The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Volunteer, the America’s Cup victor—of 1887

The extraordinary come-from-behind victory of Oracle Team USA in the recent America’s Cup competition calls to mind a time when Boston was the center of American yacht racing design and development.  Between 1885 and 1887, the local team of Charles Jackson Paine (owner) and Edward Burgess (designer), first as part of a syndicate and then twice on their own, defended the Cup in three successive campaigns.  The triumph of their center-board sloop, Volunteer, over the British challenger, Thistle, in September 1887, was the cause of an enormous victory celebration that took place, on October 7, 1887, 126 years ago , at Faneuil Hall in Boston.  While photographs of elegant Volunteer evoke a romantic, now long-lost age of sail, she was, in her own day, as innovative as the wing-sailed catamarans that vie for the Cup today.  Designed and built in great secrecy with steel frames and plating, Volunteer could carry ballast lower in her hull than her wooden-hulled predecessors.

Although 19th–century Boston was increasingly divided along ethnic and political lines, in 1887 the entire city came together in a joyous outpouring of patriotism at a monumental reception for their local heroes. So many ardent supporters attended the event—which included the reading of a poem written for the occasion, “Bostonia Victrix”— that the program was interrupted at several points “to allow the assembled multitude to greet the guests of the evening with a hand-shake.”  Newspaper reporters estimated that 7,000 people queued up for the opportunity to personally thank “enterprising” Charles J. Paine and equally “inventive” Edward Burgess, the “guardians of the Cup.”    

permalink | Published: Monday, 7 October, 2013, 12:00 PM


Commenting has closed for this post. Thank you for participating.