Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Nimitz Library
Nimitz Library

Samuel Humphreys Letterbook, 1824-1845: Finding Aid

Published in April 2020

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 146
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Samuel Humphreys Letterbook
  • Dates: 1824-1845
  • Size: 0.15 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 83 leaves
  • Creator: Humphreys, Samuel, 1778-1846
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Samuel Humphreys was an American naval architect. The Samuel Humphreys Letterbook spans from October 25, 1824 to March 24, 1845. The letterbook consists of copies of letters sent by Humphreys before and during his time as Chief Constructor, pertaining primarily to business and financial matters.

Biography of Samuel Humphreys

Samuel Humphreys, son of Joshua Humphreys who designed the U.S. Navy's original six frigates, was born in 1778. In 1824, while already in the employ of the United States Navy as a constructor, Humphreys was offered, and declined, the job of building a navy for Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Two years later, he assumed the role of Chief Constructor for the United States Navy, a position he held until his death in 1846.

During his career, Humphreys designed, built, or supervised the construction of ships-of-the-line U.S.S. Franklin, U.S.S. North Carolina, and U.S.S. Pennsylvania; the store ship U.S.S. Relief; and the frigate U.S.S. Philadelphia. He also built, at the direction of President John Adams, the schooner Hassan Bashaw for the Dey of Algiers.

Back to Top

Description of Contents

The Samuel Humphreys Letterbook, comprising 0.15 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 83 leaves, spans from October 25, 1824 to March 24, 1845. The letterbook consists of copies of letters sent by Humphreys before and during his time as Chief Constructor, pertaining primarily to business and financial matters.

Specific entries include a request that sculptor William Rush be appointed to design the figurehead for a new U.S. Navy vessel (likely U.S.S. Pennsylvania, September 4, 1826); questions of jurisdiction over the Philadelphia Navy Yard (September 26, 1826); supplying of Schuylkill water to the Navy Yard (September 27, 1826); appointment as Chief Naval Constructor (November 28, 1826); accusations of political favoritism towards Humphreys (March 17, 1829); plans for building steam batteries (October 19, 1831); plans for improved steam engine boiler (July 18, 1834); objection to loss of appropriations for Philadelphia Navy Yard (March 1836); suggestion that post of Assistant Naval Constructor be created (December 19, 1836); and the completion of U.S.S. Pennsylvania (March 6, 1837).

Back to Top


The Samuel Humphreys Letterbook comprises a single volume.

Back to Top

Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Samuel Humphreys Letterbook is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

Back to Top

Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Allen M. Yonge in 1961.

Back to Top

Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Samuel Humphreys in this repository includes his Directions for cutting Timber for a Frigate of the first Class, 1835, MS 194; and an 1843 letter from Charles W. Goldsborough, MS VF 16.

Documentation of Humphreys' designs can be found in the Collection of Ship Plans and Drawings by John Lenthall's Mentors, 1790-1853 at the Independence Seaport Museum. Additional material pertaining to Humphreys' family can be found in the Humphreys Family Papers, 1840-1918 at the University of North Carolina.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

Back to Top

Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Samuel Humphreys Letterbook, MS 146

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Navy Department. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1959-1981.

"Samuel Humphreys, Esq." Army and Navy Chronicle 5, no. 4 (July 27, 1837): 52.

"Samuel Humphreys, Chief Naval Constructor of the United States." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (June 1884): 216-222.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in April 2020.

Back to Top

Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Humphreys, Samuel, 1778-1846
  • Pennsylvania (Ship-of-the-line)
  • Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Shipbuilding -- United States

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts
Back to Top

Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Samuel Humphreys Letterbook, 1824-1845

Back to Top