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.”
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”.
Restrictions on Access
Available for use in the Manuscripts Division
Restrictions on Use
Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.
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):
Raleigh (Frigate : 1776)
Return to the Table of Contents
Coll. 289, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|2||1||Photocopies of photographs; receipts related to the photographs|
|3||Rigging & Spars|
|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|
|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|
|18||Armament, 2 – 6#, missing; 3 – gun equipment, missing; 5 – gun tackle run out, missing|
|21||Anchors and cables|
|22||Masts and spars; 1 – spar plan, missing|
|23||Spars and rigging; 11 – fore & aft sail arrangement, missing|
|5||Box construction and inlay|
|8||Complainers derogatory comments about models|
|11||Construction General description of the “Sliding Rule” with observations on timber and rules for measurement|
|12||Construction Quarter gallery|
|14||Continental Congress Early naval activities|
|16||Crafts and miscellaneous|
|19||Drawing techniques – article|
|4||1||Draughts explanation of 18th century English ships drawings|
|2||Famous ship articles|
|5||Framing and preservation of works of art on paper|
|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|
|13||Masts, spars and rigging|
|2||Models photocopies of photographs and illustrations|
|3||Models, Super mostly articles on building specific models|
|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|
|11||Scales and measurements conversions between different measurement scales|
|12||Spars and Rigging|
|13||Suppliers – general|
|6||1||Wooden ship building|
|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|
|13||San Francisco Ship Model Gallery|
|14||Sketches of the FUBB|
|16||Various ship drawings|
|18||Miscellaneous – Loose unrelated material|