William P. Stephens Award

The William P. Stephens Award, established in 1988 and named for the man long known as the “Dean of American Yachtsmen” and “The Grand Old Man of American Yachting,” is given by Mystic Seaport Museum in recognition of a significant and enduring contribution to the history, preservation, progress, understanding, or appreciation of American yachting and boating.

Photographer Benjamin Mendlowitz. (Photo courtesy Benjamin Mendlowitz/NOAH Publications)

The award was presented most recently on July 31, 2019, to distinguished yachting photographer and author Benjamin Mendlowitz whose work is the definitive visual chronicle of the renaissance of wooden boats in America over the last 40 years.
Mendlowitz’s name will be featured on a plaque on the award, which is a rigged model of sandbagger Susie. The model was donated by Stephens’ daughter, Eleanor, who formerly was a librarian at Mystic Seaport and also worked for the New York Yacht Club. Each award recipient also receives their own half model of Susie.

Previous William P. Stephens Award recipients include: Llewellyn “Louie” Howland III, 2017; John Rousmaniere, 2014; Betsy and B. Hunt Lawrence, 2013; George Moffett, 2011; Henry H. Anderson, Jr., 2009; Joseph Gribbins, 2001; Maynard Bray, 1999; Carleton Mitchell, 1997; Jon Wilson, 1996; Dick and Colleen Wagner, 1995; Waldo Howland, 1994; David “Bud” McIntosh, 1993; John Gardner, 1992; Briggs Cunningham, 1991; Elizabeth Meyer, 1990; William Garden, 1989; and Olin Stephens, 1988.

William P. Stephens

William P. Stephens
William P. Stephens

The award’s namesake, William Picard Stephens, was born August 5, 1854 in Philadelphia and graduated from Rutgers College in 1873 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He first became interested in boating while in college, and later built his first boat, a Rob Roy Canoe. In 1878 Stephens worked for the John Roach Shipyard in Chester, Pa., and then went on to start a boat shop in West Brighton, Staten Island where for five years he designed and built canoes and small yachts. In 1880 he was one of the founders of the American Canoe Association and in 1883 he became the canoeing and yachting editor of Forest and Stream, a position he held for many years. He was also one of the organizers of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. In 1903 he began as editor of Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts, a post he held for 29 years.
Stephens held memberships in the Humber Yawl Club, the New York Canoe Club, the Royal St. Lawrence and Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Clubs, and was a charter member and historian of the Cruising Club of America. His life was devoted to the sport he loved best, and he wrote extensively on the subject. His books include: Canoe and Boatbuilding for AmateursSupplement to Small Yachts; American Yachting and Traditions and Memoirs of American Yachting. Stephens died on May 10, 1946 at his home in Bayside, N.Y. at the age of 91.

Past Winners

1988     Olin J. Stephens II

1989     William Garden

1990     Elizabeth Meyer

1991     Briggs Cunningham

1992     John Gardner

1993     David “Bud” McIntosh

1994     Waldo Howland

1995     Colleen and Dick Wagner

1996     Jonathan Wilson

1997     Carleton Mitchell

1999     Maynard Bray

2001     Joseph Gribbins

2009     Harry Anderson Jr.

2011     George Moffett

2013    Hunt and Betsy Lawrence

2014    John Rousmaniere

2017    Llewellyn Howland III

The William P. Stephens Collection at Mystic Seaport

The Museum’s William P. Stephens Collection consists of miscellaneous papers, correspondence, notes, clippings, pamphlets, and specifications relative to the yachting activities of W. P. Stephens. Included is a series of specifications for approximately 500 boats which are arranged alphabetically by the boat’s name.