Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Eckford, Henry

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ECKFORD, Henry, naval architect, b. in Irvine, Scotland, 12 March, 1775; d. in Constantinople, 12 Nov., 1832. In his sixteenth year he was placed with a naval constructor at Quebec, and in 1796 removed to New York, where he introduced important changes in the art of ship-building, and took the lead in this business, his vessels proving superior in strength and speed. In the second war with Great Britain, 1812-'15, he was employed by the government to construct ships-of-war on the lakes, and filled the contract with expedition and skill. After the war he built the steamer “Robert Fulton,” which, in 1822, made the first successful voyage by steam to New Orleans and Havana. When afterward rigged into a sailing-vessel she became the fastest and most efficient sloop-of-war in the Brazilian navy. Mr. Eckford was appointed naval constructor at Brooklyn in 1820. Six ships-of-the-line, of which the “Ohio” was the first, were built after his models. The “Ohio,” which was one of the old line-of-battle ships, was in her day one of the finest in the world, and Mr. Eckford distinguished himself in designing and building these ships-of-war. The “Ohio” was three times in special government service; twice a flag-ship; and, finally, as a receiving-ship in Boston in 1850, was the scene of many brilliant festive occasions, being visited by thousands from all parts of the world. He left the government service in consequence of disagreement between the naval commissioners, and began building war-vessels for European and South American powers. President Jackson requested him to submit a plan for the reorganization of the navy, which he did, and he was about to establish a professorship of naval architecture for Columbia college, by giving $20,000 to it, having engaged the first professor, when a disastrous affair swept away his large fortune. In 1831 he built a sloop-of-war for Sultan Mahmoud, of the Ottoman empire, and was solicited to enter his service as chief naval constructor for the empire. This led him to visit Turkey, where he established a navy-yard, and there died. Mr. Eckford's house in “Love Lane,” now West 26th street, New York, was the resort of the friends and poets Halleck and Drake and Dr. De Kay, two of whom became his sons-in-law. He was a man greatly beloved for a character both forceful and beautiful.