The Smithsonian's collection of watercraft plans, maintained by the
History of Technology Division of the National Museum of American History,
is a valuable resource for the maritime historian, the student of naval
architecture, other scholars, the model builder, and craftspeople. To make
this collection more accessible to the public, black-line reproductions of
many of the plans are offered for sale. The following three publications
contain descriptions of plans and instructions for ordering large-scale
copies; these catalogs are only available by writing to the address
below. The catalogs and plans belonging to the Smithsonian Institution
are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without prior
1. Ship Plan List (American merchant ships and small craft)
This 250-page catalog lists plans of historic American watercraft -- bark canoes, clipper ships, fishing schooners, skipjacks, sidewheel steamers, harbor tugs, and many others.
Among the plans listed in the Ship Plan List are those published in the following books and articles by Howard I. Chapelle:
Unpublished plans by Howard I. Chapelle are also listed. These include plans for historic yachts, pilot schooners, and small craft.
This catalog also lists plans from:
2. The Smithsonian Collection of Warship
This 76-page list includes plans for American sailing and early steam warships from the mid-18th century to 1900. Many are from Howard I. Chapelle's book The History of the American Sailing Navy. Some ordnance drawings also are included.
3. The Maritime Administration Collection of Ship Plans (1939 -- 1970)
This 70-page list includes ship design plans recently acquired from the
Maritime Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. Fifty-five
vessel designs are represented, including plans for World War II Liberty
and Victory ships, cargo vessels, passenger ships, tankers, container
ships, and other designs from the 1950s and 1960s. The collection also
includes 60 sheets of design plans for the famous superliner SS United
Each publication is $10.00 (U.S.), postpaid. Foreign orders may obtain airmail by adding an additional US $5.00. Please indicate which catalog(s) you wish to receive and enclose a check or money order payable to the Smithsonian Institution for the total amount. Do not send cash. We cannot accept credit card orders. All foreign orders should be paid by check, in U.S. funds, payable on a New York bank.
All orders are handled by mail. Please send your order to:
NMAH 5004 / MRC 628
Washington, DC 20560-0628 USA
Notice to Mariners
The majority of the Smithsonian watercraft plans are NOT original builder's plans. Most are the result of field documentation -- the process of taking the lines off historic vessels and half-hull models. Therefore, complete construction details and tables of offsets are not always available. Skilled naval architects and boat builders typically can develop tables of offsets from basic lines plans. In fact, we have heard from a number of boat builders who have built full-sized craft from Smithsonian plans. However, the Smithsonian cannot warrant the seaworthiness or safety of vessels built from its collection of study plans.
For questions on design drawings for specific vessels, please write to
the above address. We generally fill orders within four weeks of