This scale model of the 1799 American Frigate, USS Essex was built by Norman Wuytens. The solid wood hull model was built from a Midwest Models kit. The kit only included the spars but no rigging instructions. The builder had to do extensive research to learn how and where to run all the rigging lines—a major part of building a model sailing ship. Some of the painted metal parts have deteriorated due to being stored for a time near thinners that created corrosive fumes, but the wood and rigging lines were not affected. For this model all lines were hand tied, and the full project was 3 years in the making (with documents). 

The USS Essex was a thirty-two gun frigate built in Salem, Massachusetts in 1799. She was known around the world for her speed and graceful lines, achieving many dramatic firsts for the young American Navy.

Essex was the first US warship to cross the equator, and the first to round the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean to protect US shipping during the first Barbary War in Tripoli. Thirteen years later, she became the first American Man-o-War to round the Horn into the Pacific.

Sailing the Pacific during the War of 1812, she captured 18 British whaling and merchant ships, causing the British to lose almost a million dollars of revenue and devastating their whaling industry. The ship was eventually captured by the British and re-commissioned as the HMS Essex before eventually ending its days as a prison ship in Jamaica.

Exhibit added: February 7, 2017 - Last modified: April 19, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship