On September 12, 1857 the 280 foot U.S. Mail steamship SS Central America sank in a hurricane off of the Carolina coast. Over 400 souls, including Captain William Lewis Herndon, USN, lost their lives and fewer than 150 people, mostly women and children survived. The ship was bound for New York from Panama and was laden with thirty thousand pounds of gold from California. Central America sank at a depth of eight thousand feet, one hundred and fifty miles off the coast of North Carolina.
In 1986 a team of underwater explorers found the wreck of the Central America and began the process of recovering it's treasure. Many bars and ingots of gold were recovered as well as numerous gold coins - many of them newly minted twenty dollar double eagles.
The purpose of this website is to provide a look at the actual ship in the form of an accurate and detailed model. As of this writing there are no known original construction plans or drawings. What we do know is the ship started out as the George Law - commissioned by the U.S. Postal service and commanded by an officer in the U. S. Navy. The George Law was designed by William Webb in 1851. The only existing drawings of the ship by Mr. Webb are the hull contour line drawings, and they exist only in his book The Art of Ship Building. Many years later in 1943 a student at the Webb Institute, Cedric Ridgely-Nevitt, would do a study of the George Law and his drawings in part still exist. Though there is some doubt as to the accuracy of these drawings.
This site will cover what we have found out through exhaustive research and hopefully will arrive at a conclusion as to the most accurate depiction of the ship as possible. This will be set forth in a new set of plans that will also be set up for building a 1:48 scale model of the SS Central America.
We invite you to follow along with us as we explore the legacy of the SS Central America and hunt for the illusive construction plans.