Southern Methodist University

George Albert Converse papers and photographs

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Converse, George Albert, 1844-1909.
Title: George Albert Converse papers and photographs
Dates: 1864-1897
Abstract: George Albert Converse (1844-1909) was a naval officer whose papers include correspondence, naval orders, ship specifications, contracts, reports, notebooks, newspaper and periodical clippings, pamphlets, etc. relating chiefly to the development of torpedo boats in the United States and Europe. Most of the papers cover the period 1888-1897 and were written in Newport, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., and England. Converse is known for his contributions to naval engineering, especially the development of torpedo boats. Also included are photographs of various ships, construction of ships and other related views. There are also views of ruins of a gun cotton factory after an explosion, "Cushing's" experiments with torpedoes, Yarrow &Co. torpedo boats, and steam yachts. Some photographs are by Frank H. Child and some by Child & Co.
Accession No: Mss 0068 and Mss 0068x
Extent: 2 boxes (3 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Sea-going Torpedo Boat constructed at ''La Seyne'' for the Russian Government. Engine Power, 512 I. HP, ca. 1890s

[Sea-going Torpedo Boat constructed at ''La Seyne'' for the Russian Government. Engine Power, 512 I. HP, ca. 1890s]

George Albert Converse (1844-1909) was an officer in the U.S. Navy who is remembered for his contributions to naval engineering; he was a known expert on ordnance especially torpedoes. He was a pioneer in the use of electricity on men-of-war, experimentation with smokeless powder in the Navy and the development of torpedo boats. Converse was born in Norwich, Vermont, May 13, 1844, the son of Shubael and Luvia Morrill Converse. From 1858-1861, he attended Norwich University, where he obtained a B.S. degree in 1863. He was appointed midshipman November 29, 1861 and attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating first in his class in 1865. Commissioned an ensign on December 1, 1866, he advanced through the ranks to rear admiral, effective November 8, 1904. Converse married Laura Shelby on December 9, 1871, and they had four daughters.

In 1865-1869 Converse was posted to the European squadron and served on two steam sloops, the Canandaigua and Frolic, before serving a brief period with the Bureau of Navigation in 1869. He was then posted to torpedo duty until 1872, when he was assigned to the staff of Rear Admiral Thorton A. Jenkins, commander of the Asiatic Fleet. From 1875 to 1878, Converse instructed at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., and until 1879 was an executive officer of the USS Marion. In 1883-1884 he served aboard the USS Lancaster under Rear Adm. Charles H. Baldwin. Converse then transferred to the Naval Bureau of Ordnance, returning as an instructor to the Naval Torpedo Station in 1885.

Converse was an inspector of torpedo boats at Bristol, R.I., (1889-1890), Commander of the USS Enterprise (1890-1891), and assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance (1891-1892). During the Spanish American War, he commanded the USS Montgomery with Admiral William T. Sampson’s squadron off Cuba. Converse was then detailed to the Bureau of Navigation, 1899-1901. He also served on a number of naval boards during this time. From 1901-1903, Converse commanded the battleship USS Illinois. He was then transferred to the naval department, successively serving as chief of the following bureaus: equipment, ordnance, and navigation, until his retirement in 1907. Converse died in Washington, D.C. on March 29, 1909 and is buried in National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.


The Cyclopedia of American Biography. Volume 36, page 293. Michigan: University Microfilms, 1967.

George Albert Converse, Rear Admiral, United States Navy.

"Real Admiral George A. Converse." New York Times, 30 March 1909.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Albert Converse collection came in as one unit with manuscripts and photographs. The manuscripts, clippings and pamphlets in Series 1 relate to Converse’s naval career and work in experiments with torpedo boats. Series 2 consists of photographs of various torpedo boats and their construction and miscellaneous printed material.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 2 series:
Series 1: Manuscripts
Series 2: Photographs and Printed Material


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
United States -- Navy -- Officers.
Child, Frank H.
Child & Co.

Related Materials

The collection has been fully digitized. Digital reproductions are available online at:

Eric Steinfeldt collection of maritime views, Ag2009.0005

Collection of ship and boat photographs, Ag1982.0207

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

George Albert Converse papers and photographs, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1961.

Processing Information

Collection has been stored in acid-free folders and arranged chronologically.

Collection was acquired and processed many years ago, and edited by Anne E. Peterson, 2009.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2009.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: George Albert Converse Papers
1 Box

