A guide to the Michael Dobrin photograph collection, 1938-1998

Processed by: Amy Croft, December 2012.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Building E, Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA 94123
Phone: 415-561-7030
Fax: 415-556-3540
SAFR_Historic_Documents@nps.gov
URL: http://www.nps.gov/safr
2013

A Guide to the Michael Dobrin photograph collection

P02-007

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, National Park Service
2013, National Park Service

Title: Michael Dobrin photograph collection
Date: 1938-1998
Date (bulk): 1989
Identifier/Call Number: P02-007 (SAFR 23354)
Creator: Dobrin, Michael
Physical Description: 36 items.
Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
Building E, Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA 94123
Abstract: The Michael Dobrin photograph collection, 1938-1998, bulk 1989 (SAFR 23354, P02-007) is comprised mainly of photographic prints and negatives of San Francisco Bird Boats, 1938-1989. The collection has been processed to the item level and is open for use.
Physical Location: San Francisco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
Language(s): In English.

Access

This collection is open for use unless otherwise noted.

Publication and Use Rights

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Processing Note

The descriptions in this collection guide were compiled using the best available sources of information. Such sources include the creator's annotations or descriptions, collection accession files, primary and secondary source material and subject matter experts. While every effort was made to provide accurate information, in the event that you find any errors in this guide please contact the reference staff in order for us to evaulate and make corrections to this guide.
Please cite the title and collection number in any correspondence with our staff.

Preferred Citation

[Item description], [Location within collection organization identified by Collection Number/Series Number/File Unit Number/Item Number], P02-007 (SAFR 23354), Michael Dobrin photograph collection, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Acquisition Information

SAFR-01681
In September 2001, Michael Dobrin donated 5 photographic prints and 30 photographic negatives of San Francisco Bird Boats, and one magazine to the SFMNHP. They were formally accessioned in 2002.

Historical or Biographical Note

History of Bird Boats: The Bird Class was a San Francisco Bay type One Design Class boat, developed in the early 1920s to handle local wind and water conditions. One Design Class boats are all the same model or design. This allows the boats to be on an even playing field and there is no handicap in the race; the first boat to cross the finish line wins. This also puts more focus on the skills of the competitors in the races since all the boats are the same.
In 1919, the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association formed the "S" Class Syndicate, "a committee of representatives of all six Bay Area Yacht Clubs, to renew interest in yachting, racing, and inter-club competition. The Syndicate came back with historical questions: How about designing an affordable, swift, racing cruiser that can charge through the blustery, choppy conditions of the San Francisco Bay with the confidence of a freighter? A boat that can fly across the foam topped waves like, say, a bird?" (Norton).
"Members of the Pacific Inter-club Yachting Association (P.I.Y.A.), local shipwright J. Herbert Madden Sr., P.I.Y.A. Representative Clifford A. Smith, and Sausalito Naval Architect Fred Brewer drew up a rough sketch of the proposed sloop for members of the San Francisco Yacht Club. The drawing was then sent to well-known boat designer John Alden for review and drafting. The San Francisco contingent accepted his suggestion for increased ballast but declined other modifications. John Alden design Number 157 was drafted up by associate Sam Crocker on September 1, 1921 and became the basis for the Bird Class, which still exists today" (Hook).
The first bird boat was built by Madden & Lewis in Sausalito in 1921 for Leon De Fremery, and was named OSPREY (which is a large fish-eating hawk). There are rumors that boat has an exciting history: it was reported in some local newspapers that in 1929 she was stolen from the moorings off of Sausalito by an escaped convict and her remains were found on the sand at Dillon's Beach near the entrance to Tomales Bay (Hook). However, other people say that OSPREY just drifted off her moorings and was never stolen (Kays).
24 Bird boats were built from 1921-1947 and many of these boats are still racing on the San Francisco Bay today (Registry). As of 2007, Birds can still be seen participating in the San Francisco Yacht Racing Association, the Wooden Boat Racing Association, and the SF Master Mariner Annual Regatta (Pierre Josephs, http://www.birdboat.com/). Terry Norton nicely sums up the current state of Bird Boats by writing the following:
". . .today's sailors stand symbolically side by side the members of the 'S' Class Syndicate of 75 years ago to prove that the Bird Boat is a gol dern fine boat, in a gol dern fine sport. No gimmicks, no reef points, no broaching, no storm sails, no ding of the microwave--just pure sailing. Like grandpa's day. Where are the Bird Boats today? While Dad's Model T sits in storage, waiting for the next parade, and Grandfather's golf clubs, framed on green velvet years ago, hang over the fireplace? Why, they're out on San Francisco Bay every weekend, tacking across the westerly 'breezes' of the Bay, proving that the Bird Association's motto, 'Nothing sails like a Bird' needs amending. After seventy-five years of soaring, nothing sails like an old Bird."
Written by Amy Croft, August 2012.

