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Streamlined: From Hull to Home [Opens June 15, 2019]

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Streamlined. Water Witch outboard motor

This Waterwitch engine was designed in 1936, made in 1938 by the Kissel Industry Company in Hartford, WI, sold by Sears Roebuck Co. It is a gasoline outboard engine, Waterwitch model MB, 2 stroke, 2 cylinder. Rope start engine with “twin-pod” fuel tanks. Photo: Joe Michael/Mystic Seaport Museum

Streamlined: From Hull to Home
June 15-August 24, 2019
Collins Gallery

Streamlined: From Hull to Home charts the progress of streamlining from naval engineering through design and manufacturing, and into our everyday vocabulary. The exhibit features boats, outboard motors, and images from the Museum’s Rosenfeld Collection, along with household objects and advertisements.

In today’s world, “streamlining” is a term in regular use to describe the process of making something more efficient, removing obstacles, and simplifying. We use it to describe improvements in business practices, better experiences buying tickets to the movies, and even graceful web navigation. But few consider the long history of this word, which has its origins almost 150 years ago. Numerous professions and technologies were involved in the evolution and popularization of this ubiquitous word.

REVERE was completed in 1941 by the Palmer Scott plant in Fairhaven , MA from the design of B.T. Dobson of New Bedford for Revere Copper and Brass Inc. as an experimental craft. REVERE was all metal, all welded, streamlined cruiser fabricated from Cupro-nickel sheets (70% copper and 30% nickel). Negative number 1984.187.103043F made by Rosenfeld and Sons, October 28, 1941.

Streamlining in design refers to a style applied to manufactured objects in the 1930s and 1940s. With better engines, infrastructure, engineering, and manufacturing methods, water, land, and air speed records were regularly broken through the 1920s and 1930s; designers and manufacturers were eager to increase depression-era sales by harnessing the era’s enthusiasm for speed. Streamlining offered the perfect combination of shapes and manufacturing techniques to accomplish this. Rounded forms, shiny chromed surfaces, low, horizontal shapes enhanced by parallel lines (amusingly called “speed whiskers”) were used to suggest speed and infuse static objects like toasters, cameras, and even butter dishes, with a sense of modernity and movement.

Streamlined objects make obvious references to speeding trains and airplanes, but the origin of all advances in speed, and the creation of the shapes that allowed them, actually came from boats. Fast car and airplane engines were developed and tested by naval engine designers. The scientific study of wind and water resistance was developed for naval architecture and perfected there before migrating to aeronautics and automobile design. Ideas and technologies advanced through boating quickly migrated to all other forms of transportation, allowing them to mature and eventually eclipse boats as our main method of fast transportation.

Streamlined: From Hull to Home includes visually exciting objects that will interest children, with interpretation designed to satisfy an adult’s deeper curiosity. No existing interest in boats or design is needed to engage with the show content, which is clear and easy to understand even without reading the interpretive text. The text does offer deeper connections and more specific information for those who arrive already knowing about some of the topics included in the show, or just want more information to attach to them. Because this show presents collection items rarely exhibited, it will appeal to locals familiar with Mystic Seaport Museum, as well as tourists passing through.