Ships’ Plans from the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey (HAMMS)

I’ve previously written about the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), which seeks to document all kinds of historic engineering objects– but especially structures and ships. A forerunner of HAER is HAMMS, the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey. HAMMS was a New Deal project intended to employ marine architects and surveyors. Much has been written elsewhere of HAMMS, and one of its biggest champions, Howard I. Chapelle, so I’ll only mention that it lasted about 18 months, 1936-1937, and yielded drawing sets for over 400 vessels, large and small.

The HAMMS collection is a wonderful resource for historians and ship modelers, but there’s a problem. Unlike the HAER works, which are indexed online and are freely available for download from the Library of Congress, the HAMMS material is held tightly by the Smithsonian and is by no means free.

Want to look at some HAMMS plans? First, go to the Smithsonian’s web site, and get their mailing address… because you can’t order any HAMMS material online! You need to send a paper check in order to receive a copy of their paper catalog, the “Ship Plan List”. Once you receive the catalog, you’ll be looking at pages and pages of brief text descriptions… but no illustrations. It’s next to impossible to tell what any particular vessel looks like, or what quality of plans are offered. Plan sheets are sold individually, usually around $10 each… and these need to be ordered by mail as well, with a paper check.

The Smithsonian's Ship Plan List

The Smithsonian’s Ship Plan List

Example HAMMS listings... what will you get???

Example HAMMS listings… what will you get???

By the way- the HAMMS plans were published in 1984 in a LARGE 7-volume collection. This work sometimes comes up for sale… expect to pay anywhere from $1500 to over $3000. Extra if it comes with the original wooden crate.

The Ayers collection of HAMMS plans...

The Ayers collection of HAMMS plans

...and its wooden crate.

…and its wooden crate.

Well, I can’t help with most of that… but I did come into a small collection of HAMMS plans sets that had once been sold through Model Expo. These are no longer available… I can only speculate that there were some copyright issues involved! Again, unlike the HAER work, which is in the public domain, the HAMMS plans’ copyrights are held by the Smithsonian. Anyway, I feel safe in posting reduced size images of these just to show what they look like, and hopefully to inspire you to order some full sized sets from the Smithsonian.

The reduced copies are actually posted on another site; the links below will take you there. Check them out, there are more comments and info there.

Note that the HAMMS plans are numbered XX-YY, with XX representing regions of the US, and YY being a consecutive number. Individual vessels may be documented on anywhere from one sheet to a couple dozen or so. Sheets are typically 17 inches high, and anywhere from 18 to 36 inches wide.

2-132 Skipjack

4-38 Schooner “Alice & Mary”

5-1 Log canoe “Lillian L.”

5-7 Delaware oyster schooner “Smith K. Martin”

5-16 Bugeye “Edith F. Todd”

5-29 Sloop “William Wesley”, an early Chesapeake oyster boat

8-1 Sandbagger “Cheemaun”

8-62 Three-masted Schooner “William Bisbee”

14-1 Great Lakes 3-masted schooner “Lucia A. Simpson”

14-4 Steam lumber schooner “Sydney O. Neff”

16-21 Felucca, or Lateen-Rigged Fishing Smack

16-32 Diesel tug “Marie L. Hanlon”

16-34 Steam lumber schooner “Edna Christenson” (remarkable 21-sheet set!)

16-35 Centerboard schooner “Virginia”

16-41 Sidewheeler “James M. Donahue”

16-45 San Francisco pilot schooner Gracie S.

16-56 Scow schooner “James F. McKenna”

16-70 Sternwheeler “Antelope”

16-72 Crowley #21 Tugboat  and also the similar Crowley #22


2 responses to “Ships’ Plans from the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey (HAMMS)

  1. Pino

    Hello, i am looking for drawings to build a sidewheeler ferry boat with walking beam steam engine. Who can help me. Tank you. write to me at

  2. I would like,any AM MARINE materials

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