SYLPH, Brooklyn, NY – 1909
This rare 1909 photo of the "SYLPH" depicts her during her tenure as the official United States Presidential Yacht for President Theodore Roosevelt. The US Navy originally purchased the "SYLPH" in June 1898 from her builder, John Roach & Co., Chester, PA, and they commissioned the vessel as a Presidential Yacht on August 18, 1898 at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The "SYLPH" served in this capacity for Presidents McKinley (1898-1901), Roosevelt (1901-1909), Taft (1909-1913) and Wilson (1913-1921).
In 1921, the Navy re-designated her as Patrol Yacht "PY-5" and she sailed on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. In 1925, she was permanently moored at the Washington Navy Yard, where she remained until her decommissioning in April 1929. Frank B. Clair of Brooklyn, New York purchased her in November 1929 (Mr. Clair was reportedly an ex-bootlegger.) Mr. Clair and his partner Captain John Nugent converted her into a party fishing boat and operated her from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY.
In 1935, her boiler failed and she was re-powered with a 400 HP Worthington diesel engine. Also during 1935, Jeremiah 'Jerry' Driscoll purchased Mr. Clair's share of the business. She continued fishing from Sheepshead Bay until April 1939, when she changed her business and ran a ferry service from Sea Gate, Brooklyn to the Battery in Manhattan. Alas, in 1941, her owners defaulted on the mortgage held by the Worthington Diesel Company and they took possession of the vessel. The "SYLPH" is the only vessel in history to go from presidents to porgies.