Chet Aero Marine

The wings of flight in an age of adventure…and much more.

George Warrington and His Yachts, Steam and Sail

gw-mawGeorge Warrington was born 9 July 1857 in Chicago, the next to the last child of Henry and Isabella McArthur Warrington. Raised in Chicago, he attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana from 1873 to 1876, majoring in mechanical engineering. (Engineers will be interested to peruse the statics and dynamics book he used by Augustus Smith, which can be downloaded here.

Although he did not graduate, he had one significant milestone: on 6 November 1879 he married Minnie Anna Chester, a native of Champaign who had studied liberal arts at UI. In 1890 they had their one and only son, Chester, the subject of most of this website for his aviation exploits and his yachting ones, too.

Chester at his mother’s relatives’ home in the Champaign area. He’s holding a hammer in his hand; he was always handy with tools and kept a workshop all of his life, but at this age wielding such an instrument generally meant trouble.

Back in Chicago he launched a successful career as a naval architect, designing ships, boilers and steam engines. It was the “Age of Steam” and George was in the middle of an interesting part of that age.

He was a minor participant in the repurchase of the Vulcan Iron Works by he and his two brothers William H. and James N. in 1881. He was involved in some of Vulcan’s more interesting projects, such as the Caldwell Steam Snow Plough, which gained George a patent but not much else.

Although Vulcan produced some of George’s designs, he struck out on his own with the Warrington Iron Works. The 1903 Supplement to the Directory to the Iron and Steel Works of The United States (issued by the American Iron and Steel Association) listed the Warrington Iron Works as follows:

Warrington Iron Works, George Warrington, proprietor, foot of West Wellington St., Chicago. Steel steam and sailing yachts, tow boats, launches, etc. Equipped with a marine railway of 200 tons capacity.

Located near what is now the Diversey Driving Range, the Warrington Iron Works was convenient to his home in Buena Park. From here and elsewhere his graceful ship designs became reality, plying the waters of Lakes Michigan and Geneva, and beyond.


The Thistle

Photo courtesy of Dick Uhl.

Doubtless the most illustrious of the family yachts was the Thistle. Designed by both George and James N. Warrington, she was built and launched in 1887.

The Thistle was in reality owned by George’s father, Henry Warrington. It was 94′ long, 14′ beam, and drew 5 1/2′ of water. (By contrast, the last Warrington yacht was only 65′ long.) The steam engine was a 150 HP compound condensing engine built by Vulcan. It was built by the Warrington brothers in 1886 at a cost of $49,000. An 1888 newspaper description of the yacht said that “…she (the Thistle) was a near perfection in every detail as money and skill could make her…The party (Henry and George Warrington and others) are all residents of Chicago, and courteous gentlemen whose affable and genial manners will ensure them a hearty welcome at any port where their search for recreation may lead them.”


Below is a video slideshow of some of the times George Warrington, his friends and family had on his yachts as they cruised Lake Michigan.

The Thistle was ultimately sold to E.P. Vilas, the 1907 Commodore of the Milwaukee Yacht Club.

George Warrington’s Other Steam Yachts

According to the 1896 edition of Beeson’s Marine Directory (and other sources), George Warrington possessed two other steam yachts:

  • The Buena. With a gross tonnage of 16, a net tonnage of 11, a length of 57′, a beam of 10′ and a draught of 4′, Buena was of more modest proportions than the Thistle (and more in line with what his son and grandson would take to the water with.) It was built in 1892 in Benton Harbor, MI.
  • The Ollie. Another smaller yacht, it had a gross tonnage of 14, it was 51′ long, 9′ beam and drew 4′. It was originally built in Brooklyn, NY, in 1885. On 21 September 1893 the Ollie went to the bottom of the harbour off the foot of Randolph Street in Chicago in two minutes when it collided with another steam yacht, the Volanta. George Warrington purchased the yacht and rehabilitated it. There are indications that he intended to “flip” it (to use a modern real estate term) but instead kept it and sailed it for three years until it was sold to C.W. Hawthorne of Evanston.

Unfortunately, at this point it is impossible to identify the photographs (if they exist) for either or both of these yachts.

The Arline

Although most of George Warrington’s claim to fame rest with steam vessels, he also voyaged into the realm of sail with the Arline, shown below.


