PRINCESS II postcard with her namesake added, actress Margaret Sylvia. Postcard from the William & Carl Bernard Collection. 

The internet tells me that the ancient Greeks get credit for the tradition of boat-naming, a custom that iceboat builders continued. Growing up iceboating, all Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club classes carried names, even DNs. (In present times, the Estonians seem to be the only DN fleet that consistently attaches a name to a boat.)

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Madison’s Fuller opera house hosted the latest touring plays and operas of the day. One actress made such an impression on Emil Fauerbach that he named his grand William Bernard-built ice yachts after her. All three of Fauerbach’s PRINCESS boats owe their name after Margaret Sylvia, who starred in the comic opera Princess Chic.

We don’t know if Ms. Sylvia ever knew the local fame bestowed upon her or that her namesake won several prestigious regatta titles, including the Hearst. Who knows, maybe one of the reasons William Randolph Hearst, who was well known for his admiration of actresses, donated the Hearst trophy was because Ms. Sylvia told him that a Madisonian had named his iceboat in her honor.

“The PRINCESS is named for Margaret Sylvia who stars in the Princess Chic and has played at the Fuller opera house. This is the second Madison ice yacht to be named in honor of an actress, the first one being the MAY BRETTON, owned by the Spooner Brothers.” Wisconsin State Journal, October 30, 1903

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