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A guide to the William H. Grunwald photographs, circa 1960-1997
P99-007 (SAFR 19671)  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication and Use Rights
  • Processing Note
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical or Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Content
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Related Materials

  • Title: William H. Grunwald photographs
    Date: circa 1960-1997
    Identifier/Call Number: P99-007 (SAFR 19671)
    Creator: Grunwald, William H. (1921-1998)
    Physical Description: 130 items. Some items available online.
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    Abstract: The William H. Grunwald photographs, circa 1960-1997, (SAFR 19671, P99-007) are comprised of photographs (3 boxes containing 3 photograph albums, 124 loose photographic prints, 3 textual items) of boats that Grunwald built from the 1960s-1990s. The boats are shown being constructed at the boat shop Aeolus Boats, in Davenport, California, and under way in various bodies of water in the San Francisco Bay Area. The collection has been processed to the file unit level.
    Physical Location: San Francisco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
    Language(s): In English.


    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], P99-007 (SAFR 19671), William H. Grunwald photographs, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Acquisition Information

    On June 29, 1999, Ursula Grunwald donated the following materials to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park: one linear foot of documents, correspondence, etc.; approximately 50 photographs and 3 photograph albums; and 1 decal for the Elkhorn Yacht Club. The manuscripts have been cataloged as SAFR 21610, HDC 1347; the decal has been cataloged as SAFR 18960; the photographs are all cataloged in this collection (SAFR 19671, P99-007).

    Historical or Biographical Note

    William H. Grunwald was one of the most established and prominent boat builders in Northern California during the second half of the 20th century. He usually went by the name of Bill Grunwald and he owned the boat shop Aeolus Boats in Davenport, California for over 40 years.
    William H. Grunwald was born in Seattle, Washington on June 7, 1921 and was raised in Alameda, California. He had two brothers, Gerry and Tom. Grunwald's parents belonged to the Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda, where he and the other children would watch the adults build boats. Bill started building boats with the other children at the age of 10, since they weren't allowed to help the adults at the Yacht Club. Grunwald graduated from Alameda High School and later served as a First Lieutenant in the 8th Army Air Force during World War II. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a degree in journalism. Bill held a variety of jobs after he graduated, including teaching elementary school in Oakland, selling insurance and Bibles, commercial fishing, and building houses.
    In the early 1950s, he decided that he wanted to build boats full time and he purchased an old barn in Davenport, California. He named his custom boatbuilding business Aeolus Boats; Aeolus is the god of the winds in Greek mythology. The business was also known as Aeolus Boatworks. Grunwald started building El Toros (eight foot sailboats) but after building about a hundred of them, decided that he couldn't compete with mass production of these popular boats. He switched to building boats to order and concentrated on about 26 models, consisting of rowing boats, punts, dories, and yacht tenders. The dories included sailing and rowing models and ranged in size from 12 to 18 feet in length. The yacht tenders came in eight models: Herreshoff pram, Jiffy Skiffs (fore 'n' aft models and sailing models), and lapstrake dinghys. Grunwald also built gunning skiffs for duck hunters, which included a 12 foot junior size sneak boat and the following 14 foot models: a South Bay sneak box, an Alviso mud boat, a New Hampshire ducking skiff, and a San Leandro scull boat. Bill also built several types of powered skipjacks (though the owner would add the engine, not Grunwald) and some Whitehall boats. In an interview with Hal Painter in November 1967, Grunwald indicated that the Whitehall was his favorite boat and also the type that he most enjoyed building.
    Grunwald's obituary in the Santa Cruz Sentinel notes that his "small boat shop carved its place in boat history with its many preserved vessels having designs dating back to the Victorian age and before." Indeed, "Grunwald's love of traditional boat designs extended the life of the Grand Banks Dory" into the 20th Century. His wife of 49 years, Ursula, described him as a craftsman: "In a way he was a renegade by insisting on building wooden boats when the trend now is plastic." She continued, "It's a matter of naval architecture, in a way, while there is much of that lacking out there. He also inspired many novice boat builders to become some of the best around. He was very quiet in a way, but has had much influence."
    Grunwald died on August 23, 1998. The Traditional Small Craft Association holds the Bill Grunwald Memorial Row every year at Elkhorn Slough, halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, to honor his memory.


    • "William Grunwald, boat builder, dies at 77." Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 25, 1998.
    • Fletcher, Leon. "Davenport's Classic Boat Builder: A Yankee Craft Thrives on Monterey Bay." Monterey Life (January 1980): 71-72. Print.
    • Fletcher, Leon. "Bill Grunwald: 26 Different Boats to Order." WoodenBoat 37 (Nov.-Dec. 1980): 36-39. Print.
    • Painter, Hal. "A Call to Feather Your Oars: Rebirth of the nostalgic, able, stout, gentlemanly, virtuous, rather lovable Whitehall dory." Rudder (November 1967): p. 35-37, 57. Print.
    • Stoye, Bill. "Remembering William H. 'Bill' Grunwald: June 7, 1921-August 23, 1998." The Ash Breeze, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2008), http://www.tsca.net/pdf/tab/TABv29-1.pdf, accessed February 2, 2012.

    Collection Scope and Content

    The William H. Grunwald photographs, circa 1960-1997, (SAFR 19671, P99-007) are comprised of photographs (3 boxes containing 3 photograph albums, 124 loose photographic prints, 3 textual items) of boats that Grunwald built from the 1960s-1990s. The boats are shown being constructed at the boat shop Aeolus Boats, in Davenport, California, and under way in various bodies of water in the San Francisco Bay Area. The collection has been processed to the file unit level.
    Collection contains photographs of the interior and exterior of Aeolus Boats, boats under construction, finished boats, boats on the water and portraits of Bill Grunwald. There are many photographs of Bill Grunwald at work and rowing boats in the water. Also includes a few photographs of Ursula Grunwald, John Heavey, Victor Larson, Rafael Meng, and Barry Sandell. A few of the photographs were sent to Grunwald by customers and acquaintances.

    Collection Arrangement

    Arranged into two series: Series 1: Grunwald boat photograph albums and corresponding loose photographs, circa 1960-1987 and Series 2: Aeolus Boats, boats built by Grunwald, and other photographs, circa 1960-1997.
    There are photographs in Series 2, file unit 4 that appear to have been separated from the correspondence in HDC 1347 (William Grunwald papers). They were left in place in this collection.

    Related Materials

    William Grunwald clippings, 1967-1998 (SAFR 21611, HDC 1348). Consists of 1 folder of photocopies of nearly 30 years of newspaper and magazine articles about Grunwald from Alta Vista Magazine, Clear Lake Observer, Lake County Record-Bee, Marin-Scope, Monterey Life, Peninsula Living, Rudder, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sports Afield and Wooden Boat.
    William Grunwald papers, 1944-2000 (SAFR 21610, HDC 1347). Includes applications, articles, boating publications, brochures, catalogs, clippings, correspondence, financial records, flyers, invoices, manuals, marine architectural drawings, newsletters, photographs and receipts.
    Elkhorn Yacht Club decal (SAFR 18960).
    Sailing Pram (SAFR 20419). Gremlin Class sailing pram built by Bill Grunwald in the 1960s.
    • This material is located at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Wooden boats--Design and construction
    Dinghies--Design and construction
    Dories (Boats)
    Design and construction
    Punts (boats)
    Design and construction
    Skiffs--Design and construction
    Yachts--Design and construction
    olus Boats (Firm)
    venport (Calif.)
    Black-and-white prints
    Photograph albums
    Color prints (photographs)