The Arline’s heyday was in the summer of 1897, when it seemed to come out victorious in the worst possible circumstances.

Its first victory was on 5 July 1897, when the Thistle led the way to Racine, WI, for what was supposed to be the Lake Michigan Yachting Association’s regatta. The host club, the Racine Yacht Club, was totally unprepared for the arrival of the guests, mostly from Chicago. When Racine’s Commodore Bull arrived at the Hotel Racine, the guests, including George Warrington, then Commodore of the Lincoln Park Yacht Club, demanded to know what the plan was, only to find out he had none.

When that was remedied, the weather made matters worse with little or no wind. Many of the sailing vessels made no headway and had to be towed. Not the Arline, as the following account delightfully puts it:

The performance of George Warrington’s twenty-nine footer Arline was little short of sensational. The pretty white racer had a whisper of a breeze in her sail at the time of starting, at at once shook the fleet with her new admirer, and when jealousy had around the sluggish herd she was showing her heels in a very saucy manner, and it was too late. She was in the middle of the fleet at the start, and finished the seven and a half miles not only ahead of the boats her own size, but beat the schooners and big sloops who had a five minutes’ head start. Her actual time over the course was 2 hours 18 minutes and 9 seconds, while the Peri, next fastest boat over the first course, a much larger boat, could get only within 5 minutes and 48 seconds of that time.

An entirely different scenario awaited Commodore Warrington’s boats on 10 August 1897 in Ottawa Beach, MI, where the Arline competed in the Grand Rapids Yacht Club regatta. The seas were so rough that the 94′ long Thistle was forced to return to port after following the sailing vessels for two miles, Lake Michigan sending 15′ waves over the the steam yacht’s cabin. The Arline however, persevered, winning the nine mile race in 1:35:00 not only by pure speed but also by being the only boat in its class to round all of the stakes.

As was the custom of the time, this event inspired poetry:

The Saga of Arline the Yacht

george-warrington-commodoreOut from the nasty north and west
Came a strong wind,
And breathed upon the sleeping bosom of the Lake.
Where but a while agone
The tiny ripples laughed and played
Upon the sandy shore, now boomed
The sullen thunder of an angry surf.
High in the air the silver spray,
Leaps and glistens in the morning sun,
As wave on wave dashes its snowy head
Against the rock filled piers.
Afar out, struggling amidst the seething hell
Of storm tossed waters,
Three little yachts battle for life and honor.
Now poised upon the summit of a wave,
Shaking the crystals from their trembling sides-
Now plunging deep into the valleys
Between the cold green hills,
They struggle on.
The brain and strength of man
Is matched with nature in her giant mood
And, struggling, conquers-
Now they have made the course,
With started sheets they sweep before
The fierce and following surge
Straight for the harbor’s mouth.
Now comes the victor! ‘Tis the same
As on an idle day, when nature slept,
Led a brave fleet from mark to mark!
Hail to thee Arline!
Dumb thing of wood and iron and hemp!
Well have you played your part.
Hail to the crew!
Who breathed into your wooden frame
The breath of life and made you live!
True sons of the north are they
Claiming their father’s heritage
The empire of the sea-

John B. Berryman.

The Arline had some success the following year. On 1 October 1898 the Arline beat the Chetopa by sailing a four-mile course in 1:44:31 1/4, in a competition held by the Chicago Yacht Club. Beyond that there are no further records of the Arline’s exploits or George Warrington’s ventures into sail, and henceforth the Warrington fleet would ply the waters under steam, petrol or diesel power.

The Pathfinder

As mentioned earlier, George Warrington designed yachts and their boilers and engines not only for himself but for others. Probably the most illustrious of the yachts he was involved with was the Pathfinder, the yacht of Chicago magnate Fred W. Morgan. Below is a stern view of this imposing craft.


Note that the yacht is flying what appears to the the Chicago Yacht Club burgee on the forward mast. This is not the case; it is the burgee of the Lincoln Park Yacht club where both Morgan and George Warrington were members before they moved over to the CYC. When the two clubs merged in the early 1920’s, the CYC survived but adopted the Lincoln Park Club’s burgee as its own.

The Pathfinder at its birthplace, the Racine Boat Mfg. Co.

