Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who was Fred A. Mabbett?

Congratulations to Litoralis for guessing the correct answer to yesterday's photo quiz. The fine looking gentleman wearing a captain's cap in the cartoon is indeed Fred A. Mabbett of Rochester, N.Y.

The photo above is taken from a book of cartoons published by the Rochester Herald in 1908 titled Men Worth While, a veritable who's who of Rochester's finest (male) citizens. The caption to the cartoon describes Mr. Mabbett as General Manager United States Automobile Company. 

I wonder what United States Automobile Company was? Was it a car manufacturer or was Mr. Mabbett perhaps the local Cadillac dealer?

I came across the name of Fred A. Mabbett in Tweezerman's post yesterday with the story behind the answer to his earlier photo quiz.  Tweezerman had posted some photos from the Emerson collection of Rochester N.Y and mentioned in passing that Mr. Emerson, in 1917, married the daughter of Fred A. Mabbett, the Commodore of Rochester Yacht Club.

And that set me off on a search to answer the question, who exactly was Fred A. Mabbett?

Well there's not a lot of information about him on the Interwebs but I did discover this other photo of him.

That's our Fred on the left and next to him another Mabbett, "Lorrie", whose real name was Lorenzo, possibly Fred's brother perhaps? The picture is taken from this document on the Rochester YC website, a history of RYC's successful challenges for and defenses of the Canada's Cup. The document was published in 1930, when RYC was gearing up for another Canada's Cup match (which they subsequently won.)

The photo shows the crew of Iroquois, the successful American defender of the Canada's Cup in 1905. Is it significant that Fred and Lorrie are wearing long-sleeved white shirts while the other crew members look like they are more suitably dressed for hoisting sails and hauling lines than the Mabbetts? And there lurking at the back is Harry Van (prof.) Did that mean that he was the real skipper of the boat, even though Lorrie has the nominal title? And I see that listed in the names of the 1930 Canada's Cup Syndicate of Rochester Yacht Club are Fred A. Mabbett and Lorenzo G. Mabbett, still active in the club 25 years after their famous victory.

And what the hell is the Canada's Cup you may ask?

Well it is a silver trophy, deeded in perpetuity to be awarded to the winner of a series of match races between a yacht representing a Canadian yacht club and one representing an American club, both to be located on the Great Lakes.

The first match was in 1896 and it's still going strong today, currently being sailed in Farr 40s.

And so that's who Fred A. Mabbett was.

I can't find any Mabbetts listed in the white pages for Rochester today, but there are a number of Emersons. I wonder if some of them are the descendants of that 1917 marriage of Fred's daughter to Mr. Emerson. Perhaps some of them remember Grandpa Emerson taking them on his knee as children and telling them about how Great Grandpa Fred won the Canada's Cup back in 1905?

I certainly hope so.


Litoralis said...

In my searching, I discovered that Fred Mabbett was indeed a local car dealer. He bought out a Rochester car business in 1904, although it sounds like he was already selling cars (and maybe even bicycles) before that.

Tillerman said...

Well done Lito.

Tillerman said...

I have also discovered some census records for a Fred A Mabbett who lived in Monroe NY and Rochester NY, born 1872 died 1940. Sounds like our man. He was living in Florida when he died.

And there was a Union Army captain named Alonzo Lorenzo Mabbett who moved to Monroe NY after the Civil War.

Lorenzo? Coincidence?

Anyway, at this point I know more about the ancestry of the Mabbett family than I do about my own!

Unknown said...

Just for the record, The Canada's Cup was successfully defended by the Rochester Yacht Club for the next 50 years after Fred Mabbett captured it. Until 1954 when Royal Canadian Yacht Club's VENTURE came calling. I compiled footage in this film of the event if interested: http://youtu.be/oZN0IOcgi10

Tweezerman said...

Well you called me out Tillerman. After all, how would I had access to the Emerson photos if I hadn't contacted a surviving relative? I have been somewhat circumspect. I have been researching the Genesee Dinghy Club, an obscure club out of Rochester from about 1912 to 1928 (the club merged into the Rochester Yacht Club in 1928). Everett Emerson was a Dinghy Club commodore as well as a lifetime member of the Rochester Yacht Club. I have enough material for a longish article which I'm slowly piecing together. Don't know what I will do with it when I've finished - probably put it up on the web somewhere - there are probably only five or six people who would have any interest.

One thing you probably won't find on the web is that Fred A. Mabbett is one of America's first dinghy champions. He won the dinghy season championship series for the Bettys Cup (presented by F.H. Bettys) out of Rochester Yacht Club in 1901. The North Haven dinghies out of Maine, who started racing in 1887 would likely have the claim of America's first dinghy season champion but I have no idea who that would be.

Unknown said...

Fred A.Mabbett, Raymond M. Bettys, and Joseph W. Pessey formed the Mabbett-Bettys Motor Car Company in Rochester according to the November 19, 1908 edition of Iron Trade News.

Baydog said...

Tillerman, your quiz posts on historical American sailing lore are nonpareil. I know your allegiance will always be with your Mother Country, but it's comforting to know how warmly you've acclimated to your
adopted homeland. When are you coming to New Jersey?

Pat said...

From perusing the web.... Although there was briefly an United States Automobile Company in Massachusetts (founded by a bell maker who later on was selling mechanical bells for automobiles), it folded after a brief life. The Rochester, NY, United States Automobile Company apparently was founded with the intention of it being a network of garages, which in those early days could be almost like small factories, some of which may have had cars and chauffeurs for short- or long-term hire, as well as repair facilities. The garages of the day seemed somewhat like elaborate descendants of livery stables.

