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We start our tour from the left-hand end of the Timeline Wall by the entrance to the museum.
The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company was formed in 1878 by John Brown Herreshoff and Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. They were the 4th and 7th of nine children born to Charles Frederick and Julia Anne Lewis Herreshoff in 1841 and 1848 respectively. Charles’ father had married into the wealthy Brown family and so he didn't really have to work. Early in life, they lived on Poppasquash Point across the harbor from here, but in 1856, they moved into the big house on Hope street that you can see if you look at the front door. That house is now owned by the museum. At that time, there was a small tannery shed across the street on the water and Charles, being somewhat of a tinkerer, designed and built a number of boats there all named after his wife Julia. So the Herreshoff children grew up in a home where boat design and construction was dinner table conversation, and since their lives essentially revolved around the bay, they got interested too.
At the young age of seven, older brother John lost the sight in one eye. His misfortune was compounded seven years later when he was hit in his other eye by a stick while playing, and, losing the sight in that eye as well, he was completely blind at age 14. For a month, he was despondent and refused to leave his room, however, with his mother’s encouragement, he went back to building a boat with his father and 8 year old Nathanael helping. This set the pattern for John and Nathanael throughout the rest of their lives. John was the older brother and he was definitely in control, but young Nat became his eyes. There were times that young Nat chafed under John’s rule, but the partnership – rooted in a shared passion for boats and steam power – remained successful for many years.