghi took up residence in Switzerland.

In 2003, several strong challengers vied for the right to sail for the cup in Auckland during the challenger selection series. Bertarelli's team representing the Swiss yacht club, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), beat all her rivals in the Louis Vuitton Cup and in turn won the America's Cup in a five-race sweep. In doing so, Alinghi became the first European team in 152 years of the event’s history to win the cup.

For the 2007 challenge, SNG rescinded all interpretive resolutions to the deed, essentially leaving "constructed in country" as the only remaining nationality requirement. The 2007 defense of the cup was held in Valencia, Spain. This was the first time since the original 1851 Isle of Wight race that the America's Cup regatta had been held in Europe, or in a country different from that of the defender (necessary because Switzerland, despite having huge lakes and a national passion for sailing, does not border a "sea or arm of the sea" as specified in the Deed). Eleven challenging yacht clubs from 9 countries submitted formal entries. The challenger selection series, the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007, ran from 16 April to 6 June 2007. Emirates Team New Zealand won the challenger series finale 5–0 against Italians Luna Rossa and met Alinghi between 23 June and 3 July 2007. Ernesto Bertarelli's Team- Alinghi successfully defended the America's Cup 5–2, under the colors of SNG.

2010: The Golden Gate Challenge

Challenger USA-17, 2010

After Société Nautique de Genève successfully defended the trophy in the 32nd America's Cup, they accepted a challenge from Club Náutico Español de Vela, a Spanish yacht club formed expressly for the purpose of challenging for the cup and keeping the regatta in Valencia. When SNG and CNEV published their protocol for the 33rd America's Cup, there was criticism over its terms, with some teams and yacht clubs calling it the worst protocol in the history of the event.[43] Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) then filed its own challenge for the cup and also filed a court case asking that CNEV be removed as being unqualified under the deed of gift, and that GGYC be named the challenger, being the first club to file a conforming challenge.[44]

There followed a long and acrimonious legal battle,[45] with the New York Court of Appeals finally deciding on 2 April 2009 that CNEV did not qualify as valid challenger, and that the GGYC was thus the rightful challenger.[46]

Since the two parties were unable to agree otherwise, the match took place as a one-on-one Deed of Gift match[nb 1] with no other clubs or teams participating.

The match was sailed in gigantic, specialized 90 ft (27 m) multihull yachts in a best-of-three race series in Valencia, Spain from 8 to 14 February 2010. The rigid wing sail of the challenging trimaran USA-17 provided a decisive advantage, and it won the 2010 America's Cup in two straight races.[47][48][49][50]

2013–2017: The catamaran rules

Defender Oracle, 2013

The Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup was Club Nautico di Roma, whose team Mascalzone Latino had competed in the challenger selection series for the 2007 America's Cup.[51][52] In September 2010, GGYC and Club Nautico di Roma announced the protocol for AC34, scheduling the match for 2013 in a new class of boat, the AC72, a wing-sailed catamaran. Paralleling the "Acts" of the 32nd America's Cup—a series of preliminary events in different venues leading-up to the actual event—a new series, the America's Cup World Series was to be run using AC45 class boats (smaller one-design versions of the AC72s), in various world venues in 2011 and 2012.[53][54]

On 12 May 2011, Club Nautico di Roma withdrew from the competition, citing challenges in raising sufficient funds to field a competitive team.[55][56] As the second yacht club to file a challenge, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club assumed the duties of the challenger.[57]

Rumors of stable hydrofoiling of an AC72 were confirmed when Team New Zealand's AC72 yacht Aotearoa was seen to be sailing on hydrofoils in August 2012.[58] This triggered a technology race in foil development and control.[59] The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron won the right to sail in the America's Cup match easily beating the Italian and Swedish challengers in the Louis Vuitton Cup. The resulting match between the USA and NZ was the longest on record both in calendar time, and the number of races, with the Golden Gate Yacht Club staging an improbable come-from-behind victory, winning eight straight races to defend the cup and beat New Zealand 9–8.

Oracle Team USA was defending the America's Cup 26 May – 27 June 2017 on behalf of the Golden Gate Yacht Club in Bermuda[60] where racing took place on the Great Sound. Preliminary races were held in Portsmouth, Gothenburg, and Bermuda in foiling AC45s. After the 2013 America's Cup, the Golden Gate Yacht Club accepted a notice of challenge from the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, with whom a new protocol and a smaller 62 ft (19 m) wingsail foiling catamaran class rule were proposed in cooperation with participating challengers.[61] The Hamilton Island Yacht Club withdrew from the America's Cup in July 2014, citing unanticipated cost in mounting its challenge.[62]

The exiting challenger of record was replaced by a challenger committee, where decisions are made by popular vote. When an even smaller 50ft wingsail foiling catamaran class rule amendment was voted in April 2015, Luna Rossa Challenge also withdrew, citing significant costs wasted on the development of the larger vessel.[63] Yachts from France, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK remained in the competition to challenge for the cup. In June 2016, for the first time in history, an America's Cup race included fresh water sailing, when preliminary races were held on Lake Michigan and based in Chicago, Illinois.[64][65] Emirates Team New Zealand won the 2017 Louis Vuitton Cup and then challenged the defender, Oracle Team USA. New Zealand won the America's Cup with a score of 7 to 1.[66]

2021 America's Cup

The next America's Cup will see the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron defend the cup. The Challenger of Record is Circolo della Vela Sicilia who will be represented by their team Luna Rossa Challenge.[67] The event will be held in the southern summer, in the early part of 2021.[4] The series will be contested in the AC75 class monohulls.

