Sea History 143 - Summer 2013

Page 34

made by rhe Mercamile Agency on 5 June 185 1 relared char William H. Brown had a significanr amoum of nores oursranding and couldn'r find a marker on Wall Srreer. His paper co mmanded a large discoum and rhe Mercamile Agency reporred char he "mighr be wo rrh $25 0,000 or norhing and doubred he knew himself." 16 On 11 June, in an accouming wirh rhe Schuylers, Brown owed chem a ner amounr of $16,000.'7 Among his other debrs, he owed a large sum of money ro Co rnelius Vanderbilr, and rhe Schuylers helped senle a dispure berween rhe rwo men by guaranreeing Vanderbilr against loss on one of rh e ships in which he had an imeresr. 18 William Brown also sold rhe new sreamer Daniel Webster ro Vanderbilr, while thar vessel was srill on rhe srocks in Seprember 185 1. 19 Before her launching, Brown appears ro have paid for rhe coses associared wirh building America our of his own funds. Afrer 30 Jun e, however, rhe expenses for America were paid by R. & G. L. Schuyler rhrough rheir acco um ser up for William H . Brown. 20 This acco um was debired for amoums paid for rhe schooner, and, when members of rhesyndicare paid their shares of rhe $20,000 due Brown, chose checks we re paid ro R. & G. L. Schuyler and credired ro Brown's acco um. Clearly, he was nor in co m rol of his business ar char rime. Of rhe six members of rh e America syndicare, only fo ur Qohn C. and Edwin Srevens, George L. Schuyler and John K. Beekman) acrually made $4,000 paymems

America arrived ar Le H avre on 11 July 1851. While she was fining out for the final leg to England, on 19 July 185 1 William

! d~ ~ ~ 0


3 ~




~-----------------' ~

George Steers

to purchase America. James Ham.ilron and H amilton W ilkes apparendy did nor acrually pur up money for rheir panicipario n; a fifth share was purchased by W illiam E. Laighr, a New York mercham and fellow member of rhe New York Yachr C lub. 21 On 25 June 1851 rheAmerica cleared New York bound for England under rhe command of Caprain Dick Brown. Aboard was Geo rge Sreers, along wirh his brother James. Abom rhe middle of July, William Brown, sensing rhe inevirable, uansferred rhe rides on the rhree steamers in which he still had an imeresr to rhe Schuylers because "rhey would be much safer in tl1e Schuylers' hands than in his own .,, 22

Am erica's fast lines and the sharp rake of her masts are plainly evident in this photo against the backdrop of the square-rigger astern, offthe Charleston Navy Yard in 1863.


~ ~





< ~ ~



_ _ _ _ _ __ __ _. . __ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.=;._ __


Brown failed, or "became embarrassed ," as ir was politely stared ar that time. 23 Wirh this, his involvemem with rhe schoon er America ended. On 1 Ocrober, a gala dinner was held at rhe Astor H o use in New York ro celebrare Americasgreatvicrory. Toasrswere proposed ro Co mmodore John Cox Srevens, rhe mechanics and anisa ns who builrAmerica, and rhe crew of rhe vessel. 24 There was no memion of William H . Brown. Four monrhs lacer, on 9 January 1852, anorher dinner was held ar rhe Merropoliran Hall in hono r o f George Sreers, who was by now rhe deserved roasr of rhe rown. Four hundred of rhe ciry's mosr influenrial cirizens anended chis gala ro praise Sreers and ro again celebrare Americas vicrory. Again rhere was no memion of Brown. In an ironic rwisr, the final speaker of rhe evening was Edward Collins, who jusr rwo years before had anended rhe rriple launch ar rhe William H . Brown shipyard. He proposed a roas r in rhe memory of Roberr Fulron. 25 Collins would suffer his own financial problems in rhe years ro come, bur ar the rime, he was srill on rop. There is, of course, more to the story of William Brown and rhe Schuylers, bur chis is rhe end of the story on rheir collaborarion on rhe yachr America. Around rhe rum of rhe rwemierh cenrury, rhe lerrer signed by William Brown agreeing ro build rhe America rurned up in rhe possession of his son,Anhur Brown, who had worked for his farher during rhe period when America was builr. H es rared rharhewaswillingto donare rhe lerter ro "someone who is imeresred in rhe histo ry of rhe America. "26 Ar char rime, some of rhe Brown fa mily used rhe lerrer to argue char William H . Brown should h ave received more credir for his pan in building rhe America. This posirion was advanced by Thom as H . M acdonald of rhe Bridgeporr Yachr Club in a lecrure ar rhe Yachrsmen's C lub on Wesr Forry-Third Srreer on 3 April 1901. 27 Macdonald cited some of rhe marerial from rhe "Triple Launch" (a collecrion of comemporary newspaper acco unrs of rhe 1850 evem), and because Anhur Brow n was a resident of Fairfield and had business imeres rs in Bridgeporr, ir mighr be


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.