Archibald Cary Smith

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Archibald Cary Smith
A Cary Smith.tif
A. Cary Smith
Born(1837-09-04)September 4, 1837
New York City
DiedDecember 8, 1911(1911-12-08) (aged 74)
New York City
Known for
  • First American iron yacht
  • First American to design a yacht on paper

Archibald Cary Smith (September 4, 1837 – December 8, 1911), professionally known as A. Cary Smith, was a naval architect and marine engineer. He studied marine painting for a short time and did some art work, he is known as the first American to develop the concept of designing a yacht on paper using calculations and comparisons, a method of drafting that has been followed ever since for the construction of yachts and taught in many universities. He designed the first iron yacht in America. In his 55 year career he designed dozens of yachts.


Smith was born at New York City on September 4, 1837,[1] he was named after Archibald Cary, an ancestor. Smith's parents were Rev. Dr. E. Dunlap Smith and Jane B. Cary Smith, he had several siblings. Smith's family came to New York City from Philadelphia, he was educated at the University Grammar School of New York City. Smith's paternal grandfather was an ironmaster and had gone to sea as a sailor, so inspired Smith of sailing. In New York City near his father’s church at a street corner was a community water pump; as a young boy, he and his companion friends would dam the streets and then pump water into them to make a small pond. They then would float a homemade craft on their street pond; this was his first experience as a naval architect.[2]

Smith lived near the yard where the yacht America was being built, he spent his time at the yard watching its construction. He then went home and reproduced her in small models he would make of the yacht, he had a strong desire to build boats so was allowed to go to Pamrapo in New Jersey under the tutoring of Captain Bob Fish, a professional yacht skipper. From him he learned the practical side of yacht building and sailing, he later took one term of naval architecture under W.W. Bates, who was a shipwright and later Commissioner of Navigation.[2]

Smith built Comment early in his career in 1860, it was an 18-foot sloop which became famous that defeated all rivals for years. In time he became known as a skilled helmsman of yachts in New York. Later he abandoned yachts and took up marine painting under Mauritz de Haas for a short time, it was during this time he came up with ideas other than being an artist.[3] Robert Center came to America from Europe in 1870 and sought Smith's aid in designing and building an iron yacht in America based on the design of the English cutter Mosquito.[4] Center had with him a copy of Marrett's English book on how to design a yacht using a drawing on paper.[5][6][7] Smith then studied the book and designed in 1870 the cutter Vindex that was built for Center,[8][9] it was built by Reaney, Son & Archbold[10] in Chester, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River in 1871.[11][12][13] It was the first American iron yacht,[14][15][16] it was designed by Smith as a systematic drawing instead of using the old rule-o-thumb method of working off a wooden model as was done up to that time.[7][17][18]

The experience designing the Vindex started Smith on his career of designing yachts on drawings using calculation, which is the method now used in all yacht construction.[5] From that time on in his career he designed every class of yachts and schooners using systematic calculated drawings; the method has since been taught at Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the Webb Academy at New York.[2] After a 55 year career as a naval designer, Smith died in New York City on December 8, 1911.[19][20][21]

Meteor III yacht

Yachts designed[edit]

Smith as a naval architect and marine engineer designed several yachts and schooners.[22] Among these were Comment (1860), Prospero (1873), Intrepid (1878), Mischief (1879), Norma (1879), Fortuna (1883), Rajah (1884), Priscilla (1885), Cinderella (1886), Iroquois (1886), Banshee (1887), Yampa (1887), Gorilla (1889), Lasca (1892), Richard Peck (1892), Ariel (1893), City of Lowell (1894), Amorita (1895), Katrina (1899), Genesee (1900), and Elimina (1905),[6][23] he designed the Sound steamers City of Lowell, Chester W. Chapin, the Refuge and the Free Lance. He also designed and built the iron yacht Vindex.[24]

Smith designed the schooner yacht Meteor III for the German Emperor in 1902, which came about from the previous yacht Yampa.[25] Smith had originally designed and built Yampa for Chester W. Chapin, which in time came into the hands of the emperor.[26] The Kaiser desired to have an additional similar yacht as the Yampa, however bigger and faster, so contacted Smith to design one;[27] this was Meteor III.[28]

Society memberships[edit]

Smith was associated with the Society of Naval Architects and Engineers,[22] he was a board member of the Larchmont Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club.[1] Smith was an active member of the Seawanhaka Yacht Club when it was renamed the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in 1882,[29] he gave lectures at the Club on how to design and construct yachts because of his extensive experience. Examples of his lectures were "How to Build a Yacht" and "Construction of Keel Yachts."[30][31]