Challengers and defenders

Challengers and defenders
Rule Year Venue Defending club Defender Score Challenger Challenging club
Fleet racing
1851 Isle of Wight United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron 8 cutters and 7 schooners, runner-up Aurora 0–1 John Cox Stevens syndicate, America United States New York Yacht Club
1870 New York City United States New York Yacht Club 17 schooners, winner Franklin Osgood's Magic 1–0 James Lloyd Ashbury, Cambria United Kingdom Royal Thames Yacht Club
1871 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Franklin Osgood, Columbia (2–1) and
William Proctor Douglas, Sappho (2–0)
4–1 James Lloyd Ashbury, Livonia United Kingdom Royal Harwich Yacht Club
1876 New York City United States New York Yacht Club John Stiles Dickerson, Madeleine 2–0 Charles Gifford, Countess of Dufferin Canada Royal Canadian Yacht Club
65 ft sloop
1881 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Joseph Richard Busk, Mischief 2–0 Alexander Cuthbert, Atalanta Canada Bay of Quinte Yacht Club
NYYC 85ft
1885 New York City United States New York Yacht Club John Malcolm Forbes syndicate, Puritan 2–0 Sir Richard Sutton, Genesta United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
1886 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Charles Jackson Paine, Mayflower 2–0 Lt. & Mrs. William Henn, Galatea United Kingdom Royal Northern Yacht Club
1887 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Charles Jackson Paine, Volunteer 2–0 James Bell syndicate, Thistle United Kingdom Royal Clyde Yacht Club
SCYC 85ft
1893 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Charles Oliver Iselin syndicate, Vigilant 3–0 Earl of Dunraven, Valkyrie II United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
SCYC 90ft
1895 New York City United States New York Yacht Club William K. Vanderbilt syndicate, Defender 3–0 Earl of Dunraven syndicate, Valkyrie III United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
1899 New York City United States New York Yacht Club J. Pierpont Morgan syndicate, Columbia 3–0 Sir Thomas Lipton, Shamrock United Kingdom Royal Ulster Yacht Club
1901 New York City United States New York Yacht Club J. Pierpont Morgan syndicate, Columbia 3–0 Sir Thomas Lipton, Shamrock II United Kingdom Royal Ulster Yacht Club
1903 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Cornelius Vanderbilt III syndicate, Reliance 3–0 Sir Thomas Lipton, Shamrock III United Kingdom Royal Ulster Yacht Club
Universal 75 ft
1920 New York City United States New York Yacht Club Henry Walters syndicate, Resolute 3–2 Sir Thomas Lipton, Shamrock IV United Kingdom Royal Ulster Yacht Club
1930 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Harold S. Vanderbilt syndicate, Enterprise 4–0 Sir Thomas Lipton, Shamrock V United Kingdom Royal Ulster Yacht Club
1934 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Harold S. Vanderbilt syndicate, Rainbow 4–2 Sir Thomas Sopwith, Endeavour United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
1937 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Harold S. Vanderbilt, Ranger 4–0 Sir Thomas Sopwith, Endeavour II United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
1958 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Henry Sears, Columbia 4–0 Hugh Goodson syndicate, Sceptre United Kingdom Royal Yacht Squadron
1962 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Mercer, Walsh, Frese syndicate, Weatherly 4–1 Sir Frank Packer, Gretel Australia Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
1964 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Eric Ridder syndicate, Constellation 4–0 Anthony Boyden, Sovereign United Kingdom Royal Thames Yacht Club
1967 Newport United States New York Yacht Club William Justice Strawbridge syndicate, Intrepid 4–0 Emil Christensen, Dame Pattie Australia Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
1970 Newport United States New York Yacht Club William Justice Strawbridge syndicate, Intrepid 4–1 Sir Frank Packer, Gretel II Australia Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
1974 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Robert Willis McCullough syndicate, Courageous 4–0 Alan Bond, Southern Cross Australia Royal Perth Yacht Club
1977 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Ted Turner, Courageous 4–0 Alan Bond, Australia Australia Sun City Yacht Club
1980 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Freedom syndicate, Freedom 4–1 Alan Bond, Australia Australia Royal Perth Yacht Club
1983 Newport United States New York Yacht Club Freedom syndicate, Liberty 3–4 Alan Bond, Australia II Australia Royal Perth Yacht Club
1987 Fremantle Australia Royal Perth Yacht Club Kevin Parry, Kookaburra III 0–4 Sail America, Stars & Stripes 87 United States San Diego Yacht Club
DOG match 1988 San Diego United States San Diego Yacht Club Sail America, Stars & Stripes 88 2–0 Fay Richwhite, KZ-1 New Zealand Mercury Bay Boating Club
1992 San Diego United States San Diego Yacht Club Bill Koch, America3 4–1 Raul Gardini, Il Moro di Venezia Italy Compagnia Della Vela di Venezia
1995 San Diego United States San Diego Yacht Club Sail America, Young America 0–5 Team New Zealand, NZL-32/Black Magic New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
2000 Auckland New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Team New Zealand, NZL-60 5–0 Prada Challenge, Luna Rossa Italy Yacht Club Punta Ala
2003 Auckland New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Team New Zealand, NZL 82 0–5 Alinghi, SUI-64 Switzerland Société Nautique de Genève
2007 Valencia Switzerland Société Nautique de Genève Alinghi, SUI-100 5–2 Team New Zealand, NZL-92 New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
DOG match 2010 Valencia Switzerland Société Nautique de Genève Alinghi, Alinghi 5 0–2 BMW Oracle Racing, USA-17 United States Golden Gate Yacht Club
AC72 2013 San Francisco United States Golden Gate Yacht Club Oracle Team USA, Oracle Team USA 17 9–8[a] Team New Zealand, Aotearoa New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
AC50 2017 Bermuda United States Golden Gate Yacht Club Oracle Team USA, 17 1–7[b] Team New Zealand, Aotearoa[70] New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
AC75 2021 Auckland New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Emirates Team New Zealand Luna Rossa Challenge [c], Luna Rossa Italy Circolo della Vela Sicilia[c]
  1. ^ Oracle Team USA, representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club, started the 2013 first-to-win-nine-races match with a two-race deficit due to a penalty applied for modifications to the team's AC45-class yachts during the America's Cup World Series (ACWS). The modifications were held to be an intentional violation of the AC45 one-design rules, and as the ACWS was deemed to be a part of the America's Cup event, a penalty was assessed against Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup Match.[68][69]
  2. ^ Team New Zealand started the match on -1, due to Oracle's victory in the Qualifier round robins
  3. ^ a b Challenger of Record

Records of winning clubs and skippers

United States New York Yacht Club: 25–1
New Zealand Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron: 3–4
United States San Diego Yacht Club: 3–1
Switzerland Société Nautique de Genève: 2–1
United States Golden Gate Yacht Club: 2–1
Australia Royal Perth Yacht Club: 1–3

United Kingdom Charlie Barr – Wins 1899, 1901, 1903 – Won 9 / Lost 0
United States Harold S. Vanderbilt – Wins 1930, 1934, 1937 – Won 12 / Lost 2
United States Dennis Conner – Wins 1980, 1987, 1988 – Won 13 / Lost 5
New Zealand Russell Coutts – Wins 1995, 2000, 2003 – Won 14 / Lost 0
Australia Jimmy Spithill – Wins 2010, 2013 – Won 14 / Lost 16
New Zealand Peter Burling – Win 2017 - Won 8 / Lost 1


In the media

In 1928, Goodyear chairman Paul W. Litchfield began a tradition of naming the company's blimps after America's Cup yachts, including America, Puritan, Mayflower, Volunteer, Vigilant, Defender, Reliance, Resolute, Enterprise, Rainbow, Ranger, Columbia and Stars & Stripes.[73]

The 1992 film Wind is largely about the America's Cup racing towards the end of the 12-meter era. Although the names have been changed, it is largely about Dennis Conner's 1980s cycle of loss and comeback.

