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USS America (IX-41) at Annapolis, Md., in 1930
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Class: AMERICA (IX-41)
Design: Sailing yacht, 1851
Displacement (tons): 89 gross, 146 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 108.0' oa, 90.2' wl, 87.5' pp x 22.2' e x 11.6'
Original Armament: None
Later armaments: --
Machinery: Sails (schooner yacht)
||1 Oct 21
||William H. Brown
||3 May 51
||11 Oct 45
||ca Nov 45
In 1851 the famous American yacht designer George Steers designed a racing schooner yacht on the lines of New York pilot boats, which had a reputation for speed, seaworthiness, and general efficiency. The yacht, named AMERICA, sailed to England and on 22 Aug 51 won the 53-mile race around the Isle of Wight for the cup that today bears her name. She was sold immediately after the race to an Englishman who renamed her CAMILLA. She was rebuilt in 1859, and in 1861 she was reportedly sold to the Confederate Government for use as a blockade runner and renamed MEMPHIS. She was scuttled in a Florida creek in March 1862 to prevent capture but was raised by the Union Navy, renamed AMERICA, and used to enforce the blockade. In May 1863 she was assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy at Newport to train midshipmen and she performed this duty until laid up at Annapolis in 1866. She was recommissioned in 1870 to participate in the first challenge race for the America's Cup and finished an honorable fourth.
Despite protests from Naval officers, the yacht was auctioned off at Annapolis on 20 Jun 73 for $5,000 to Gen. Benjamin F. Butler and Col. Jonas H. French of Boston and was used for racing and cruising. She was rebuilt 1881 and a lead keel was added in 1886. She was last under sail in the 1901 yachting season, after which she was laid up at Boston. In 1917 a group of Cape Verde merchants from New Bedford tried to buy her for use in the Cape Verde trade, but the Bostonian Charles H. W. Foster got them to accept another vessel and bought her himself. In 1921 Foster transferred the yacht to the Eastern Yacht Club of Marblehead, Mass., where the AMERICA Restoration Committee was established to collect funds to restore her for transfer to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. After painting and repairs at the George S. Lawley yard near Boston, AMERICA left on 10 Sep 21 with masts stowed on deck under tow by SUBMARINE CHASER No. 408, arrived at Annapolis on 29 Sep 21, and was taken over by the Navy in a ceremony on 1 Oct 21 upon payment of $1.00 (Navy Regulations forbidding the acceptance of a gift).
AMERICA was towed in 1922 to the Washington Navy Yard, where she had her bottom coppered and most of her cabin fixtures removed, giving her a clean sweep below deck. She was then moored at the Naval Academy as a museum and stationary training vessel. On 27 Nov 23 the Navy Department directed that she be included in the "Unclassified" section of the regular Navy List. The Navy Filing Manual assigned the symbol IX-41 for filing correspondence relating to AMERICA, and on 17 Feb 41 this symbol was assigned by SecNav as a designator (hull number) for the vessel.
In December 1940 AMERICA, leaking and in need of repairs, was hauled out at the Annapolis Yacht Yard and put on blocks for storage. President Roosevelt wanted her to become part of a National Naval Museum that he hoped to build at Washington, D.C., and a shed was erected over her to allow restoration work during the winter. On 29 Mar 42 a heavy wet snowfall caused the shed to collapse and crush the fragile hull of the yacht. After the war the Navy concluded that she could not be restored, and on 18 Sep 45 CNO recommended that she be stricken and scrapped and that a model be constructed by the David Taylor Model Basin using sound original material from the vessel. The remains were scrapped at the Annapolis Yacht Yard in October or November 1945 and the model was presented to the Naval Academy Museum by SecNav in 1948.
||Ex yacht AMERICA 1921, ex USS AMERICA 1873, ex Confederate MEMPHIS 1862, ex British CAMILLA 1861, ex AMERICA 1851. Donated to Naval Academy 1921 as museum. Protective shed collapsed on her 29 Mar 42, remains scrapped late 1945.
Compiled: 20 Mar 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013