This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
These papers of Howard Irving Chapelle consist of his professional correspondence while he was Senior Historian and Historian Emeritus. Very little is concerned with Museum or Division of Transportation affairs. The correspondence concerns the history of naval architecture, amateur boatbuilding, availability of ships' plans, the restoration of historic ships, and the publication of Chapelle's later works. Correspondents include museum curators, historians, naval architects, amateur boatbuilders, and model builders.
Howard Irving Chapelle (1901-1975), marine architect and historian, began his career as a marine apprentice and designer in 1919. He worked for a number of shipbuilders until he went into business for himself in 1936. During this period, Chapelle also served as head of the New England section of the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey, a Depression-era project to gather information on American maritime history and provide work for destitute marine architects.
Chapelle's business was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the United States Army Transportation Corps ship and boatbuilding program. Following the war, he pursued his interest in the history of marine architecture, traveling to England in 1950 to study colonial ship design on a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1956-1957, Chapelle went to Turkey under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to serve as a consultant to the Turkish government on fishing vessel construction and fitting.
Chapelle was appointed Curator in the Division of Transportation, National Museum of History and Technology, in 1957. He served in that position until 1967 when he became Senior Historian. While at the Museum, he directed the planning and construction of hundreds of ship models for the Hall of Merchant Shipping. Chapelle retired in 1971, becoming Historian Emeritus in the Museum. A prolific writer, Chapelle authored a number of books on maritime history and marine architecture.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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