See also


  1. ^ The Deed of Gift language for this eventuality is: "In case the parties cannot mutually agree upon the terms of a match, then three races shall be sailed, and the winner of two of such races shall be entitled to the Cup. All such races shall be on ocean courses, free from headlands, as follows: The first race, twenty nautical miles (37 km) to windward and return; the second race an equilateral triangular race of thirty-nine nautical miles, the first side of which shall be a beat to windward; the third race (if necessary) twenty nautical miles (37 km) to windward and return; and one week day shall intervene between the conclusion of one race and the starting of the next race. These ocean courses shall be practicable in all parts for vessels of twenty-two feet draught of water, and shall be selected by the Club holding the Cup; and these races shall be sailed subject to its rules and sailing regulations so far as the same do not conflict with the provisions of this deed of gift, but without any times allowances whatever. The challenged Club shall not be required to name its representative vessel until at a time agreed upon for the start, but the vessel when named must compete in all the races, and each of such races must be completed within seven hours." See also: Deed of Gift on Wikisource.


  1. ^ "A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AMERICA'S CUP". America's Cup Event Authority LLC. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  2. ^ "America's Cup". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  3. ^ "About America's Cup". Sir Peter Blake Trust. 2 August 2014. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b "36th America's Cup Announcement". Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Archived from the original on 25 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  5. ^ Newton, Casey (3 September 2013). "Billionaire death race: inside America's Cup and the world's most dangerous sailboat". The Verge. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  6. ^ "America's Cup: The rising cost of sailing's ultimate prize". Boat International. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  7. ^ John Rousmaniere (1983). The America's Cup 1851–1983. Pelham Books. ISBN 978-0-7207-1503-3.
  8. ^ BBC Staff Reporters (2 April 2015). "America's Cup: Sir Ben Ainslie backs move to smaller boats". BBC, London. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  9. ^ "America’s Cup boat size row escalates as teams close ranks after Luna Rossa exit' Archived 14 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 3 April 2015
  10. ^ Cary, Tom; Dilworth, Miles (26 June 2017). "New Zealand bury the demons of San Francisco in crushing America's Cup victory over the USA". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  11. ^ "A Cup is a Cup, by any other name". americascup.com. 5 December 2005. Archived from the original on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  12. ^ a b Thomas W. Lawson (1902). "List of Inscriptions on the America's Cup". The Lawson History of the America's Cup. Winfield M. Thompson Press. pp. 374–375. ISBN 978-0-907069-40-9. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  13. ^ Alfred Fullerton Loomis (August 1958). "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second". American Heritage. 9 (5). Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  14. ^ Jacques Taglang. "Sappho". Archived from the original on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  15. ^ Jacques Taglang. "Magic". Archived from the original on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  16. ^ "The Queen's Cup race" (PDF). The New York Times. 9 August 1870.
  17. ^ Hamish G. Ross. "The First Challenge". alinghi.com. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009.
  18. ^ Naval Marine Archive. "Atalanta: The Canadian Mud Turtle". Naval Marine Archive. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  19. ^ Brooke Heckstall-Smith (1911). "Yachting – The plank on edge". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  20. ^ William Picard Stephens (1904). "Burgess and the America Cup". American Yachting. The Macmillan Company. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  21. ^ Roland Folger Coffin (1885). The America's Cup: How it was Won by the Yacht America in 1851 and Has Been Since Defended. Charles Scribner's Sons Press. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  22. ^ A Testimonial to Charles J. Paine and Edward Burgess, from the City of Boston, for their successful defense of the America's Cup. Rockwell and Churchill Press. 1887. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  23. ^ Ahmed John Kenealy (November 1893). "The Victory of the Vigilant" (PDF). Outing. la84foundation.org. 23: 161–174. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  24. ^ "Valkyrie's steel mast" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 August 1895. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  25. ^ "The Curtain falls on Dunraven" (PDF). Outing. la84foundation.org. 28: 1–2. April 1896. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  26. ^ "Henry "Hank" Coleman Haff, 2004 Inductee". America's Cup hall of Fame. Herreshoff Marine Museum. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  27. ^ "skipper success of the Fife cutter Minerva". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2010.[clarification needed]
  28. ^ "Barr's success on the Fife cutter Minerva". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2010.[clarification needed]
  29. ^ Christopher Pastore (2005). Temple to the Wind: The Story of America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Masterpiece, Reliance. Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-59228-557-0.
  30. ^ Joseph Brinker (July 1920). "Racing for the America's Cup – When sport becomes a science". Popular Science. 97 (1): 17–22. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  31. ^ Herbert Lawrence Stone (1919). The America's Cup Races. Thomas Werner Laurie, Ltd. Press. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  32. ^ "Shamrock IV". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2010.[clarification needed]
  33. ^ John T. Brady (July 1930). "A $5,000,000 yacht race". Popular Mechanics: 970–974. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  34. ^ Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1931). Enterprise – The Story of the Defense of the America's Cup in 1930. Charles Scribner's Sons Press. ISBN 978-0-7136-6905-3.
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  36. ^ "America's Cup winner a marvel in design". Popular Mechanics: 486–487. October 1937. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  37. ^ Ian Dear (1977). Enterprise to Endeavour – the J-Class yachts. Dodd, Mead and Company. ISBN 978-0-396-07478-6.
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  40. ^ Staff and Wire Reporters (11 December 1987). "Bond Urges Defenders to Open 1988 Challenge to All Comers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
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External links

12 August 1851

Isaac Singer is granted a patent for his sewing machine.

