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Joshua Humphreys (June 17, 1751 – January 12, 1838) was an influential and successful ship builder in the United States.

The building of the Frigate Philadelphia, Plate 29 of Birch's Views of Philadelphia (1800). The man standing in the foreground may be a portrait of Humphreys.

Humphreys was born in Havertown, Haverford Township, Pennsylvania, and died in the same place. He was the son of Joshua Humphreys and Sarah Williams,[1] grandson of Daniel Humphreys and Hannah Wynne (daughter of Dr. Thomas Wynne). He was a nephew of Charles Humphreys. His residence, Pont Reading, is still a private residence.



As a youth, Humphreys was apprenticed to a shipbuilder in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolutionary War he was active as a designer, and played a major part in planning Randolph, a 32-gun frigate.

After the war Humphreys became a shipbuilder in Philadelphia. When Congress in 1794 passed the Naval Act of 1794 providing for the construction of six frigates, it called on him to design them. He was appointed Naval Constructor 28 June 1794 and began work on these ships, the beginnings of the U.S. Navy. Reputedly, one of the inspirations for his frigate designs was the South Carolina.

United States was built by Humphreys in Philadelphia, and was the first of the new ships to be launched on 10 May 1797. These vessels were larger than other ships of their class and formed the core of the Navy during the War of 1812, and scored several victories against British ships, although two were captured. His six frigates were:

Building 197 of the Washington Navy Yard (the site of multiple murders on September 16, 2013, by a mentally ill former defense contractor) was completely renovated during 2014 and renamed in honor of Humphreys.


His uncle was Charles Humphreys, a member of the Continental Congress. His son was another noted naval architect, Samuel Humphreys. His grandson, General Andrew Atkinson Humphreys, served throughout the American Civil War.

Navy shipsEdit

Two ships, USS Humphreys (DD-236) and USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO-188), were named for him.


  1. ^ "Humphreys". Retrieved 2012-01-14. 

External linksEdit