  1. ^ a b Leonard 1905, p. 831.
  2. ^ a b c Outing1902 1902, p. 227.
  3. ^ "Yankee Yacht Experts". The Danville News, page 7. Danville, Kentucky. May 22, 1903 – via open access.
  4. ^ Thompson 1986, p. 99.
  5. ^ a b Hallock 1898, p. 521.
  6. ^ a b Yves, Gary (2015). "Smith, Archibald Cary (1837–1911) USA". Yves Gary. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Stephens 1902, p. 223.
  8. ^ "Naval Architect and Yacht Builder Dead". Evening Bulletin, page 19. Honolulu, Hawaii. December 9, 1911 – via open access. He built the Vindex, the first iron yacht
  9. ^ Gilman 1906, p. 699.
  10. ^ Badminton 1894, p. 256.
  11. ^ Stephens 1902, pp. 224–225.
  12. ^ Sullivan 1910, p. 256.
  13. ^ Marine Review 1914, p. 304.
  14. ^ Kenealy 1899, p. 62.
  15. ^ "Local Yacht Fleet". Vancouver Daily World, page 8. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. August 22, 1914 – via open access. All the yachts were of wood with a single notable exception, the Iron cutter Vindex, designed by Mr. A. Cary Smith for Robert Center, the first American cutter, the first Iron yacht and the first yacht built from a design on paper Instead of from the wooden block model.
  16. ^ Kane 1997, p. 510.
  17. ^ Nautical Gazette 1914, p. 26.
  18. ^ Adams 1899, p. 861.
  19. ^ "Impress of Smith Will Long Be Felt". Vancouver Daily World, page 12. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. December 27, 1911 – via open access.
  20. ^ "Noted Yacht Designer Dead". The New York Times, page 13. New York City. December 9, 1911 – via open access.
  21. ^ "Naval Architect and Yacht Builder Dead". The Hawaiian Gazette, page 2. Honolulu, Hawaii. December 12, 1911 – via open access.
  22. ^ a b "Naval Experts in Session". The New York Times, page 12. New York, New York. November 12, 1897 – via open access.
  23. ^ Wilson, James Grant (1900). SMITH, Archibald Cary. New York City: Appleton's cyclopaedia of American biography. p. 556.
  24. ^ "A. Cary Smith very low". The New York Times. New York City. November 27, 1911 – via open access.
  25. ^ "Sail Plan of the Meteor III". The Sun, page 2. New York, New York. February 13, 1902 – via open access.
  26. ^ "Kaiser's new yacht described by a Yachting Expert". The Marion Star, page 7. Marion, Ohio. March 3, 1902 – via open access.
  27. ^ "New Yacht Meteor". The Baltimore Sun, page 6. Baltimore, Maryland. January 28, 1902 – via open access.
  28. ^ "Plan of the Emperor William of Germany's New Schooner Yacht Meteor now building at Shooter's Island, N.Y." The New York Times, page 2. New York, New York. January 19, 1902 – via open access.
  29. ^ "The Seawanhaka Yacht Club / annual meeting and election of officers". The New York Times, page 2. New York, New York. January 11, 1882 – via open access.
  30. ^ "How to build a Yacht". The Times-Picayune, page 7. New Orleans, Louisiana. February 26, 1879 – via open access.
  31. ^ "Construction of Keel Yachts". New York Daily Herald, page 8. New York, New York. February 6, 1879 – via open access.


  • Adams, Charles Kendall (1899). Johnson's Universal Cyclopædia: A New Edition. D. Appleton.
  • Badminton (1894). Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes. The cutter 'Vindex' built by Reany & son and Archibald in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1871, designed jointly by A. Cary Smith and her owner, Robert Center, she is the first iron yacht built in this country"
  • Gilman, Daniel Coit (1906). New international encyclopaedia. Dodd, Mead and company. Keel yachts were built in America for cruising, and the Vindex, the first American yacht that was laid down without a whittled model, and the first American iron yacht, was built at Chester, Pa., on lines similar to the British Mosquito.
  • Hallock, Charles (1898). Forest and Stream. Forest and Stream Publishing Company.
  • Kane, Joseph Nathan (1997). Famous First Facts. H.W. Wilson. ISBN 978-0-8242-0661-1. (#6873) The first Iron sloop yacht was the Vindex, built in 1871 at Chester, PA, by Reany, Son and Company. It was 54 gross tons, 36 net tons, 62.5 feet long, 17.3 feet wide, and had a depth of 7.9 feet and a draft of 8.95 feet. Robert Center was the first owner, it was abandoned on June 30, 1898.
  • Kenealy, Ahmed John (1899). Yachting Wrinkles. Outing Publishing Company.
  • Leonard, John William (1905). Who's who in New York. L.R. Hamersly Company.
  • Marine Review (1914). Marine Review. Penton Publishing Company.
  • Nautical Gazette (1914). The Nautical Gazette; the Gazette.
  • Outing1902 (1902). Outing: Sport, Adventure, Travel. Outing publishing Company.
  • Stephens (1902). Evolution of yacht designer. Outing Publishing Company.
  • Sullivan, Edward (1910). Yachting by R.T. Pritchett. Longmans, Green. The cutter 'Vindex,' built by Reanyson and Archibald in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1871, designed jointly by A. Cary Smith and her owner, Robert Center, she is the first iron yacht built in this country
  • Thompson, Winfield Martin (1986). Lawson History of America's Cup. Sheridan House, Inc. ISBN 978-0-907069-40-9. A career as a marine painter, rather than a designer of vessels, seemed opening to Mr. Smith when, in 1870, Commodore Robert Center interested him in some English designs, which resulted in the designing of Vindex, the first iron yacht built in this country.

External links[edit]