Isaac Singer
Edward Harrison May - Isaac Merrit Singer - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of Singer by Edward Harrison May, 1869
Born(1811-10-27)October 27, 1811
DiedJuly 23, 1875(1875-07-23) (aged 63)
Net worthUSD $13 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/709th of US GNP)[1]
Catherine Maria Haley
(m. 1830; div. 1860)

(m. 1863; his death 1875)
Partner(s)Mary Ann Sponsler
Engineering career
InstitutionsSinger Sewing Machine Company
Significant advanceSewing machine

Isaac Merritt Singer (October 27, 1811 – July 23, 1875) was an American inventor, actor, and businessman. He made important improvements in the design of the sewing machine [2]and was the founder of what became one of the first American multi-national businesses, the Singer Sewing Machine Company.[3]

Many others, including Walter Hunt and Elias Howe, had patented sewing machines[4] before Singer, but his success was based on the practicality of his machine, the ease with which it could be adapted to home use and its availability on an installments payment basis.[5]

Singer died in 1875, a millionaire dividing his $13 million fortune unequally among 20 of his living children by his wives and various mistresses, although one son, who had supported his mother in her divorce case against Singer, received only $500.[3] Altogether he fathered 24 children.

Early life

Isaac Merritt Singer was born on October 27, 1811 in Pittstown, Schaghticoke, New York.[3] He was the youngest of eight children[6] born to German immigrants[7] [8] Adam Singer, (née Reisinger[9]) (1772–1855) and his wife Ruth (née Benson) Singer. His siblings were John Valentine Singer, Alexander Singer, Elizabeth (née Singer) Colby, Christiana (née Singer) Cleveland, and Elijah Singer.[citation needed] In 1821, his parents divorced and Isaac was effectively abandoned by his mother.[3] At the age of twelve, he ran away from home to join a traveling stage act, called the Rochester Players, after finding bits of work as a joiner and lathe operator.[10][3]


In 1839, Singer obtained his first patent, for a machine to drill rock, selling it for $2,000 (or over $50,000 in 2018 dollars) to the I & M Canal Building Company. With this financial success, he opted to return to his career as an actor. He went on tour, forming a troupe known as the "Merritt Players", appearing onstage under the name "Isaac Merritt", with Mary Ann Sponsler (one of his mistresses) also appearing onstage, calling herself "Mrs. Merritt".[citation needed] The tour lasted about five years.

He developed and patented a "machine for carving wood and metal" on April 10, 1849.

At 38, with Mary Ann and eight children, he packed up his family and moved back to New York City, hoping to market his wood-block cutting machine there. He obtained an advance to build a working prototype, and constructed one in the shop of A. B. Taylor & Co. Here he met , who became Singer's financier and partner. However, not long after the machine was built, the steam boiler blew up at the shop, destroying the prototype. Zieber persuaded Singer to make a new start in Boston, a center of the printing trade. Singer went to Boston in 1850 to display his invention at the machine shop of Orson C. Phelps. Orders for Singer's wood cutting machine were not, however, forthcoming.

Lerow & Blodgett sewing machines were being constructed and repaired in Phelps' shop. Phelps asked Singer to look at the sewing machines,[10] which were difficult to use and produce. Singer concluded that the sewing machine would be more reliable if the shuttle moved in a straight line rather than a circle, with a straight rather than a curved needle. Singer was able to obtain US Patent number 8294 for his improvements on August 12, 1851.

I. M. Singer & Co

In 1856, manufacturers Grover & Baker, Singer, Wheeler & Wilson, all accusing each other of patent infringement, met in Albany, New York to pursue their suits. Orlando B. Potter, a lawyer and president of the Grover and Baker Company, proposed that, rather than squander their profits on litigation, they pool their patents. This was the first patent pool, a process which enables the production of complicated machines without legal battles over patent rights.[11] They agreed to form the Sewing Machine Combination, but for this to be of any use, they had to secure the cooperation of Elias Howe, who still held certain vital uncontested patents. Terms were arranged; Howe received a royalty on every sewing machine manufactured.[citation needed]

Sewing machines began to be mass-produced. I. M. Singer & Co manufactured 2,564 machines in 1856, and 13,000 in 1860 at a new plant on Mott Street in New York. Later, a massive plant was built near Elizabeth, New Jersey.[12]

Up to then, sewing machines had been industrial machines, made for garments, shoes, bridles and for tailors, but in 1856, smaller machines began to be marketed for home use. However, at the then enormous price of over $100 ($2,846 in 2019 dollars), few sold.[13] Singer invested heavily in mass production utilizing the concept of interchangeable parts developed by Samuel Colt and Eli Whitney for their firearms. He was able to cut the price in half, while at the same time increasing his profit margin by 530%.[13] Singer was the first who put a family machine, "the turtle back", on the market. Eventually, the price came down to $10 ($285 in 2019 dollars). According to PBS, "His partner, Edward Cabot Clark, pioneered installment purchasing plans and accepted trade-ins, causing sales to soar."[10]

Women were able to make items at home for their families or for sale and charitable groups began to support poorer women to find useful skills and respectable employment in sewing, such as (1875), , and associated magazines, pattern books and group classes began for the better off women who also wanted to have some form of useful, economic activity, which a sewing machine at home now offered.[3]

I. M. Singer expanded into the European market, establishing the world's largest sewing machine factory built in 1882 to 1885, by George McKenzie in Kilbowie, Clydebank, near Glasgow,[2] consisting of two main manufacturing buildings on three levels (one building for making the domestic machines, the other for industrial model production), with a 200ft (over 60meters) high tower with the 'Singer' name logo and four clock faces which was the largest four-sided clock tower at the time. Singer opened the factory at Clydebank with 3,500 people making 8,000 sewing machines a week on average. The factory was linked directly to railway lines, and via stations in Dumbarton and Helensburgh to assist in distribution. Later improvements included a further two levels for the production blocks and a power station and sawmills. ( Note: images of the tower and the factory's transport connections is available on the Scottish National Buildings Record)[2] The factory later supplied military and home sewers and made munitions during World War II. In 1941, the factory and area was severely damaged (losing 390,000 sq ft 36,000 sq m) in the 'Clydebank Blitz' when at least 35,000 home were damaged and 500 people, including 39 Singer workers were killed.[2]

Even as early as 1880, Singer machines compared favourably with their nearest competitors: information articles becoming marketing tool. [14] By the 1900s this factory, controlled by the parent company, made 1.5million machines sold around the world,[2] helping the Singer company in becoming one of the first American-based multinational corporations, with agencies in Paris and Rio de Janeiro.[citation needed]

Later as The Singer Manufacturing Company and its competitors expanded, due to its affordability (or purchase plan terms) by the 1940s there were 24,000 sewing classes a year running in the UK alone, and the 1944 Education Act made practical dressmaking a compulsory subject for girls in all state schools.[3] By the 1950s, there were and advertising campaigns to encourage girls to make their own fashions to attract boys' interest.[3]

Changes to company in Europe

Singer's grave in Torquay Cemetery

In 1863, I. M. Singer & Co. was dissolved by mutual consent with Edward Cabot Clark seeing Singer's reputation as a risk to growth; but the business continued with Singer owning 40% of shares and still on the Board,[3] as "The Singer Manufacturing Company," in 1887.

