Portia Takakjian Papers

Manuscripts Collection 289

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Takakjian, Portia
Title: Portia Takakjian Papers
Dates: ca. 1990-1992
Extent: 6 boxes
Abstract: Papers specific to the ship Raleigh relating to its commissioning, construction and the men involved, materials used, stores, captains, crew and voyages. In addition to material on the Raleigh there is limited information on other ships that Takakjian either had an interest in or built, material related to the publication of the “Anatomy of the Ship”, and her references.
Identification: Coll. 289

Biography of Portia Takakjian

Shortly after Portia Takakjian’s death on February 17, 1992, Scottie Dayton, friend and associate, commented in the May/June issue of Seaways as follows: “On 17 February noted ship modeler, researcher and author, Portia Takakjian lost her battle with emphysema. True to her nature, Portia was busy helping others right to the end. She was an extraordinary lady, as anyone who knew her will tell you. Her capacity for caring and giving was boundless.

She was born in Los Angles in 1930, but spent most of her time in the villages of Tarrytown and Piermont on the Hudson River just above New York City. After completing high school she worked as a fashion model for the Ford Agency while attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and later the Art Students League.

Portia’s art career originally focused on illustrating children’s books. Her reputation in this field earned a listing in Gale’s “Authors and Illustrators”, while some of her work became part of the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota. Besides illustrating books, Takakjian rose to the level of senior illustrator and draftsperson at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory.

Her interest in ship modeling surfaced while raising sons Kyle and Erik. Takakjian understood how vital a quality reference library was and set about establishing one of the best, privately held, period shipbuilding and naval architecture book collections in the USA. As her knowledge and skills increased, her studio also evolved into a first-class model shop.

When the Hudson River Museum invited Portia to exhibit her models, the interest in how they were constructed led to teaching a weekly class in her workshop. She realized early on that there was little published material to help the beginner, so she began imparting what she’d learned by writing magazine articles.

Portia had much to be proud of, but the publication of the “32-Gun Frigate Essex” by Conway Maritime Press was a crowning achievement. “Essex” was the first title ever produced on an early American vessel for their esteemed Anatomy of the Ship series. Conway’s editors were so impressed with the quality of her plans and the accuracy of her modeling that they permitted her to choose the vessel and deadline for another title. Portia selected the 32-gun frigate Raleigh (1778). Her obsession to finish Raleigh “before it finishes me” drove her over each physical obstacle.

Portia left behind an impressive legacy in her models and writings, but more importantly, she touched and forever enriched the lives of those she met.”

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Scope and Content

The collection is organized using the skeleton of Takakjian’s file system. Using the her label system information had been gathered for any vessel or activity that had a specific and clear reference or physical position in file was related. Remaining miscellaneous information was placed with the intent to make the material the most useful.

The best-organized portion of the collection involved the Raleigh. The material showed that Takakjian was carefully researching all aspects of the decision by the Continental Congress to build ships such as the Raleigh. Specific to the Raleigh is material that relates its commissioning, construction and the men involved, materials used, stores, captains, crew and voyages.

There is a significant, though incomplete, file of material used for what apparently was at least a part of a publication intended for Conway Maritime Press’s “Anatomy of the Ship” series. It is not clear whether this was related to the published work “The 32 Gun Frigate Essex” or the publication she was working on at her death for the 32-gun frigate Raleigh.

There is much reference information, largely about ships of the Revolutionary war period, but also including such as model “how to” articles and suppliers of material. Finally there is numerous miscellaneous but related material including other ships that Takakjian either had an interest in or built.

The organization of the material might not always appear logical. Only some unlabeled information was combined with like information. This occurred largely in the “Anatomy of the Ship section”.

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Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.