Tweezerman said...

Correction. I misread my notes. Mr. Mabbett did win the Bettys trophy in 1901, but that was for seamanship race in dinghies. He also won the season championship in 1901 but this was for the Van Voorhis Trophy (presented by Charles Van Voorhis, who I think was Commodore of Rochester Yacht Club in 1901).

Sam Chapin said...

I went to Medical School in Rochester NY and watched 6 meters sailing out of the River there and Crewed on Snipes at the local Newport Yacht Club. When I went to Cleveland for my Residency I crewed on R boats out of Cleveland Yacht Club and served as "local knowledge" on Canada's R boat in the Canada Cup. That was 100 years ago and I don't even remember who won. Never heard of Mabbett.

Tillerman said...

Ahah. I did wonder how you had access to the Emerson collection. Look forward to reading your research when you publish it. What made you want to research the Genesee Dinghy Club in the first place I wonder?

Pleased to hear that Fred had other sailing achievements to his name. If he was one of America's first dinghy champions AND he won one of international yachting's oldest trophies too, he deserves more recognition.

So there are surviving Emerson relatives? Descendants of the Emerson/ Mabbett marriage?

Tillerman said...

Thanks Baydog. No immediate plans to visit New Jersey. Maybe I will come next year for a dose of sailing nostalgia.

Tillerman said...

What is an R boat Sam? It's not one of the classes listed as participating in the Canada's Cup so I assume it also has another name?

Tillerman said...

Thanks Pat. It struck me that a car dealer back in 1905 was very much on the leading edge of new technology. I wonder why the Rochester company had such a grand name. Did they perhaps have ambitions to become a truly national network?

Tillerman said...

I think i have discovered more about the genealogy of Fred A Mabbett, and even what that mysterious A stands for.

I mentioned that I found an article about a Union Army Captain named Alonzo Lorenzo Mabbett, who lived in the same town as Fred used to live in NY (Monroe.) I had a hunch that this might be Fred and Lorenzo's father and that Fred's middle name might be Alonzo.

I was almost right. In this long genealogy for descendants of Edward Griffin, I can see that Fred and Lorenzo were actually nephews of Alonzo Lorenzo Mabbett. Their father Joseph I. Mabbett was Alonzo's brother. But I was right about one thing - the A in Fred A. Mabbett does stand for Alonzo.

Tillerman said...

Oh, I am so dumb. I was allowing myself to get all confused that some of the records show the Mabbetts living in Monroe NY, not Rochester. I assumed that they were referring to the town of Monroe ( a long way from Rochester.) But Monroe is also the name of the county of which Rochester is the county seat. Duh!

Tillerman said...

Sam, do you mean you supplied "local knowledge" for Canada when the Canada's Cup was sailed in Rochester? If so, then I think you must be talking about the match in 1954? The Cup has never been held in Rochester since 1954 and the previous time to that was in 1934 (and I don't think even you are that old.)

Rochester held the cup since they won it in 1903 until 1954 when Canada (apparently aided by Sam) beat them. It has been won again by America since then but by other American yacht clubs, not Rochester. Lorenzo Mabbet was on that 1903 winning crew, but not Fred.

So is Sam the Ben Lexcen of the Canada's Cup? The man that supplied the winning edge that ended the winning streak of a fine old American yacht club?

Sam Chapin said...

I am sorry I caused all this trouble. R-boats were a development class sloop a little over 40 feet with spinnaker. The race I was in, was out of Cleveland Yacht Club and the year around 1956 or 57. If I had been "blogging" then I could look it up and tell you all about. Sorry.

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. All the records show that the Canada's Cup was not held between 1954 and 1969. Wikipedia says Chicago Yacht Club was the 1969 challenger but other sources say it was Cleveland YC. In any case, as Canada won the Cup in 1954 the next defense was in Canada.

Perhaps it was some other competition that you sailed in Cleveland, Sam?

Tillerman said...

Would it have been the George Cup perhaps? Apparently that is a similar challenge competition between Canadian and US clubs and was sailed in R-class yachts. There is still a fleet of R-boats at Cleveland YC. The only thing that confuses me was that the George Cup was originally a competition for clubs on Lake Ontario, and Cleveland is on Lake Erie.

Sam Chapin said...

"The 1960s saw the construction of a new clubhouse and in 1968, the burning of the mortgage papers marked CYC as debt-free. The late 60s also saw the eyes of the yachting world on CYC as the challenger for the Canada’s Cup." That was copied from Cleveland YC web site history. Seems there is some confusion about the what happened a long time ago.

Tillerman said...

As I said Sam, a number of sources agree that Cleveland YC was the 1969 challenger for he Canada's Cup (even though Wikipedia says it was Chicago YC.) But that match was sailed in Toronto. So I don't think the event you sailed in Cleveland was the Canada's Cup. Could it have been the George Cup?

Richard said...

I am very interested in this thread as I want to track down the Emerson Cup and its history. Can anyone advise?
Richard Slee
Director of Communications and Chair of the 125th Anniversary Committee Queen City Yacht Club Toronto

Tillerman said...

Richard, one of the other commenters on this thread has been doing some research on the Genesee Dinghy Club. I have emailed him to draw his attention to your comment. I'm sure he will be in touch if he has info about the Emerson Cup. He also has a contact in the Emerson family. If you email me at tillermeister@gmail.com I will put the two of you in direct contact.

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