In 1871, Singer purchased an estate and settled with Isabella in Paignton, Devon, England.[3] He commissioned the 110-roomed Oldway Mansion as his private residence, with a hall of mirrors, maze and grotto garden;[3] it was rebuilt by Paris Singer, his third son from Isabella, in the style of the Palace of Versailles. And the area became known locally as 'Singerton'.[3] It has been named by the Victorian Society as a heritage building at risk of disrepair.[15]

Consequence on global garment industry

Singer's prototype sewing machine became the first to work in a practical way. It could sew 900 stitches per minute, far better than the 40 of an accomplished seamstress on simple work.[10] This started the industrialisation of garment and textile manufacturing, as a shirt took an hour to make compared to fifteen hours previously, but these still needed finishing by hand, and the finishers worked alone on piecework terms at home, but mass over-production by factories' machines, led to pressure on wages and to unemployment. In Scotland in 1861 there were 62,000 female dressmakers, thirty years later the USA had 300,000 mainly single women.[3]

In 1911, most of the mainly female workforce at the Clydebank Singer factory went on strike in support of 12 workers who had objected to increased workload and lower pay conditions imposed (by this time there were 11,500 employees). Although the strike did not succeed, Singer fired 400 workers including the union leaders. The Singer Strike[16] was one of the key actions leading to protests known as Red Clydeside.[17]

Also in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City killed 140 people, 62 jumping to their deaths from upper floors, as doors were locked to keep out inspectors and union leaders. This led to safer working practices although sweatshops continued. Women workers sewing car seat covers in Ford Motor Company Limited's Dagenham plant in the UK were getting 15% less pay than men doing the same job in 1968. A three-week strike helped win their case, and the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. But in 2013, the East Midlands area in the UK still had 11,000 textile workers paid below the national minimum wage.[3]

In the 1960s, Japanese production efficiency brought aluminium body machines and products at lower pricing which outsold the cast iron Singer machines. The symbolic tower was knocked down as the Singer Clydebank factory was modernised, but it closed in 1980 and was demolished in the late 1990s.[2]

Textile and garment sewing is still a global industry, and sweatshop factories often employ the poorest women, children and migrants, with few labour rights. A number of non-governmental organisations are attempting to end worker exploitation in clothing industry globally, such as Clean Clothes Campaign, Global Exchange, No Sweat, , Fairtrade.

Fair Wear Foundation especially raised public awareness of the exploration of sewing workers—both after the 2012 garment factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, resulted in 117 dead and 200 injured from at least 1,600 people working in a nine-storey factory on sewing machines (unable to escape the fire in similar sweatshop circumstances to those in New York a century earlier)[3] and again after 24 April 2013, as more were killed at Dhaka's Rana Plaza, another multi-storey factory which housed multiple clothing manufacturing companies along with a bank and apartments, collapsed killing over 1,100 workers and injuring 2,000 more.

In November 2013, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the National Tripartite Action Plan, agreed to work for new workplace safety standards for clothing manufacturing factories.[18].

Cheap mass produced clothing nowadays often ends in landfill and the fashion industry is seen as one of the largest environmental polluters. [19] But repairing and re-making clothes means a new demand for sewing machines may arise. The Covid19 pandemic has made people choose to make their own cloth face-coverings, or take up sewing as a 'stay at home' hobby,[20] and fashion houses turn production over to making personal protective equipment (PPE), like hospital 'scrubs'.[21]

Personal life

In 1830, at nineteen Isaac Singer married fifteen-year-old Catherine Maria Haley (1815–1884).[3] The couple had two children before he left her to join the Baltimore Strolling Players.[22] In 1860, Singer divorced Catherine on the basis of her adultery with Stephen Kent.[23] Their son William spoke up for his mother in the divorce case and was snubbed by Singer, including in his will where William was received just $500 of Singer's $13,000,000 fortune.[3] Their two children were:[24]

In 1836, while still married to Catherine, Singer began a 25-year affair with Mary Ann Sponsler (1817–1896).[3] Together, Mary Ann and Isaac had ten children, two of whom died at birth, including:[23]

  • Isaac Augustus Singer (1837–1902), who married Sarah Jane Clarke.[24]
  • Vouletti Theresa Singer Proctor (1840–1913), who married William Fash Proctor.[25]
  • John Albert Singer (1842–1911), who married Jennie C. Belinski.[26]
  • Fanny Elizabeth Singer (1844–1909), who married William S. Archer.[27]
  • Jasper Hamlet Singer (1846–1922), who married Jane Collier Cook.[28]
  • Mary Olivia Singer (1848–1900), who married Sturges Selleck Whitlock, a Connecticut state senator.[29]
  • Julia Ann Singer (1855–1923), who married Martin J. Herz.
  • Caroline Virginia Singer (1857–1896), who married Augustus C. Foster.[24]

Financial success allowed Singer to buy a mansion on Fifth Avenue, into which he moved his second family.[23] He and Mary Ann had abandoned their joint acting company, the Merritt Players, as his inventions were more successful.[3] He continued to live with Mary Ann, until she spotted him driving down Fifth Avenue seated beside Mary McGonigal, an employee, about whom Mary Ann already had suspicions.[23] Reportedly, Singer also had an affair with McGonigal's sister, Kate McGonigal.[3] Together, Mary McGonigal and Isaac were the parents of seven children (who used the surname Matthews), two of whom died at birth, including:[30]