Probably the best way to describe the craft is to reproduce a contemporary account of its 1896 maiden voyage and arrival in Chicago:

Seventy-five thousand dollars worth of big white yacht steamed into the harbor a little after 6 o’clock last night and dropped anchor with the rest of the fleet under the guns of the United States training ship Michigan. The Pathfinder, built at Racine for F. W.Morgan of the Lincoln Park Yacht Club, Is at last in commission, and made her maiden run from that port to Chicago in four hours and three quarters, including nearly an hour lost time spent In frequent stops to overhaul her machinery. As she came In through the gap in the breakwater the Michigan dropped her colors to the new yacht and all the boats
at the anchorage saluted her.

She passed out of the Racine River at 1:25 p. m. and headed tor Chicago. On board were:

Mr. and Mrs. F. W; Morgan, Miss Agnes Morgan, Ernest Morgan. Hiram Morgan, Frank Tripp, William Herrick, George Warrington, John Williams. J. M. Arnold., Dr. Percy L. Clark, Walter J. Reynolds and Theodore Poekel.

The river banks were crowded with people all the way from the works to the lake who waved handkerchiefs. hats and flags as they bade her bon voyage.

At the wheel was Captain John Denstaedt, her sailing master, while Chief Engineer James Faurat was in the engine-room. The crew of nine hands under the direction of First Officer Willam Brown, was. kept busy cleaning up the boat, polishing up her bright work and putting things ship shape for her first appearance in her home port.

Flnest on the Lakes.

It could not be· expected that her machinery would run smoothly on her maiden trip. and T. S. Poekel, who has personally supervised every bit of the work on her, has kept busy all the way down turning her up. George Warrington, the naval architect who has represented Mr. Morgan in the building of the Pathfinder, also kept a close watch on her performance. To these two is due the credit for the construction of this, the finest and best equipped steam yacht on the chain of lakes. It was a big contract and, notwithstanding annoying delays that have occurred, it has been carried to completion in a manner that reflects credit on all concerned in the enterprise.

Between Racine and Waukegan the engines were stopped several times to make changes in parts of the machinery. The last two hours of the trip everything worked smoothly and the boat was run at a speed of fifteen miles an hour. Near the Lake V!ew crib the yacht was met by the Sentinel, with L. C. Wachsmuth and a party Of friends, who gave her a cordial welcome. A little farther on the launch Beulah steamed alongside, with Rear Commodore Dutton, Secretary Andrews and other members of the Lincoln Park Yacht Club on board. The Beulah followed the big yacht to the anchorage, where her party boarded soon after she dropped anchor and presented Mr. Morgan with a handsome club pennant, which was run up to thp masthead and saluted.

Welcomed in Port.

Then the ceremony of welcoming the queen of the fleet began. From the Columbia Yacht Clubhouse and the yachts in the harbor dingies put off and a regular levee was held on her spacious deck. The excursion boats Chief Justice Waite, Claribel and others of the Lincoln Park and Manhattan Beach lines sailed around her with bands playing and whistles tooting.

When the Michigan’s bugler sounded “colors” the Pathfinder’s signal and ensign halliards were manned and her colors were struck with the same formality observed on the man-o-war. Captain Denstaedt is a strict disciplinarian and a stickler for careful observance of all the rules of etiquette and ship routine. By the time the yacht is thoroughly tuned up he will have his crew well in hand and routine duty will be performed with naval precision and formality.

It was late at night before the visitors had all finished their tour of Inspection, and the tired crew were relieved from boat duty and the watch below given a chance to rest after a hard day’s work.

The Pathfinder Is the largest and most complete steam yacht ever built on fresh water. She is 152 tons burden, is 140 feet on the water line, 18 feet 3 inches beam, 12 feet deep and draws 8 feet 3 inches with thirty-five tons of coal on board. She has five watertight bulkheads built in accordance with the English Lloyds’ requirements.

In the First Class.

