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The Practical Shipbuilder

Date: 1839
Overall: 245 × 290 × 25 mm, 0.95 kg
Medium: Ink on paper in leather bound boards
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00006894
Place Manufactured:New York

User Terms

    This book titled "The Practical Shipbuilder', contains practical information on shipbuilding techniques. It was written by Lauchlan McKay while he was a ships' carpenter for the United States Navy. This was the first American publication on the principles of shipbuilding and it contains the plans of seven types of ships. It was published with the help of Lauchlan's brother, the renowned shipbuilder Donald McKay.
    'The Practical Ship-Builder: Containing the best mechanical and philosophical principles for the construction of different classes of vessels, and the practical adaption of their several parts, with the rules carefully detailed. The whole being plainly and comprehensively arranged for the instruction of the inexperienced' was the first practical work of American origin on shipbuilding.

    SignificanceThis is the first practical book of American origin on shipbuilding. It highlights the development of clipper ships during the 1840s and the work of renowned Boston based ship builders Donald and Lauchlan McKay.
    HistoryThe era of the clipper ships was dominated by a sense of romance, competition, national pride and innovative technology. These sleek and graceful ships were a symbol of American modernity and fundamental to the expanding global economy. Their design concentrated on speed instead of cargo capacity, which was a great benefit to shipping companies eager to transport goods quickly.

    The brothers Lauchlan and Donald McKay were fundamental to the age of clipper ships and became an authoritative voice on ship design and construction. Donald is better known for his shipbuilding achievements, including the construction of the famous record breaking vessels FLYING CLOUD and SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS. Lauchlan McKay is famous for commanding a number of Donald's vessels in top speed times. In 1839 he also wrote the first comprehensive text on American shipbuilding. 'The practical ship-builder' was published in New York and provided mechanical and philosophical information on constructing seven types of vessels. In order to create faster sailing ships, shipwrights needed to find innovative ways to build vessels with sleeker hulls and lighter materials. McKay's book was printed during a period of experimental ship building and helped establish America on the forefront of ship design and construction.

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