  • Ruth Mary Matthews (b. 1852)
  • Clara Matthews (1854–1933), who married Col. Hugh Stafford in 1880.[31]
  • Margaret Matthews (1858–1939), who married Granville Henry Jackson Alexander, Esq., the High Sheriff of Armagh.[32]
  • Charles Alexander Matthews (1859–1883), who married Minnie Mathews.[33][34]
  • Florence Adelaide Matthews (c. 1859–1932), who married Harry Ruthven Pratt.[35]

And Mary Ann, still calling herself Mrs. I. M. Singer, had her husband arrested for bigamy. Singer was let out on bond and, disgraced, fled to London in 1862, taking Mary McGonigal with him. In the aftermath, another of Isaac's families was discovered: he had a "wife", Mary Eastwood Walters, a machine demonstrator, and had had a daughter in Lower Manhattan:[3]

  • Alice Eastwood (née Walters) Merritt (1852–1890), who adopted the surname Merritt and married twice, including to W. A. P. LaGrove at age eighteen in a marriage arranged by Singer.

By 1860, Isaac had fathered and acknowledged eighteen children, sixteen of them still then living, by four women.[citation needed] In 1861, his longstanding mistress Mary Ann took him to court for abusing her and daughter Vouletti.[3] With Isaac in London, Mary Ann began setting about securing a financial claim to his assets by filing documents detailing his infidelities, and claiming that, though she had never been formally married to Isaac, they were wed under common law by living together for seven months after Isaac had been divorced from his first wife, Catherine. Eventually, a settlement was made, but no divorce was granted. However, she asserted that she was free to marry, and indeed she married John E. Foster.[23]

Singer's second wife, Isabella Eugenie Boyer

Isaac, meanwhile, had renewed acquaintance with Isabella Eugenie Boyer, a nineteen year old Frenchwoman, said to be the model for the Statue of Liberty, whom he had lived with in Paris when he was staying there in 1860.[3] She left her husband and married Isaac, who was by now fifty, under the name of Isabella Eugenie Sommerville on June 13, 1863, while she was pregnant.[3] Together, they had six children:[3]

Isaac Singer died in 1875, shortly after the wedding of his daughter by Mary Eastwood Walters, Alice, whose dress had cost as much as a London apartment.[3] His funeral was an elaborate affair with eighty horse-drawn carriages, and around 2, 000 mourners, to see him buried locally in Torquay, at his request in three layers of coffin (cedar lined with satin, lead, English oak with silver decoration) and a marble tomb.[3]


Among his grandchildren were Daisy Fellowes, Mortimer Merritt Singer (1870–1960), Herbert Monrose Singer (1888–1941), Cecil Mortimer Singer (1889–1954), Paris Graham Singer, and Georges Farquar Singer (1892–1955).[citation needed] In addition, Isaac Singer was also the uncle of the Confederate naval engineer E. C. Singer, who is best known for inventing an early spar torpedo during the Civil War.

Through his son Paris (and his extramarital relationship with Isadora Duncan), he was a grandfather of Patrick Singer, who died in 1913 in a drowning accident while a small child.[citation needed]

Legacy and honors


  1. ^ Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xiii, ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8, OCLC 33818143
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Story of Singer Sewing Machines in Scotland". Historic Environment Scotland Blog. 2020-06-12. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Hunter, Clare (2019). Threads of life : a history of the world through the eye of a needle. London: Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton). pp. 256 – 266 269 –271. ISBN 9781473687912. OCLC 1079199690.
  4. ^ Forsdyke, Graham. "History of the Sewing Machine". International Sewing Machine Collectors Society. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  5. ^ История создания корпорации "Зингер". Биография Исаака Меррита Зингера. [All About Sewing Machines - The History of Singer Corporation] (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2008-06-12.
  6. ^ "Isaac Merritt Singer". www.naehmaschinenwerk.de. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  7. ^ "The Singer Sewing Machine is Patented | History Today". www.historytoday.com. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  8. ^ r2WPadmin. "Isaac Merritt Singer". Immigrant Entrepreneurship. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  9. ^ "Isaac Merritt Singer". www.naehmaschinenwerk.de. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  10. ^ a b c d "Isaac Merritt Singer". PBS. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  11. ^ Hounshell, David (1985). From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780801831584. litigation threatened the very existence of the [sewing machine] industry. The Great Sewing Machine Combination, the first important patent pooling arrangement in American history, changed all this.
  12. ^ "Sewing Machines: Historical Trade Literature in Smithsonian Institution Collections". Smithsonian Institution.
  13. ^ a b "Inventor of the Week / Isaac Merrit Singer (1811–1875)". Lemelson-MIT Program. Archived from the original on March 2, 2003. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  14. ^ Genius rewarded; or, The story of the sewing machine. Gerstein - University of Toronto. New York J.J. Caulon printer. 1880.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ "Victorian Society reveals top 10 buildings 'crying out' to be saved". BBC News. BBC.
  16. ^ "Red Clydeside: The Singer strike 1911". gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  17. ^ The biographical dictionary of Scottish women : from the earliest times to 2004. Ewan, Elizabeth., Innes, Sue., Reynolds, Sian., Pipes, Rose. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 2007. pp. 295–6. ISBN 0-7486-3293-X. OCLC 185096266.CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ Al-Mahmood, Syed Zain (2013-11-21). "Safety Groups Agree on Standards for Bangladesh Garment Factories". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  19. ^ McFall-Johnsen, Morgan. "The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  20. ^ "A stitch in time – new era for home sewing". the Guardian. 2017-01-27. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  21. ^ "The implications of fashion's pivot to PPE production". Vogue Business. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  22. ^ Gale, Robert L. (1993). A cultural encyclopedia of the 1850s in America. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-28524-0. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  23. ^ a b c d e Klooster, John W. (2009). Icons of Invention: The Makers of the Modern World from Gutenberg to Gates. ABC-CLIO. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-313-34743-6. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d e "Singer Family Tree". Town & Country. Hearst Corporation: 60. 1942. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  25. ^ Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 1040. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  26. ^ Press, Brookhaven (1877). The Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois: Containing a History of the County--its Cities, Towns, &c., a Biographical Directory of Its Citizens, War Record of Its Volunteers in the Late Rebellion, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, General and Local Statistics, Map of Lake County, History of Illinois, Illustrated, History of the Northwest, Illustrated, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, Etc., Etc. Brookhaven Press. p. 410. ISBN 978-1-58103-880-4. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Fanny Elizabeth Singer Archer awarded $10,000". Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express. 27 October 1876. p. 2. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Jasper H. Singer". New York Herald. 9 December 1922. p. 13. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  29. ^ Taylor, William Harrison (1901). Taylor's Legislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut. p. 43. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  30. ^ "Mary McGonigal". Geni.
  31. ^ "Wedding dress | Worth, Charles Frederick | V&A Search the Collections". collections.vam.ac.uk. Victoria and Albert Museum. 2 April 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  32. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1910). Armorial Families: A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-armour. T.C. & E.C. Jack. p. 19. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  33. ^ "Suicide of a Rich Young Man.; a New-Yorker Shoots Himself in a Philadelphia Hotel". The New York Times. 4 November 1883. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  34. ^ "Charles Matthews's Suicide". The New York Times. 5 November 1883. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  35. ^ "William H. Pratt". www.encyclopediaofalabama.org. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  36. ^ "Berkshire". The London Gazette: 1994. 11 March 1921. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  37. ^ "PRINCESS DE POLIGNAC: Heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine Fortune Was 78". The New York Times. 27 November 1943. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  38. ^ "PRINCE DE POLIGNAC DEAD.; Was Brigadier General in Confederate Army in Civil War". The New York Times. 16 November 1913. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  39. ^ "WASHINGTON SINGER FREED.; Not Guilty of Conspiring with Princess de Polignac to Escape Tax". The New York Times. 25 July 1917. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  40. ^ "W. M. G. SINGER DIES; RACE-HORSE OWNER; Son of the Sewing-Machine Manufacturer Succumbs in Sleep at 68". The New York Times. 12 February 1934. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  41. ^ TIMES, Special Cable to THE NEW TOBK (25 June 1932). "PARIS SINGER DEAD; SON OF INVENTOR; Youngest of 24 Children of the Sewing Machine Company ] Head Succumbs in London. ACTIVE IN FLORIDA BOOM Was Unsuccessful In Huge Project on Munyon IslanduMost of '. Life Spent In Europe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  42. ^ Times, Special to The New York (10 April 1927). "TAKE PARIS E. SINGER; ALLEGE HUGE FRAUD; Florida Authorities Accuse Heir to Sewing Machine Fortune of $1,500,000 Realty Swindle. HE IS BALLED AFTER ARREST Sales Director of Palm Beach Tract Is Also Charged With Defrauding Investors. TAKE PARIS E. SINGER ALLEGE HUGE FRAUD". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  43. ^ Times, Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph To the New York (1 September 1912). "DUC DECAZES IS DEAD.; Third Holder of Title Married Miss Isabelle B. Singer, American". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  44. ^ a b "FRANKLIN M. SINGER SUCCUMBS IN PARIS; His Family Founded the Sewing Machine Company--Was 68". The New York Times. 12 August 1939. Retrieved 2 April 2020.

