"The further backward you look, the further forward you can see."
Winston Churchill

This is the web site for a multi-volume book series, THE GOLDEN CENTURY, 1830-1930. From a design standpoint, this was a remarkable era, notable for its beautiful steam and motor yachts, grand architecture, opulent private railcars, intimate overnight liners, and luxurious hotels. These creations were built with a level of design and skill that remains unsurpassed, as do the materials used. Relive this era through the fascinating men and women who shaped it; learn about their lives and charming foibles, visit their mansions, and step aboard their yachts.

The first four volumes invite you aboard a century of yachting. For a brief moment in history, the world witnessed an outpouring of extraordinary creations: grand steam and motor yachts rivaling (and often surpassing) magnificent mansions in both their luxury and the quality of their workmanship. They were graced with unimaginably lavish interiors and required fortunes to build and maintain. Often endowed with dramatic clipper bows, sweeping counter sterns, raked masts, and imposing funnels, they were radically different from their modern counterparts. Steam and motor yachts were commissioned for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they were playthings of the very rich: millionaires who competed with one another to have the fastest, longest, and most up-to-date vessel. Other millionaires used their yachts to explore a world much more mysterious and unfamiliar than is imaginable today. And some yachts were used as private commuters – the Lear jets of their day. People of "moderate" means owned smaller vessels, although these yachts were still quite luxurious.

The history of sailing yachts has been recounted often, but steam and motor yachts, although far more popular in their day, have been largely neglected. The first private steam yacht was commissioned in 1830; this historic occasion marked the first time that a person, not the wind, controlled a water-borne schedule. Steam yachts gained enormous popularity beginning in the 1880s, an era that witnessed financier Jay Gould's dashing ATALANTA, Sir Thomas Lipton's famed ERIN, and the remarkable LYSISTRATA, owned by the notorious James Gordon Bennett and liberally decorated with – of all things – owls. Stunning black and white images, most never previously published, reveal these yachts in their entire palatial splendor. Author Ross MacTaggart recreates a remarkable era, the men and women who commissioned these grand vessels, and the designers and builders who created them.

THE GOLDEN CENTURY: CLASSIC MOTOR YACHTS, 1830-1930, published by W. W. Norton in April 2001, details the evolution of steam and motor yachts.  Be a witness as these vessels metamorphose from clipper-ship-styled craft to elegant creations never before seen upon the seas.  In his extensively researched text (which is occasionally irreverent and often opinionated), MacTaggart takes you on a journey through a century of naval architecture, ably assisted by 263 images and plans.  For the first time, see the remarkable interiors of HOHENZOLLERN, the imperial yacht built for German emperor Wilhelm II, as well as the lavish saloons gracing the black-hulled ATALANTA.  Admire the extraordinary cabins aboard Bennett's LYSISTRATA, as well as hundreds of other yachts in stunning duotone images.  In Section Two, MacTaggart invites you to join him on a personal odyssey through the many beautiful yachts he has known, loved...and sometimes lost.

MILLIONAIRES, MANSIONS, AND MOTOR YACHTS: AN ERA OF OPULENCE, published by W. W. Norton in November 2004, this companion volume takes a close look at the men and women who commissioned magnificent yachts.  Learn about their spouses, children, mansions, gardens, and lives – all enhanced with extraordinary images, most never previously published.  Alfred I. and Jessie Ball du Pont dominate this volume with their homes and five yachts, including two unique vessels named NENEMOOSHA.  Another impressive character is Thomas W. Lawson; visit his expansive estate, Dreamwold, and enjoy cruises aboard his many yachts, such as DREAMER. Other millionaires include notables John D. Spreckels and Emily Cadwalader (who commissioned a vessel destined for world renown as a U. S. presidential yacht, and then checkmated this achievement by ordering the largest private yacht ever built, the mighty SAVARONA), and lesser-known, but still fascinating people like Eugene Tompkins (the "Napoleon of theater managers"), George Fabyan, and Harry Darlington, among others. Learn about the individuals who shaped this era, like Thomas Fleming Day, photographer Nathaniel Stebbins, and the many builders and designers of splendid yachts.


THE GREAT STEAM YACHTS, brings to life the most celebrated steam yachts from a golden century. Revisit James Gordon Bennett, and learn about his palatial POLYNIA and NAMOUNA.  And, in never before published images, tour the deck of Bennett's dazzling LYSISTRATA (also depicted in Volume I).   

Join MacTaggart as he sheds light on the secretive Goelet family and their impressive yachts NAHMA and MAYFLOWER (the U. S. presidential yacht for many decades, and possibly extant). 

THE GREAT STEAM YACHTS would not be complete without the Gould and Vanderbilt yachts. The latter family is well known today, while the former has been eclipsed by time.  This is unfortunate, as the Goulds, beginning with patriarch Jay Gould and his impressive ATALANTA (featured in Volume I), were preeminent yachting enthusiasts.  You are invited back in time to revisit Gould's children and their many fine steam yachts, such as Howard Gould's mighty 272-foot NIAGARA, George Gould's impressive 303-foot ATALANTA (II), Anna Gould's 245-foot auxiliary bark VALHALLA, and Frank Gould's diminutive (by comparison) 185-foot HELENITA.  But the Vanderbilts surpassed the Goulds in their propensity for grand yachts.  Many of the mansions built by this extended family are revered landmarks today, but their many yachts have been long scrapped and largely forgotten.  Through hundreds of pristine, never published images, you are invited to step aboard these splendid creations once again. 

Included in this volume are some of the most famous royal steam yachts launched, including the extraordinary LIVADIA – the strangest looking yacht ever built!