Sources:

  • Hook, Jane (1996). The Bird Boats. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.birdboat.com/Hook.htm.
  • Josephs, Pierre (n.d.). Home page for the website Birdboat.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.birdboat.com/.
  • Kays, Gunnar. Letter to the Editor. Latitude 38: November 1997. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.latitude38.com/letters/199711.htm.
  • Norton, Terry (circa 1996). 75 Years Of Soaring: The Story of the San Francisco Bird Boats. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.birdboat.com/Terry%20Norton.htm.
  • Tooker, Richard H. (circa 1983). Front matter for the Walter A. Scott photographs finding aid, P83-019.
  • Registry of Bird Boats. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.birdboat.com/Registry.pdf.

Collection Scope and Content

The Michael Dobrin photograph collection, 1938-1998, bulk 1989 (SAFR 23354, P02-007) is comprised mainly of photographic prints and negatives of San Francisco Bird Boats, 1938-1989. The collection has been processed to the item level and is open for use.
The collection primarily contains photographic prints and negatives of San Francisco Bird Boats, including CUCKOO, LOON, POLLY, PUFFIN and TEAL, 1938-1989. There are several photographs of Jack Ehrhorn standing next to POLLY during her reconstruction in late 1989. There is also an issue of WoodenBoat magazine (no. 114, September/October 1998), which contains an article on San Francisco Bird Boats and features several photographs from Michael Dobrin that can also be found in this collection. Most of the photographers in this collection are unidentified. There is the possibility that Michael Dobrin took some of the photographs for items 06-35, but this could not be confirmed.

Collection Arrangement

Arranged in chronological order.

Related Materials

Jack Ehrhorn collection of Stone Boat Yard photographs, circa 1885-2005 (SAFR 23147, P05-081), which contains photographs of CUCKOO and POLLY.
Researchers should note that there are other books and collections (including CLASSIFIED photographs) with materials related to San Francisco Bird Boats in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. They can search the Park's web catalog for more information.
  • This material is located at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Bird Class (Sailboats)
Yachting--California--San Francisco Bay
Yacht building
Yachts--Design and construction
Ehrhorn, Jack Wilbur
Alcyon (built 1927; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 7)
Cuckoo (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 16)
Curlew (built 1922; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 2)
Grey Goose (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 10)
Kittiwake (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 9)
Linnet (built 1932; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 20)
Loon (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 13)
Mavis (built 1924; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 4)
Oriole (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 11)
Petrel (built 1928; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 8)
Polly (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 19)
Puffin (built 1928; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 12)
Robin (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 18)
Skylark (built 1927; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 6)
Teal (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 24)
San Francisco Bay (Calif.)
Black-and-white negatives
Black-and-white prints
Gelatin silver prints
Color prints (photographs)
Volumes (documents by form)

Collection Contents

Shared collection box

Item No. 01.  San Francisco Bird Boats racing in a regatta on the San Francisco Bay, 1938 May 14

Extent: 1 photograph.
Physical Description: 1 black-and-white photographic print, 8 x 10.75 in.

Scope and Content Note

Left to right: GREY GOOSE (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 10), ORIOLE (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 11), LINNET (built 1932; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 20), ALCYON (built 1927; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 7), PETREL (built 1928; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 8), SKYLARK (built 1927; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 6), MAVIS (built 1924; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 4), KITTIWAKE (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 9), CURLEW (built 1922; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 2), and ROBIN (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 18) in the foreground. Photograph from the San Francisco Call-Bulletin Library. "Won by Widegon", "May 18, 1936" and "May 14, 1938" are stamped on the back of the print. KITTIWAKE is identified as LARK on the back of the print. This photograph was used in the September/October 1998 issue of WoodenBoat magazine (which can be found in this collection as item 36), and the caption indicates the event was in May 1938.
Shared collection box

Item No. 02.  Loon (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 13) pulling full and by on lee side of Treasure Island, San Francisco Bay, 1939-1940

Extent: 1 photograph.
Physical Description: 1 black-and-white photographic print, 5 x 7 in.

Scope and Content Note

Four people visible on board (two men, a woman and a child). Photograph of LOON taken from another vessel. LOON (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 13) was designed by John Alden and was built for Bill Van Dyke at United Ship Repair.
Shared collection box

Item No. 03.  Bird boats on a downwind run during a San Francisco Bay regatta, circa 1940

Extent: 1 photograph.
Physical Description: 1 black-and-white photographic print, 5 x 7 in.

Scope and Content Note

The bowsprit of the "famed" Templeton Crocker yacht ZACA is in the foreground. "R4" visible on the sail of one of the yachts in the background.
Shared collection box

Item No. 04.  Cuckoo (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 16), Puffin (built 1928; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 12), and Teal (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 24) at the starting line at the 1970 Bird Perpetual, 1970

Creator/Collector: Veder, Slava
Extent: 1 photograph.
Physical Description: 1 black-and-white photographic print, 7.38 x 11.38 in.

Scope and Content Note

PUFFIN is in the foreground.
CUCKOO (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 16) was designed by John Alden and was built for Fred Loeser at the W.F. Stone & Son Boat Yard in Oakland, California.
PUFFIN (built 1928; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 12) was designed by John Alden and built for Bruce Dohrmann at the W.F. Stone & Son Boat Yard in Oakland, California.
TEAL (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 24) was designed by John Alden and was built for Gary Armour at United Ship Repair.
Shared collection box

Item No. 05.  Polly (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 19) docked in an unidentified location, view off port bow, 1985-1989

Extent: 1 photograph.
Physical Description: 1 color print, 4 x 6 in.

Scope and Content Note

Before POLLY's restoration.
POLLY (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 19) was designed by John Alden and was built for C.R. Rodgers at the W.F. Stone & Son Boat Yard in Oakland, California. In 1988, R.C. Keefe established the non-profit organization "Save the Bird Foundation" to help restore old bird boats. Keefe began with POLLY in 1989/1990.
Shared collection box

Item No. 06-35.  Jack Erhorn with Polly (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 19) at the Stone Boat Yard in Alameda, California, late 1989

Extent: 30 photographs.
Physical Description: 30 black-and-white photographic negatives, 35 mm

Scope and Content Note

Photographs of POLLY under construction during her rennovation (she was essentially rebuilt). Jack Ehrhorn is in many of the photos, as well as an unidentified man (likely Michael Dobrin). Item 22 was used in the September/October 1998 issue of WoodenBoat magazine (which can be found in this collection as item 36).
POLLY (built 1929; sloop: yacht: Bird Class, No. 19) was designed by John Alden and was built for C.R. Rodgers at the W.F. Stone & Son Boat Yard in Oakland, California. In 1988, R.C. Keefe established the non-profit organization "Save the Bird Foundation" to help restore old bird boats. Keefe began with POLLY in 1989/1990.
Shared collection box

Item No. 36.  "76 Years of Soaring: the story of the San Francisco Bird Boats" by Terry Norton, 1998 September-October

Extent: 1 item.
Physical Description: 1 volume

Scope and Content Note

This is an article in WoodenBoat Magazine, No. 144 (p. 44-49). The article includes several reproductions of photographs in this collection (items 01 and 22).