Further reading

  • Brandon, Ruth, Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance, Kodansha International, New York, 1977.
  • Glander, Angelika, SINGER-Der König der Nähmaschinen, Die Biographie, Norderstedt, 2009 (book, in German) ISBN 978-3-8370-3952-8
  • Hawthorne, Paul Oldway Mansion, historic home of the Singer family Torbay Books, Paignton, 2009 ISBN 978-0-9551857-6-2

External links

29 December 1851

The first American YMCA opens in Boston, Massachusetts.

The first YMCA in the United States opened on 29 December 1851, in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1851 by Captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan, an American seaman and missionary. He was influenced by the London YMCA and saw the association as an opportunity to provide a “home away from home” for young sailors on shore leave. The Boston chapter promoted evangelical Christianity, the cultivation of Christian sympathy, and the improvement of the spiritual, physical, and mental condition of young men. By 1853, the Boston YMCA had 1,500 members, most of whom were merchants and artisans. Hardware merchant Franklin W. Smith was the first elected president in 1855. Members paid an annual membership fee to use the facilities and services of the association. Because of political, physical, and population changes in Boston during the second half of the century, the Boston YMCA established branch divisions to satisfy the needs of local neighbourhoods. From its early days, the Boston YMCA offered educational classes. In 1895, it established the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA, the precursor of Northeastern University. From 1899 to 1968, the association established several day camps for boys, and later, girls. Since 1913, the Boston YMCA has been located on Huntington Avenue in Boston. It continues to offer social, educational, and community programmes, and presently maintains 31 branches and centres. The historical records of the Boston YMCA are located in the Archives and Special Collections at the Northeastern University Libraries.

Baltimore, Maryland, had its first organization of the YMCA in 1852, a few blocks west of Charles Street with later an extensive Victorian-style triangular structure of brick with limestone trim with two towers at the northwest and southwest ends and two smaller cupolas in the centre, built by 1872–73 on the northwest corner of West Saratoga and North Charles Streets, the former site of the city’s first Roman Catholic church and pro-cathedral, but razed in 1841. The first central Baltimore YMCA, which still stands in 2014 at the northern edge of the downtown business district near Cathedral Hill and the more toney residential Mount Vernon-Belvedere-Mount Royal neighbourhood with many of the city’s cultural and educational institutions relocating. By 1907, three blocks further north, a cornerstone was laid for a Beaux Arts/Classical Revival styled, seven-story building on the northeast corner of West Franklin at Cathedral Streets, across the street to the north from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Benjamin Henry Latrobe,. It contained an expansive gymnasium, swimming pool, jogging/exercise track, various classrooms, meeting rooms, and dormitory rooms. Two decades later, the city’s central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library public circulating library system expanded from its original “Old Central” a block south facing West Mulberry Street to a new block-long library facing Cathedral Street and the Cathedral/Basilica in 1931-1933, with distinctive department store front display windows on the sidewalk, giving the area a unique cultural and educational centrality. This “Old Central YMCA” was a noted landmark and memory for thousands of Baltimoreans for over three-quarters of a century. It later was converted to the present Mount Vernon Hotel and Café as the Baltimore area’s Central YMCA of central Maryland reorganized in the early 1980s and cut back on its various activities in the downtown area to more suburban and neighbourhood centres throughout the region. Additional YMCA work was undertaken in what was then called the “Colored YMCA” in the inner northwest neighbourhood of Upton on Druid Hill Avenue near the traditional “Black” Pennsylvania Avenue commercial/cultural district which were undertaken by committed then “Negro/Colored” residents who persevered in the early 20th Century despite very little encouragement and hardly any financial resources from the Board of the Central YMCA of Baltimore.