She classes A1, with a $70,000 Insurance valuation, and is the only yacht on the lakes with this classification. Her hull is of steel throughout. She is equipped with an inverted triple expansion marine engine, with four cylinders distributed around the circle in such a way as to reduce their vibrations to a minimum. The dimensions of the cylinders are respectively 13 1/2, 19 1/4, 22 1/2 and 22 1/2, the last two making a low pressure. Her shafting is of forged steel, in accordance with United States naval requirements, and is 5 1/2 inches In diameter. She swings a manganese bronze propeller wheel 5.9 feet in diameter by 24 pitch. Independent feed and air pumps are provided of the Blake pattern to maintain a vacuum while the engines are stopped and to feed the boiler. She has a 5 K. W. electric light plant, with seventy-five lights In the circuit. Her steering gear, signal bells, binnacle, and searchlight of twenty amperes are all of the latest pattern.

Her boiler is the Thorneycraft type, seamless steel tubing 1 1/8 inches in diameter, with steam and water drums, 28 and 15 inches respectively, similar to those used in British and other foreign torpedo boats, and it is licensed to carry 250 pounds of steam. To force her fires she has a rotary fan situated in the bulkhead, between the engine and the boiler-room. This serves to give ventilation as well as forced draft.

The Pathfinder’s model is an innovation in yacht designing. She has a cruiser bow and stern, is longer on the water line than on deck. She is painted white, and with her generous free board, might easily be mistaken for one of the ships of Uncle Sam’s white squadron. She carries two spars, with schooner rig. She has a large forward deckhouse, directly over the galley, which serves as a dining-room, and Is fitted with detachable tables along each side, like those in a Pullman car.

Fittings and Furnishings.

At the after end of the house is a mahogany sideboard, with a dumb walter leading down to the galley. All of her interior wood work is of mahogany and her half-bulwarks, from stem to stern, are surmounted by a mahogany rail, set up on stanchions. A cabinet grand piano is set up against the foremast, In one end of the house, and when not in use for meals, the room will serve as a social saloon. A smaller deckhouse aft was added to the original plans, and from this a companion-way, with mahogany rails, leads below to the main cabin. This is a large room, with broad locker seats upholstered in leather, running along each side. It is fitted with writing desks and other conveniences. Opening from this, between the cabin and engine-room, are two large staterooms, fitted with wide berths, each having rows of lockers under them, reaching to the floor, stationary washstands, dressers and bevel glass mirrors complete their furnishing. At the after end of the cabin is a large bathroom, on the starboard and a stateroom on the port side. Abaft this is the owner’s stateroom, running the entire width of the vessel, and opening aft from this are still two more staterooms for his children.

Between the deckhouses the main deck is clear except for the funnel and engine-room skylight. This seventy feet of clear deck room affording ample room for all the popular games that serve to amuse voyagers on a long cruise.

The roof of the forward deckhouse serves as a hurricane deck, and here is steering gear and searchlight. It is bridged out at each side so that the captain has the entire length of the boat under his eye.

Has a Telephone Line.

A telephone system connects every part of the boat, and each stateroom has its own telephone. The equipment of boats is especially complete. In addition to the dingey, gig and cutter, she carries a twenty-one-foot naptha launch, built especially for her by the Gas Englne and Power Company of Morris Heights, N. Y., at a cost of $1,200.

Forward of the engine-room is the galley, seven feet long by the full beam-of the boat in width. Forward of this is the officers’ messroom and the staterooms of the captain, steward and chief engineer. The forecastle is roomy, well lighted and well ventilated, and has a toilet-room for the crew connected with it.

The big white yacht made a brilliant showing at the anchorage last night with her electric lights shining through the portal along her side like a row of great eyes, and many people watched her from the Randolph Street viaduct long after the visitors had left her. The Pathfinder will go out for a short spin this afternoon with a party of members of the Lincoln Park Yacht Club as guests.

Mr. Morgan was thoroughly satisfied with her performance yesterday and has no doubt that she will easily make the speed of eighteen miles an hour, which his contract calls for. She will be tuned up far a few days and will then make a trial speed run before she is formally turned over to the owners, and the bullders released from further liability.

Not everything was perfection with this craft. On 29 July 1897 she was beaten in a race from Chicago to Milwaukee by the Enquirer, a yacht from Buffalo, NY, owned by W.J. Connor. She was unable to finish the race due to a tube breaking in the boiler (should have used a Warrington boiler…)

In March 1898, with the Spanish-American war looming, Morgan offered his yacht to the U.S. Navy for their use. It certainly looked the part…

In 1917 the Pathfinder was sold to the Canadian James Playfair. A subsequent history of the yacht can be found here.

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