This fine museum-quality scale ship model of the paddle steamer Nantucket captures the ship in the year in which it came into service, 1886, operating as a ferry serving the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
This model epitomises the period, after recovery from the civil war, in which the potential of the area for visitors was starting to develop rapidly, as was the USA itself.
The model particularly captures the elegance of the side paddle wheels and paddleboxes, with the Vineyard Gazette saying that the Nantucket “had decorated paddleboxes that made large, rhythmic and beautiful half-circles on the sides”. Paddle wheels were the first practical form of mechanical propulsion applied to a boat, and use seems to go back to the Romans, using oxen to drive them.
Although superseded by the screw propeller, on coastal craft and riverboats, they allow extra width in the design, and extra manoeuvrability. And of course great beauty, as we can see from the photographs of this exquisite scale model, which capture the attention to detail and the high quality of workmanship of the skilled and experienced artisans at Abordage.
The plank-on-bulkhead construction, using the best well-seasoned precious hardwoods, capture the lines of the original, copper-fastened with a double frame of oak, American larch, and cedar. The photographs bring out the detail of the superstructure of the craft, as well as of the paddle wheels and paddleboxes. The quality of the model makes it easy to evoke the thrill of taking the ferry itself, in a country with its recent problems behind it, working hard, and enjoying its free time as it develops rapidly and in liberty.
The Nantucket was in service until around 1907, but the name has been retained, and a ferry with that name continues the service to this day.