 Corporate Bodies (Including Vessels):

Essex (Frigate)
Raleigh (Frigate : 1776)


Ship models

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 289, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Box Folder
1 1 Anchor cable stowage
2 Barry, Commodore John Second captain of the Raleigh.
3 Bills for document reproduction & Secretarial services
4 Binnacle housing for compasses and related navigation instruments
5 Construction, 74 Gun Ship
6 Construction, General – 1 of 2
7 Construction, General 2 of 2
8 Construction, Inboard works
9 Construction, Lines
10 Cordage and cables required sizes and lengths
11 Court martial, Thompson first captain Raleigh
12 Crew Captain Thompsons appointment & activities.
13 Dimensions of the ship by Thompson
14 Draught about difficulty getting drawings and materials for the ship
15 Drawings, Mostly Figures
16 Figurehead auction house ad that is not specific to boats
17 First Frigates contains information on authorization for building Raleigh and like vessels
18 Flags
19 Guns
20 Head Rails drawings of bow of Raleigh
21 Illustrations Illustrations of people and the Pride of Baltimore. A book, “New World vol. 1 of the American Heritage New Illustrated History of the US”, given to Kelly.
22 Inventories items needed to manage the handling of the ship
23 Kentlage ships ballast
24 Magazine – light and filling rooms
25 Mast & Spars
Box Folder
2 1 Photocopies of photographs; receipts related to the photographs
2 Pumps
3 Rigging & Spars
4 Sailing quality
5 Sails
6 Shipyard research on yard that built Raleigh.
7 Sked beams & Cranes Hammocks small boat stowage.
8 Stern quarter gallery
9 Supplies mostly perishables
Anatomy of the Ship
Box Folder
2 10 Index Anatomy of a Ship indexes the various parts of a Revolutionary War era ship to drawings on which their exact location are noted. It is material related to “The Anatomy of a Ship Series”.
11 Lines and Arrangements
12 Hull structure Framing
13 Hull structure Stern
14 Hull structure Bow
15 Internal hull
16 Internal structure
17 Helm
18 Armament, 2 – 6#, missing; 3 – gun equipment, missing; 5 – gun tackle run out, missing
19 External hull
20 Boats
21 Anchors and cables
22 Masts and spars; 1 – spar plan, missing
23 Spars and rigging; 11 – fore & aft sail arrangement, missing
Box Folder
3 1 Anchors
2 Belaying locations
3 Block making
4 Book binding
5 Box construction and inlay
6 Captain Cook
7 Colors/Paints/Finishing
8 Complainers derogatory comments about models
9 Construction, articles
10 Construction Bow
11 Construction General description of the “Sliding Rule” with observations on timber and rules for measurement
12 Construction Quarter gallery
13 Construction Transoms
14 Continental Congress Early naval activities
15 Continental Navy
16 Crafts and miscellaneous
17 Deck caulking
18 Dimensions
19 Drawing techniques – article
20 Deck details
Box Folder
4 1 Draughts explanation of 18th century English ships drawings
2 Famous ship articles
3 Figures/carvings
4 Flags
5 Framing and preservation of works of art on paper
6 Glues
7 Gold leafing
8 Guns
9 Illustrations, 1 of 2 pictures from magazines
10 Illustrations, 2 of 2 – Revolutionary period
11 Inventories items needed to manage the handling of a ship
12 Marine archeology
13 Masts, spars and rigging
14 Metal sources
Box Folder
5 1 Model cases
2 Models photocopies of photographs and illustrations
3 Models, Super mostly articles on building specific models
4 Model tips
5 New York frigates
6 Photo etching article
7 Principal Dimensions and scantlings for various size ships
8 Publications copy of the Mariner
9 Revolutionary period journal and articles
10 Rope supplies
11 Scales and measurements conversions between different measurement scales
12 Spars and Rigging
13 Suppliers – general
14 Tool sources
15 Tools/jigs
Box Folder
6 1 Wooden ship building
2 Wood sources
Box Folder
6 3 Advertisements for Ship plans
4 Correspondence regarding publishing and research
5 Defended By An Adequate Power
6 Model associations and conferences
7 Museums and Historical archives
8 Nautical Research Guild Portias presentation, acknowledgement, Sept 1986
9 Photocopy of partial log of the Experiment
10 Presentation on the ESSEX
11 RANDOLPH dimensions, but some information mixed in with RALEIGH due to being the same design
12 Reference books
13 San Francisco Ship Model Gallery
14 Sketches of the FUBB
15 Velma drawings
16 Various ship drawings
17 Wine labels
18 Miscellaneous – Loose unrelated material

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