Thomas W. Lawson

The Thomas W. Lawson was a seven masted steel schooner designed by Bowdoin B. Crowninshield and built by the Fore River Ship & Engine Building Co., Quincy, MA, in 1902 for Coastwise Transportation Co. (John G. Crowley), Boston, at a cost of USD 258.000. The contract was signed on June 25, 1901, and the new ship was launched on July 10 1902. Her dimensions were 112,62×15,25×10,71 meters [369'3"×50'0"×35'2"], and with a tonnage of 5218 GRT and 4914 NRT.

She carried 25 sails in all, 7 gaffsails, 7 topsails, 6 staysails and 5 jibs, with a total area of 43.000 sq feet and with a weight of 18 tons. The sails were made by the sailmaking firm E.L. Rowe & Son of Gloucecester, MA.

The naming of the masts of the Thomas W. Lawson has been the subject for some discussion. However, according to a letter from her first master Capt. Arthur L. Crowley and preserved at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, the seven masts were called Fore, Main, Mizzen, Number 4, Number 5, Number 6, and Spanker.

Although, originally designed for the trans-Pacific trade she was used in the coal trade until she was rebuilt in 1906 at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. for carrying oil in bulk. The topmasts were also removed at that time and the lower masts were used to vent the holds from oil gases.

Bound for London loaded with oil she was caught in a storm off the Scilly Islands on the 13th of December 1907. As she could not weather the islands it was decided to try to anchor, but during the night her anchor chain broke and she stranded on the Scilly Islands. Thirteen of the crew lost their lives.

Photograph from A Maritime Album: 100 Photographs and Their Stories published by The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA, USA.

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Updated 1998-12-29 by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.