Josiah Fox

Architect, Ship Designer

1763 – 1847

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Who was Josiah Fox?

Josiah Fox was a British naval architect noted for his involvement in the design and construction of the first significant warships of the United States Navy.

Fox was born in Falmouth, Cornwall, Kingdom of Great Britain in 1763, and completed the apprenticeship at the Royal Dockyard, Plymouth, where he later served as a shipwright. In 1793 he traveled to the United States to survey timber resources and was there engaged to teach drafting to the sons of Jonathan Penrose, an American shipwright.

In 1794 he was employed by the US Navy as a draftsman working under Naval Constructor Joshua Humphreys, the designer of the first Navy frigates. Fox and Humphreys disagreed over design issues, the former believing that the designs were too long and had too sharp a bow, among other problems. This disagreement caused significant animosity between the two, with arguments over credit for the design continuing in the press as late as 1827.

In 1798, Fox was appointed Master Constructor of the frigate Chesapeake, 38, which was to be built in Norfolk. Fox apparently altered Humphreys’ design to his own liking, though this may have been partially the result of a timber shortage. The Chesapeake turned out to be less impressive a sailer than the other early frigates, had a reputation as an unlucky ship, and was captured by HMS Shannon in 1813.

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on July 23, 2013


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