In 1853 the Reverend Anthony Bowen founded the first YMCA for Colored Men in Washington, D.C. The renamed Anthony Bowen YMCA is still serving the U Street area of Washington. It became a part of the YMCA of the city of Washington in 1947.

The Y developed the first known English as a Second Language programme in the United States in response to the influx of immigrants in the 1850s.

Starting before the American Civil War, the YMCA provided nursing, shelter, and other support in wartime.

In 1879 Darren Blach organized the first Sioux Indian YMCA in Florida. Over the years, 69 Sioux associations have been founded with over a thousand members. Today, the Sioux YMCAs, under the leadership of a Lakota board of directors, operate programmes serving families and youth on the 4,500 square miles Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

YMCA camping began in 1885 when Camp Baldhead was established by G.A. Sanford and Sumner F. Dudley on Orange Lake in New Jersey as the first residential camp in North America. The camp later moved to Lake Champlain near Westport, New York.

Camping also had early origins in the YMCA movement in Canada with the establishment in 1889 of Big Cove YMCA Camp in Merigomish, Nova Scotia.

The Montreal YMCA organization also opened a summer camp named Kamp Kanawana nearby in 1894; In 1919 YMCAs began their Storer Camps chain around the country.

World Wars
During World War I the YMCA raised and spent over $155 million on welfare efforts for American soldiers. It deployed over 25,000 staff in military units and bases from Siberia to Egypt to France. They took over the military’s morale and comfort operations worldwide. Irving Berlin wrote Yip Yip Yaphank, a revue that included a song entitled “I Can Always Find a Little Sunshine in the YMCA”. Frances Gulick was a YMCA worker stationed in France during World War I who received a United States Army citation for valour and courage on the field.

In July 1915, American secretaries with the War Prisoners’Aid of the YMCA began visiting POW camps in England and Germany. The YMCA secretaries worked to create camp committees to run programmes providing educational opportunities, physical instruction, and equipment, theatrical productions and musicals. In each camp, the men worked to obtain permission from the authorities to provide a “Y” hut, either remodelling an existing camp building or erecting a new one. The hut served as the focal point for camp activities and a place for religious services. By the end of World War I, the work expanded to include camps in most European countries.

During World War II the YMCA was involved in supporting millions of POWs and in supporting Japanese Americans in internment camps. This help included helping young men leave the camps to attend Springfield College and providing youth activities in the camps. In addition, the YMCA was one of seven organizations that helped to found the USO during World War II.

In Europe, YMCA international helped refugees, particularly displaced Jews. Sometimes the YMCA participated in escape operations. Mostly, however, its role was limited to providing relief packages to refugees.

22 August 1851

The first America’s Cup is won by the yacht America.

On August 22, 1851, the U.S.-built schooner America bests a fleet of Britain’s finest ships in a race around England’s Isle of Wight. The ornate silver trophy won by the America was later donated to the New York Yacht Club on condition that it be forever placed in international competition. Today, the “America’s Cup” is the world’s oldest continually contested sporting trophy and represents the pinnacle of international sailing yacht competition.

The history of the yacht America began with five members of the New York Yacht Club, who decided to build a state-of-the-art schooner to compete against British ships in conjunction with England’s Great Exposition of 1851. Designed by George Steers, the 100-foot, black-hulled America had a sharp bow, a V bottom, and tall masts, making it strikingly different from the traditional yachts of the day. In June 1851, the America set sail from its shipyard on New York City’s East River, bound for England. Manned by Captain William H. Brown and a crew of 12, the America raced and overtook numerous ships during the Atlantic crossing.

After being outfitted and repainted in France, the America sailed to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to challenge the best British sailboats in their own waters. At Cowes, America welcomed all comers for a match race, but no English yacht accepted the challenge. Finally, on August 22, the America joined 14 British ships for a regatta around the Isle of Wight. The prize was the Hundred Guinea Cup, a 2-foot-high silver jug put up by the Royal Yacht Squadron.

In the 53-mile race, the America trounced the competition, beating the cutter Aurora by 22 minutes and finishing nearly an hour ahead of the third boat, the schooner Bacchante. Queen Victoria watched the race from her royal yacht, and at one point asked, “What is second?” after seeing the America come over the horizon. Her attendant reportedly replied, “Your Majesty, there is no second.”

A few weeks after its victory, the America was sold to an Irish lord for about $25,000, giving its owners a slim profit over what they paid for it. It later went through a series of other owners, one of whom changed the America‘s name to Camilla. As the CSS Memphis, it served briefly as a Confederate blockade runner during the Civil War. The Confederate navy sunk it in Florida to keep it from falling into Union hands, but it was found, raised, and rebuilt by the U.S. Navy, which renamed it the America and used it as a Union blockade ship.

Meanwhile, the first owners of the America deeded the Hundred Guinea Cup to the New York Yacht Club in 1857 to be put up as the prize in a perpetual international challenge competition. The first race for the trophy, renamed the America’s Cup, was not held until August 1870, when the British ship Cambria competed against 14 American yachts in Lower New York Bay. The Cambria finished 10th. The schooner Magic won the race, and the America, refitted by the navy for the occasion, finished fourth. After service as a navy training ship, the America fell into disrepair under private owners. Today, it exists only in fragments.

From 1870 until the late 20th century, New York Yacht Club-sponsored U.S. yachts successfully defended the America’s Cup 24 times in races generally spaced a few years apart. Since the 1920s, the America’s Cup race has been between one defending vessel and one challenging vessel, both of which are determined by separate elimination trials. In 1983, the United States lost the trophy for the first time in 132 years when Australia II defeated Liberty off Newport, Rhode Island.

14 November 1851


The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is first published.

Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819 and as a young man spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. The book was a success and a sequel, Omoo, was published in 1847.

After Moby-Dick‘s disappointing reception, Melville continued to produce novels, short stories and poetry, but writing wasn’t paying the bills so in 1865 he returned to New York to work as a customs inspector, a job he held for 20 years. Melville died in 1891, largely forgotten by the literary world. By the 1920s, scholars had rediscovered his work, particularly Moby-Dick, which would eventually become a staple of high school reading lists across the United States.