About the Columbia

Columbia is a Gloucester Fishing Schooner. It was built by Arthur Dana Story from the design of Starling Burgess, at Essex, MA, 1923. The Columbia represents the final development of the Gloucester fishing schooner, famous for speed and seaworthiness. It participated a number of international races, including the one against Bluenose in Halifax. In August 1927 when it was hit by the two Gales, the well-known "Graveyard of the Atlantic", Columbia was lost with all hands off Sable Island.

"As in 1926, weeks of uncertainty were experienced by every family who had loved ones at sea. The Gale took place on August 24, 1927. In the case of the American schooner Columbia, it was October before the owners were able to confirm that their schooner had been lost." (

Columbia.jpg"The Columbia had a graceful sheer, a short keel or exterior deadwood, straight on the bottom from the sternpost running forward to a point somewhat beyond midlength with a strong but almost straight fore rake to fair into a long but somewhat pointed stem profile. The sternpost and exposed deadwood supporting it mark the stern; the counter is long, partly immersed and ending in a sharply raking heart-shaped transom. The entrance is long, slightly convex and sharp. The run is distinguished by long straight buttocks and are fine. Fairing pieces surround the rudder stock and port in the tuck. The midsection was marked by a hollow garboard. Finally the bilge was high and firm with a nice tumble home in the topsides." ( )


The Columbia was designed by the short-lived partnership of Burgess and Paine, naval architects of Boston. "The Columbia was officially measured on October 27th, 1923 just before her race with the “Bluenose” by Raymond J. Milgate, a marine surveyor of Halifax, N.S. Her measurements are as follows:- racing length…..141.2 feet, load waterline….110.0 feet, beam….25.5 feet, draft @ 110.0 LWL ranged from 15.4 to 15.7 feet. Sail area as shown:- 10,290 square feet." (

"The measurement of the Columbia's spars is as follows: mainmast, 95 feet, total length, and stands 84 feet above the deck; the masthead measures down from the upper cap 12 feet. This spar is 19 3/4 inches in diamether at the deck; 19 1/4 inches, half way to the crossstrees and 18 1/2 inches just below the crosstree where the cheeks are fitted." For futher details, please read American Sailing Ships: Their Plans and History by Charles G. Davis.


Important People in the Life of Columbia

Columbia_builders.jpgBuilder: A.D. Story
A.D. Story was the builder of the Columbia. Columbia was launched from his shipyard on April 17th, 1923. During his life, A.D. Story launched more than 400 vessels, including the schooners Columbia, Henry Ford, and Gertrude L. Thebaud.

For more pictures about A.D. Story' shipyard, simply click here.

Designer: W. Starling Burgess

W(illiam) Starling Burgess (Dec. 25, 1878 - Mar. 19, 1947), the designer of the Columbia, was an interesting versatile figurer. He was also inventor, naval architect, airplane manufacturer, and poet. He was born into a prominent Boston family, the oldest of two sons of Edward Burgess, renowned Boston yacht designer whose father Benjamin Franklin Burgess had been a notable New England merchant, and Caroline Louisa (Sullivant) Burgess of Columbus, Ohio. Burgess received his B.A. from Harvard in 1901. It is said that he even withdrew from his senior year from the Harvard to open his own design firm. Carried on his father's brain and talent, Burgess went on also to design three Cup Defenders in the history of America's Cup Racing. As an airplane manufacturer , he flew the first airplane in New England and was considered as an American Aerospace Pioneer. As an poet, he wrote "The Eternal Laughter and Other Poems." For more information about this talented man, you may want to read the books about him or by him below.

Read More About the Columbia

Books about and by W. Starling Burgess

Burgess.jpgBurgess of Marblehead. by Bartlett Gould *
An aerial pioneer : the story of W. Starling Burgess and the Burgess Company, 1910-1918. by Bartlett Gould *
Poet of dynamics: designer Starling Burgess made lasting contributions to the way we travel over land, sea, and through the air by William Martin *
Burgess-Donaldson Collection by W Starling Burgess. Starling Burgess
Register of the papers of W. Starling Burgess by Evelyn M Cherpak

*Because these articles and books are from subscription databases, they are only available to members of the Phillips Academy community.

Books at Phillips Academy, NOBLE or Amazon

Man of ideas. Reproduction of an article from The New Yorker, July 31, 1937.
The history of American sailing ships, by Howard I. Chapelle; with drawings by the author, and George C. Wales and Henry Rusk.
Frame Up! A Story of Essex, its Shipyards and its People (Paperback) by Dana Story
Fast and able : life stories of great Gloucester fishing vessels by Gorden W. Thomas
Growing up in a shipyard : reminiscences of a shipbuilding life in Essex, Massachusetts by Dana A. Story.
Ships of the past, by Charles G. Davis; with an introduction by Irving R. Wiles.

Additional Resources


  • You may also contact Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic for related information. The museum has its Research Library and Archives section which collects all information related to the vessels and its people as well as census records for several areas from 1861 to 1891. It is open year-round, weekdays from 9:00 - 4:00 (holidays excepted). However, they strongly recommend you contact them before your visit to ensure that the records will be fully available for your use.