Skip to main content

Herbert Lee Seward Collection of Naval Architectural Plans, Technical Specifications, and Other Material, 1889-1955

Identifier: SC-0005

Contents of Collection

The collection consists of naval architectural blueprints, architectural and engineering specifications, and subject files on various maritime subjects (such as ship parts, ship types, and materials used in ship construction) collected by naval architect, marine engineer, and educator Herbert Lee Seward (1885-1966).


  • 1889-1955


Conditions Governing Access

Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Historical Note

William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Co. (1830-1927) was a respected Philadelphia shipbuilding firm founded by William Cramp (1807-1879). During the almost 100 years of its existence, the firm was commissioned to design and build ships for corporations, states, and nations. The company built over 500 vessels of many types, including battleships, sloops, yachts, caissons, cruisers, tugboats, barges, tenders, lighters, oil tankers, and passenger steamers. At the end of its existence, the firm even produced submarines.

The company was founded under the name William Cramp Shipbuilding Co., but once his sons began to take part in the firm's activities, the name was changed to the William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Co. in 1872.

At the time when most of the blueprints in Seward's collection were produced, the firm was operating under the leadership of William Cramp's son, Charles Henry Cramp (1828-1913), who started working with his father in 1846. During his tenure as president of the company, Charles oversaw the construction of about 200 vessels, most famously the U.S.S. "New Ironsides," which the firm built during the Civil War. The ship participated in the largest number of naval engagements during the Civil War of any other vessel, Union or Confederate.

During the time when the plans in Seward's collection were created, the shipbuilding industry underwent many changes, including the transition from wooden to iron and then steel vessels. Machinery, industrial organization, and naval architecture and construction were also the subjects of radical change. Many small shipbuilding companies were replaced by a few large corporations. As vessels grew larger and more complex, the plant and equipment infrastructure, as well as expenditures, grew along with them.

The firm managed to weather these changes until 1915, when the firm was purchased by the American Ship and Commerce Corporation and in 1919, a larger conglomerate absorbed it. In 1927, the shipbuilding branch of the conglomerate was discontinued. Shipbuilding operations recommenced in 1941, but after wartime contracts were completed in 1946, the shipyward ceased operations permanently.


8 Linear Feet (19 standard-sized document boxes, 1 half-sized document box)

Language of Materials



Collection of naval architectural plans, naval architectural and engineering specifications, and subject files addressing various aspects of ship construction and components, assembled by Mr. Seward, a naval architect, marine engineer, and educator. The architectural plans, created by the firm William Cramp and Sons, date from the early 20th century. Some items in the collection were probably originally obtained by two colleagues of Mr. Seward, Axel Rossell and Horace H. Thayer.

Arrangement of Materials

The collection is arranged in three series: Blueprints, Specifications, and Subject Files.

Physical Location

Stephen B. Luce Library, SUNY Maritime College 6 Pennyfield Avenue Bronx, NY 10465 Telephone:(718) 409-7231

Custodial History

The early 20th century naval architectural blueprints were originally the property of the firm that created them, William Cramp and Sons. Parts of the collection may have belonged to two of Seward's colleagues, Axel Rossell and Horace H. Thayer. Seward subsequently acquired all of these items and assembled them into his collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

According to the legacy finding aid, the collection was donated to the SUNY Maritime College by Seward or his family around 1960. No Deed of Gift or other documentation of the acquisition has been located for the collection.


"Herbert Lee Seward: educator, marine engineer, maritime consultant, naval architect." Prabook, Accessed on November 3, 2016.

Farr, Gail E., Bostwick, Brett F., and Willis, Merville. Shipbuilding at Cramp and Sons: A History and Guide to Collections of the William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Company (1830-1927) and the Cramp Shipbuilding Company (1941-1946) of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 1991.



Herbert Lee Seward Papers, 1889-1955
Margaret Hammitt-McDonald
November 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Edition statement
The legacy finding aid (date and author unknown) consisted of a brief biographical note, a scope note, and a detailed (item-level) inventory. In fall of 2016 the collection description was refined and entered into ArchivesSpace by Margaret Hammitt-McDonald (Archival Intern) under the supervision of Annie Tummino (Archivist).

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen B. Luce Library Repository

6 Pennyfield Avenue
Bronx NY 10465 United States
(718) 409-7231