One of the oldest surviving commercial vessels in America, the Emma C. Berry slid down the ways in June 1866 into the Mystic River at Noank, two miles south of Mystic at the mouth of the river. Built at the R & J Palmer Shipyard by James A. Latham, the Berry was designed to the specifications of a Noank “smack”– an able craft well-known from Maine to the Caribbean. Captain John Henry Berry of Noank got what he asked for: a sloop rig carrying a large mainsail, two headsails and, for light weather, a gaff topsail. The vessel was equipped with a well for storage of the catch, the well being a truncated pyramidal construction amidships into which water flowed through numerous holes in the bottom hull planking, keeping the catch alive for delivery to the markets. Berry named the smack for his daughter.
Rerigged as a schooner in 1886, taken to Maine in 1894, and fitted with a Knox gasoline engine in about 1916, the Berry was an active fisherman until 1924, when her days seemed to be ended and she was left on the flats at Beals Island. In 1926 Milton Beal bought her for use as a coastal freighter, sailing between Jonesport, Rockland, and Portland, Maine, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1931 she was found and restored by wooden-boat enthusiast F. Slade Dale, a New Jersey yacht basin owner, who, in 1969, donated the Berry to Mystic Seaport Museum. The Emma C. Berry was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Exhibited afloat, she appears much as she did when originally built. Illustrated books, with plans, covering her restorations at the Museum Shipyard are available at the Mystic Seaport Museum Bookstore.