This series consists of Naval orders, Navy correspondence, letters, reports, and pamphlets related to ships and torpedoes, blueprints and periodicals from Converse’s Naval career.
This series has been fully digitized. The digital reproductions can be accessed online at:George Albert Converse Papers
Box Folder
1 1 Official Naval Orders for Converse 1861-1884.
Arranged chronologically.
2 Official Naval Orders for Converse 1885-1897.
Arranged chronologically.
3 Navy Department correspondence, 1884-1897, some related to torpedoes and torpedo boats.
4 Correspondence with Inspector’s Office, 1897.
April 10 comparisons between the drainage system of the "Cushing" and the "Porter"
May 23 report of the Board of Inspection on the torpedo "Porter," written by Spencer Wood
May 25 regarding linoleum, written by Spencer Wood.
Box Folder
1 5 Correspondence and memoranda regarding the boilers on the "Cushing." Oct. 1, 1890 letter from L.A. Beardslee, Captain, U.S.N. Two copies.
Oct. 10, 1890. Memorandum for board of Construction by Geo W. Melville.
Oct. 10, 1890 memorandum written by G.A. Converse for the Board of Construction.
Oct. 14, 1890 letter from W.M. Folger. Two copies.
Oct. 29, 1890. letter written by F.A. Converse to the secretary of the Navy.
Box Folder
1 6 Letter from Converse about the corrosion of the hull plates and fitting of zinc strainer and zinc rings on the "Porter."
Letter to Commander G.A. Converse from Philip Hichborn concerning the preliminary trial of Torpedo Boat No. 6 "Porter."
Copies of a letter to the Naval Station in Newport from Converse about Torpedo Boat No. 6.
Box Folder
1 7 Letter and report of the Torpedo Board on underwater discharge, ship and boat instillations, etc. of the Torpedo Station in Newport, R.I. from Converse, June 1, 1897.
8 Reports on Torpedoes include:
Two undated copies of "Torpedo Boat Engines" by J.A. Normand. One copy has blueprint attached.
"31 Knots for the Twin Screw Torpedo Boat"
‘Forban’ Built at Harve by M.A. Normand.
Circular "Defining the Chief Characteristics of three 30-knot Torpedo boats and other Torpedo Boats for the U.S. Navy," 1896. With a letter from Phillip Hitchborn.
"Sea-going Torpedo Boat constructed at ‘La Seyne’ for the Russian Government." Contains specification information.
"1st Class Torpedo Boat ‘S O K O L’ Built by Yarrow & Co. for Russia," 1894.
"Schichan: Description of a Torpedo Boat I Class," undated.
Box Folder
1 9 Memoranda regarding: The organization of Torpedo Boat Service Torpedo Boats, undated.
Memorandum of information by Richard_? written
Feb. 8, 1897, which contains an extract from a letter dated January 20, 1897.
Objections to Herreshoff’s plans for Gunboats Nos. 6, 7, and 8.
Box Folder
1 10 Specifications:
Twin-Screw Torpedo built for the U.S. Navy.
Construction of three 30-knot Torpedo Boats.
"Torpedo Boats Nos. 9, 10, and 11."
Miscellaneous notes of weights, etc.
Box Folder
1 11 Contracts and specifications for:
Torpedo Boat No. 1, Torpedo Boats Nos. 3, 4, 5, and Torpedo Boats 6-18.
Box Folder
1 12 Naval questionnaires.
13 Blueprints: Whitehead Torpedo and Howell Torpedo.
14 Blueprints: USS Oregon and USS Wyoming.
15 Torpedo boat trials and fast launches: newspaper clippings, some foreign, some can be found in Mss 0068x file.
16 Pamphlets:
"The Whitehead Torpedo. U.S.N., Notes on Care and Handling."
"The Whitehead Torpedo. U.S.N., 1894." This book or pamphlet contains some blueprints.
"Return relating to the Torpedo Boats" by Sir Edward Reed.
"Some Experiments to test the resistance of a first Class Torpedo-Boat" by A.F. Yarrow.
"Description of the Electrical Launch Built Last Year" by A.F. Yarrow.
"Collisions at Sea," by John Donaldson, 1882.
Box Folder
1 17 Two notebooks containing lectures on ships and notes, and ten ink drawings.
Also contains a stencil of "CONVERSE."
Box Folder
1 18 Periodical: Engineering: An illustrated weekly journal.
January 18, 1884
January 25, 1884
February 8, 1884
February 22, 1884
March 7, 1884

Series 2: George Albert Converse Photographs and Printed Material, Mss 0068x
1 Box, 1 Folder

This series has been fully digitized. The digital reproductions can be accessed online at:George Albert Converse Photographs and Printed Material, Mss 0068x
Box Folder
2 1 Cushing’s Experiments (8)
2 Cunningham Rocket (1)
3 Ruins of Gun Cotton Factory (12)
4 Experiments with Small Arms (1)
5 Torpedo Boats for Argentina and German Governments (2)
6 Steam Yachts and Torpedo Boats, some for English Government (7)
7 Includes a manuscript map charting the path of the vessels of the U.S. European Squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral C.H. Baldwin from March 10, 1883 to September 3, 1884.
Newspaper or journal articles:
The Pall Mall Gazette issue dated September 18, 1884.
An article, "Torpedo Boat for the Italian Government Constructed by Messrs. Yarrow and Co., Engineers, London" Engineering issue date April 21, 1882.
"Torpedo Boats" a paper read before the Royal United Service Institution by A.F. Yarrow. May 9, 1884.
An article, "Stern-wheel Steamers for the Nile Expedition," Iron, dated Dec. 1884.
Articles, "The Institution of Naval Architects" and "Swing Bridge Over the Ouse" both in The Engineer April 4, 1884.
Torpedo Boats and Docks (16)
Torpedo Boats at Herreshoff Manufacturing Co., Bristol, R.I., 1889 (3)
Torpedo Boats and Parts (7)
1 Blueprint, "General Arrangement of first class Torpedo Boat for the Imperial German Government"
1 Plan for a torpedo boat by F. Schichau, Machinen und Locomotiv Fabrik