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Object Name Skiff, Yankee
Date ca. 1890
Description Shallow, open boat known as a "Staten Island skiff" or "Yankee skiff," used for tonging oysters, ca. 1890; made in Staten Island or York River, Virginia. Overall dimensions approximately 271 inches long by 72 inches wide.
(Keywords: Rowboat, New York, Shellfish, Fishing)
Acquisition Museum Purchase
Ownership and History Originally developed by local watermen for tonging oysters in the bays and inlets of Staten Island and northern New Jersey, this distinct boat form was brought to the lower York River of Virginia by Staten Island and Manhattan oyster planters seeking more productive tonging grounds in the late 19th century. According to tradition, a Staten Island oyster packer, Peter Van Name, settled on the York River in the 1870s and popularized these skiffs among the many packing houses that rented them to local oyster tongers.

By the early 1960s none of these boats were known to exist on Staten Island or the nearby New Jersey coast. This skiff was one of only about a dozen that survived, damaged and neglected, along the York River, when it was purchased by a Potomac River waterman and boatbuilder, who reworked the vessel -- keeping its original shape, but replacing its open wale construction with decking and adding a seven horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine.

This skiff was acquired by the Staten Island Historical Society for the Made On Staten Island exhibition at Historic Richmond Town in 1984. It has been restored to its original appearance as an oyster tonging workboat, while retaining some evidence of the 1960s repairs.
Earliest Date 1880
Latest Date 1900
Subjects Boats
Lexicon Sub-category Water Transportation -- Equipment
Catalog Number 84.025.0001
Support Acknowledgment Online Collections Database record made possible by the Staten Island Historical Society, March 2014.
Legal Status Images and text in this database are copyrighted by the Staten Island Historical Society unless otherwise noted. Items represented here are from the collections of the Staten Island Historical Society. Materials reproduced for personal non-commercial use must credit the Staten Island Historical Society. Commercial licensing is available.