Author Archives: jamesrumsey

William H Hunley Passes the Bar

Bill and WilliamHenry

Bill and the William Henry, the workboat named for him, at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation

It’s come to our attention that William H. Hunley recently left us on March 4, at the age of 95.  Bill was not only the designer of the  hull of the Rumseian Experiment, but of many other fine craft as well. He grew up in Matthews VA, right on the Chesapeake  Bay, and the water was never far from him. After he  survived WWII as a front line solider in Europe he returned to the US to become an naval architect,  designing submarine hulls, and on retirement in 1980 was Chief Naval Architect for Research and Development and Technical Director for Ship Design for the Bureau of Ships.

In the 18th c., he would have been called a ” perfect man of parts”. He designed many dinghies, boats and canoes,  restored his father’s  Skipjack, and sailed it down to Florida on the Intercoastal Waterway. He generously dispensed his great wisdom  and time to the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, where he served as President  and mentored many at-risk youth in boatbuilding, as well as spearheading the restoration of their schooner Alexandria. He built musical instruments, became an expert on the Revolutionary War,  was the proud owner of at least two printing presses. He was a great fireplace cook in his restored cabin in Waterford, which he named Trouble Enough Indeed, where he lived until the end. He is survived by two daughters,  Margaret Hunley Noel and Louise Ann Hunley,  a brother Walter Scott Hunley, and many nieces, grandnieces,  nephews, and grandnephews.

When we were on an outing with the Experiment, while we were never sure how the engine was going to work, thanks to Bill we always knew we were in a beautiful boat.  He was unique: there’s no one  who even can remind us of Bill. We’re sorry to lose him, but  we’re thankful to have had him as long as we did.

Old Technology, Modern Ideas

You’ve reached the Rumseian Society, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The Society was first created in Philadelphia, in 1788, to further the inventive career of James Rumsey, and was disbanded with his death, in 1792. It was re-created in 1903 in Shepherdstown, to build the Rumsey Monument that still stands overlooking the Potomac, and was re-created again in 1984 to build the Rumseian Experiment, a replica of James Rumsey’s 1787 steamboat. The Experiment steamed for the last time in 2007, but it can still be seen in the Rumsey Boathouse Museum in Shepherdstown.

The current Society project is the building of Rumsey’s rotary steam engine. If it is successful, we hope to mount it on a boat.

Portrait of Rumsey by West, Smithsonian Museum of American Art

Alexander Botelers Sketch of Rumsey's Portrait

Label from an apple crate, circa 1930?

Rumsey's apparatus for testing water turbines

James Rumsey. Photo of the West portrait in Turner's biography: retouching has changed him considerably