History – The Benjamin F. Packard

Benjamin F. Packard was a successful and well known shipwright and was a partner in Goss, Sawyer & Packard, one of the most successful ship-building companies in the world during the late nineteenth century. Packard was a junior partner in the firm. He became quite prominent in Bath and was one of the founders of Bath Savings Institution. The bank still uses a picture featuring the ship named after Packard on their logo.

Benjamin F. PackardThe ship, Benjamin F. Packard, was a 244-foot square-rigged sailing ship launched in Bath on November 15, 1883. Originally built for transporting cargo between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans around Cape Horn by the Bath firm of Goss, Sawyer & Packard, she was typical of the superbly designed, finely crafted “Down Easters” or “Cape Horners” of the late nineteenth century built to carry cargoes around Cape Horn between America’s Atlantic and Pacific ports. The “Down Easters” replaced the clipper ships as the economic demands called for less speed and more cargo-carrying capacity. During most of her twenty-odd years in the Cape Horn trade she was owned by Arthur Sewall & Co. of Bath, the largest firm of Cape Horn merchants at the time, and worked out of New York (though her official port of-registry was Bath). In 1908 she was purchased by the Northwest Fisheries Company of Seattle and was employed by them (1908-18), and later by the Booth Fisheries Company of Port Townsend (1918-25), as a “salmon packer,” carrying fisheries workers and equipment from Puget Sound up to the Alaskan fish canneries in the spring and returning in the fall with the workers and the fish. After the degradation of one last “voyage” from Puget Sound to New York as a lumber barge in tow through the Panama Canal, she was retired in 1927. After retirement, she was moved to Rye, New York, where she was an amusement park attraction; suffering serious damage during the hurricane of 1938 she had to be scuttled. Before she was scuttled, the after cabin paneling and interior furnishings were removed and taken to The Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic, CT.

The after cabin includes the captain’s stateroom; his day cabin, with its rich gold leafed panels restored, marble and brass fixtures, and plush upholstery; and the officers’ mess cabin. The excellence of the various woods, the fine veneers and graceful carving, and the elaborate decorations testify to the overall magnificence of the ship.

Classification: Down Easter (3m)
L/B/D: 244.2’x43.3’x26.7′ (74.4mx13.2mx8.1m)
Tons: 2,076 reg
Hull: wood
Built: Goss, Sawyer & Packard, Bath, Me.; 1883

The Benjamin F. Packard House is a gracious Italianate home, originally built as a Georgian style home in 1790, located in the heart of Bath’s Historic District, one block from the expansive Kennebec River. Originally purchased by Benjamin Packard in the mid-19th century and renovated with an addition in 1845, this home remained in his family for five generations until 1985 when it was sold and began its life as a bed and breakfast.


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