The Original PRINCESS

The Original PRINCESS

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

Queen of Mendota

Queen of Mendota


With the Fat Lady past her sell-by date, the focus is again back in the shop and reviewing iceboating history. Don Sanford sent this photo of an unidentified UW Madison student who was the 1927 Prom Queen posing on an iceboat on Lake Mendota. LIBERTY was a Madison-style iceboat built by 4LIYC member, William Bernard. She won the 1925 Northwest Regatta Class B title and made the local newspapers quite a bit in the late 1920s and early 30s because of her winning record. See the full image here.

Model B

Model B

Johnson Boatworks B Class Stern steerer model c 1930

Previous: Minneapolis Play Week
Last week, Jim Gluek shared some family history about his grandfather who raced a Johnson Boatworks-built B Class Stern-Steerer in Minneapolis. Jim has found the perfect place to display the trophy, right next to the model of the stern-steerer that likely dates from around the 1920s.

Jim’s grandfather’s model is a good excuse to take another look at the world of iceboat models which have become highly prized collector pieces. Below are photos of William Bernard and son Carl’s models. (The Bernard Boathouse on Lake Mendota is where iceboat racing began in Madison.) The Wisconsin State Historical Society has a Bernard model iceboat in its collection that Bill Mattison has restored twice. Let us know if you have a model iceboat!

Distraction of the Day: Sail Repair

Distraction of the Day: Sail Repair

Let’s watch an old sail being repaired at the Hardanger fartøyvernsenter in Western Norway for MATHILDE, a fishing boat, built in 1884. The same techniques were probably used to make and repair the sails on the stern-steerers pictured below. William Bernard kept a rental fleet of iceboats on Lake Mendota. Imagine that!
Tip of the Helmet: Ann Gratton

William Bernard’s fleet of rental stern steerer iceboats on Lake Mendota c.1895

4LIYC Ice Yacht History: RED ARROW

4LIYC Ice Yacht History: RED ARROW

The recent “Garage Find” post inspired a morning of research on RED ARROW, a Madison-style stern-steerer built by William Bernard in the 1920s.

Peter Fauerbach mentioned that after years of being stored in an Madison apartment building owned by Warren Tetzlaff, RED ARROW was sold in the mid 1990s and shipped to Montana.What happened in between covers some interesting Madison history.

RED ARROW was originally owned by Joe Dean Jr., son of prominent Madison doctor Joseph Dean who founded the Dean Clinic. Joe’s brother, Frank, raced it as well.  The Deans lived next door to the Bernard Boat House on Gorham Street on Lake Mendota.

The boat was named after the 32nd Infantry Division, a World War One Army National Guard Division made up of units from Wisconsin and Michigan. RED ARROW won the C Class at the 1922 Northwest sailed on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, WI.

RED ARROW has a slight link to the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who briefly attended the University of Wisconsin in 1921. When Lindbergh visited Madison in 1929, Dr. Joseph Dean Sr. told his son, Frank, that if he could get a ride in Lindbergh’s plane, he would buy him an airplane. Frank was successful and his father bought him that airplane.

More on Charles Lindbergh and Madison Ice Sailing: 
Charles Lindbergh Learned About Speed on Lake Mendota’s Ice
Meade Gougeon’s Essential “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design”

Photos from the William and Carl Bernard Collection

%d bloggers like this: