Bristol's Marine History
Boat building and related industries have played a major role in the life of Bristol since the early 17th century. The Bristol community has always been interwoven with the sea. From its earliest settlers ferrying produce to Providence to shipping merchants dealing in the slave trade, Bristol has seen a constant ebb and flow of maritime trade.
Reaching its zenith in the early 1800s, Bristol's shipping industry was brought to a grinding halt with the close of the slave trade. The foreign shipping interests still provided some industry but it never again became the sole supporter of the community. With the start of the industrial revolution and the invention of the steam engine turbine the maritime industry was renewed.
In 1878, the Herreshoff brothers (Nat and J.B.) formed the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, landing government contracts for fast gunboats and torpedo boats. It was the move to build sailing vessels, however that brought the Herreshoff family to the history books. Recognized for pioneering efforts in design, Captain Nat designed and built the largest and most powerful yachts for the defense of the America's Cup, funded by the like of J.P. Morgan and Harold Vanderbilt.