Information for Researchers
Scope and Content Note
Title: Harry Dring papers,
Date (inclusive): 1890-1986
Collection: HDC 648
18.5 linear ft.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (Calif.)
Historic Documents Department
Building E, Fort Mason
San Francisco, California 94123
Abstract: The collection consists of papers kept by Harry Dring, as Supervisor of Ships Restoration and Maintenance and later Conservator
of Ships for the National Park Service, from 1954 to his retirement in 1982. The papers consists of correspondence, contracts,
weekly work summaries, journals, articles, and logbooks. The bulk of the collection is from the period 1959-1977, during Dring's
employment as Restoration & Maintenance Manager with San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park. The subject of the materials
is primarily the maintenance and restoration of the historic ships.
Physical Location: Historic Documents Department
The following are indexing terms related to the description of this collection.
Alma (Scow schooner).
Eureka (Paddle ferry).
Matilda D. (Felucca).
Wapama (Steam schooner).
San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park.
C. A. Thayer (Schooner).
Eppleton Hall (Tugboat).
Historic ships--California--San Francisco Bay Area.
Historic ships--Conservation and restoration--California--San Francisco.
San Francisco Maritime Museum.
Historic buildings--California--San Francisco--Conservation and restoration.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (Calif.).
Tubbs Cordage Company.
Information for Researchers
The collection is open for research use. There may be specific access restrictions noted at lower levels or in the collection
Conditions of Use
The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park possesses physical property rights through ownership of the materials.
However, copyright may reside with the individual or corporate body responsible for the creation of the materials, or with
their heirs. It is the user's responsibility to respect the provisions of the copyright law of the United States (Title 17,
United States Code). Permission to reproduce or publish from this collection must be secured by the user from the copyright
[Item description], HDC 648, [Location within collection organization identified by series number, file unit number, item
number], Harry Dring Papers, 1890-1986, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
The records were acquired by Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) from the transfer of property and personnel from
California State Parks Department under accession GOGA-735. The materials were then transferred to San Francisco Maritime
National Historical Park upon its establishment and separation from GGNRA.
Accession SAFR-1 transfer From National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Processing and Cataloging:
Processed by Mary Gentry.
Completed on 2002 Jul 22.
ANCS+ Catalog No. SAFR 9233.
This number links the collection to the ANCS+ catalog record and documentation. A portion of the ANCS+ catalog record can
be viewed on the NPS Museum Collections Web Catalog by searching for the above number at
Mr. Harry (Harrison) Joseph Dring was an important figure in maritime preservation, eventually becoming responsible for the
largest fleet of historic ships in the world at the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco.
Harry was a foremast hand on the final voyage of the last American square-rigger, the bark
Kaiulani. She left San Francisco in September, 1941, loaded lumber at Aberdeen, Washington, and sailed around Cape Horn to Durban,
South Africa. When the voyage ended in 1942 at Sydney, Australia, Harry was second mate. He returned to America where in 1943
he married a girl he had met in Aberdeen, Matilda Tesia, and settled in that city after wartime service in the merchant marine.
His former shipmate on the
Kaiulani, Karl Kortum, brought him to the Maritime Museum in 1954 to assist in the restoration of the sailing ship
Balclutha. He subsequently served as the ship's manager and became the supervisor of restoration for the State of California's newly-acquired
fleet of historic ships: schooner
C.A. Thayer, steam schooner
Wapama, scow schooner
Alma, and ferry
Eureka. Kortum recalls that Harry made a "priceless contribution" to the Museum, "he was full of energy, full of resourcefulness."
Harry remained in charge of the vessels after they were placed at Hyde Street Pier. When the fleet was acquired by the Golden
Gate National Recreation Area in 1977, Harry was appointed as the first Conservator of Ships for the National Park Service.
"He knew as much as any man alive about preserving ships, he was a walking encyclopedia of the sea," according to William
G. Thomas, park superintendent and long-time friend. "He was a man without pretense. He was known and liked from one end of
the waterfront to the other. His life was saving ships."
His battles with bureaucracy were legendary. As a result of his bluff outspokenness in defense of the historic vessels, he
became known as "Give 'em hell Harry." Said the San Francisco Chronicle: "He always thought of himself as a sailor above all,
refused to wear neckties, scorned the praise of politicians, however well-meant, and never used his real first name--which
He died in Vallejo, California on January 20, 1989.
Sealetter, Fall/Winter 1988/89, page 36.
Scope and Content Note
Although Dring collected material in his files dating to as early as 1890, the collection consists of files he kept during
the period of 1954 to his retirement in July of 1982. It consists of 20 linear feet housed in 30 boxes. There are 375 folders
containing correspondence, contracts, weekly work summaries, journals, articles, and logbooks. Three oversize folders contain
a scrapbook with clippings about the Haslett Warehouse, a National Environmental Study Area Certificate, and "California Living
The bulk of the collection is from the period 1959-1977, during Dring's employment as Restoration & Maintenance Manager with
San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park (SFMSHP). After the transfer of SFMSHP to the National Park Service (1977), Dring
served as Conservator, Historic Ships until his retirement in Summer 1982. Items in the files dated later than 1982 were probably
placed there by Dring's successor Steve Hastings (Marine Maintenance Foreman).
The contents of this collection were organized and inventoried by drawer on July 6 and 7, 1987 as they were removed from the
Eureka Wheelhouse which served as Harry Dring's office for the Ship Maintenance Division. The order of the files as recorded in
the 1987 inventory has been retained as it is the order in which the files were maintained when active. (An exception to this
is the collection of Weekly Work Summaries, which have been extracted from various boxes and housed together in Boxes 29 and
The subject content of this collection deals primarily with the maintenance and restoration of the historic ships then (1959-1963)
berthed at the Oakland Estuary, and later Hyde Street Pier, throughout Mr. Dring's employment as Supervisor of Ships Restoration
and Maintenance. Material focussing specifically on the historic ships includes drydock contracts, engine contracts, surveys,
inspection, historical and restoration information. There is technical information used for reference on preservation materials
and methods. Other reference material includes information on non-National Park Service ships including
Wawona and the
Falls of Clyde. Finally, there are park-related documents on a variety of subjects, as well as documents from outside but closely related
The collection is organized in 17 series by subject, as follows: 1. Alma (scow schooner), 1902-1985 (Box 1-2); 2. Balclutha
(ship, 3m), 1952-1986 (Box 2); 3. Eppleton Hall (paddle tugboat), 1969-1985 (Box 3); 4. Eureka (ferry), 1888-1986 (Box 3-4);
5. Matilda D. (felucca), 1975-1985 (Box 4); 6. Hercules (tugboat), 1906-1985 (Box 5); 7. Small craft collection, 1975-1982
(Box 5); 8. Partial vessels, 1856-1983 (Box 5); 9. Tubbs Cordage Company building, 1963-1983 (Box 6); 10. Interviews with
"Old Salts", 1985 (Box 6); 11. Miscellaneous technical, 1943-1985 (Boxes 6-7); 12. C.A. Thayer (built 1895; schooner, 3m),
1895-1984 (Boxes 7-9); 13. Wapama (built 1915; steam schooner), 1935-1985 (Boxes 9-10); 14. Non-National Park Service ships,
1891-1985 (Boxes 12-13); 15. Miscellaneous, 1890-1987 (Boxes 14-24); 16. Maintenance journals, 1960-1985 (Boxes 25-28); 17.
Work summaries, 1959-1979 (Boxes 29-30).