COLLECTING Scale Ship Models

By Bloom, Jim | Sea Classics, August 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

COLLECTING Scale Ship Models

Bloom, Jim, Sea Classics

A professional modeler reveals the secrets of how to amass a valuable collection of ship models / Part One

Regular readers of Sea Classics most likely have visited maritime museums nd therefore appreciate how the numerous precisely executed ship models on display enhance one's understanding of Naval history. You may even be a ship model builder, or collector. Tve frequently made use of pictures of ship models and miniature nautical dioramas to illustrate my historical articles on ships and seafaring. They usually provide a clearer image of the actual ship than do hasty, blurry action photographs of the vessels or paintings and woodcuts by landlubberly artists who distort the proportions and fudge the details. It's particularly true of depictions of ships before the advent of photography in the 1830s. Further, the model allows one to examine the "full hull" perspective - often lacking in illustrations of ships at sea - as well as to examine the ship from a variety of angles.

My use of illustrations employing lilliputian facsimiles reflects my fascination with building and collecting ship models. It also relates to how I first became interested in taking up maritime history and current military and Naval affairs. My connection with ship models (see sidebar) may interest those readers with a similar inclination. It was my early involvement with ship modeling that eventually led to my second career as a maritime historian.

As the following text and photos will show, ship models have been an integral part of our culture for thousands of years. While intuitive logic or statistics may demonstrate that model aircraft, cars, or tanks are more popular subjects for hobbyists, there is a certain majestic, eternal quality in the model of a proud galleon, clipper, ship of the line, heavy cruiser, destroyer, PT boat, pleasure yacht, or even the lowly tramp steamer. Because it is difficult to display massive full-sized ships in a museum setting, their diminutive replicas are also a vital element in educating the general public about its maritime heritage. The history-model connection can be demonstrated by the utility of models, be they scratch-built, kit-built, or "off the shelf fully assembled models, to eminent authors and public figures in the Naval historical field.


It is no coincidence that some of the most respected Naval historians are also avid builders or collectors of model ships. One notable example is Roger Charles Anderson whose nautical articles and books, spanning the years 1905-1955, demonstrate the synergy between the model and historical exposition. His most famous book expressly for the model shipwright is The Bagging of Ships in the Days of the Spritsail and Topsail 16001 720 and for the collector or connoisseur, his expertly annotated Catalog of Ship Models in the National Maritime Museum. Anderson was himself a builder of ship models and he used models that he built or purchased to illustrate some of his most erudite and esteemed books on Naval history, notably Oared Fighting Ships, Naval Wars in the Levant, 1559-1853, and JVa val Wars in the Baltic, 1522-1850.

Howard I. Chapelle, the renowned authority on American sailing ships and boats, marine architect and historian, and long-time curator of the Smithsonian Institution's National Watercraft Collection, was an avid model builder and collector. He frequently contributed to ship modeling journals and drafted ships plans scaled down to the standard museum model sizes. He supervised the rommissioning, building, and collecting of the superb assemblage of ship models on display at the American Museum of History and Technology in Washington, DC. While at the Museum, he also directed the planning and construction of hundreds of ship models for the Hall of Merchant Shipping. Chapelle retired in 1971, beoeming Historian Emeritus in the Museum. A prolific writer, he authored a number of books on maritime history and marine architecture in addition to his ship modeling essays.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

COLLECTING Scale Ship Models


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?