Duster origin photo – local legend or fact?

Dusters, undated photo given by Marty Carhart

There is perhaps no sailboat more steeped in Riverton lore than the diminutive Duster, a 13-3/4 foot long craft designed by Jim Merrill in 1933 and built by his father RYC Commodore Edward Merrill the following winter in their workshop at 301 Main Street. He and some friends lowered the craft from the window, took it down to the river, and christened it a “Duster.” Established as a class in 1946, it became a world-class sailboat.

Duster history, The New Era, March 11, 1937, p3

Ayers, Carhart, Coe, Gladney, Hunn, Knight, Lundstedt, Lippincott, Parsons, Thompson, Shoemaker, and Storey are some of the other names of sailors associated with the Duster’s conception, construction, and racing.

301 Main Street, from a 2017 Facebook post by Albert Seither, Clearwater, FL

While many residents will swear they have seen a photo of Duster #1 emerging from the third floor window of the home, obtaining a scan to post here has eluded the Society for years.

301 Main St., June 14, 2018

Imagine my excitement when, during a conversation on June 10 with John Hartnett while watching the Historic Riverton Criterium, he mentioned that he had seen such a photo on Facebook. Later that day he emailed the image file to me. Was this the long sought after photo depicting the very moment of the Duster’s birth?

The following Wednesday, I elatedly passed around my iPhone with the photo during our HSR Board meeting, and Roger Prichard politely pointed out that the boat with the rounded bottom in the photo looked more like a Comet.

Ohhhh, nooooooo… Could such a photo illustrating the Duster’s origin be a myth?

Seither home, 417 Lippincott, Aug. 23, 1947

Meanwhile, John Hartnett had continued to run down the source of the photo, and he sent me another photo later that evening.

Albert Seither’s  Facebook post of July 2017  explained that his grandfather and Alvar Erickson built a Duster in the attic of 417 Lippincott Avenue.

Right boat; wrong house and time, but still a cool bit of Riverton history.

So, our wish to the Universe is that someone reading this will help connect us with a picture of Mr. Merrill and friends lowering the first Duster from the third-floor window at 301 Main Street.

Moreover, Tom Shaw, the current owner of the Duster’s birthplace at 301 Main, wants to find an old Duster, seaworthy or not, that he can place in the yard as a kind of “The Duster was born here” historical marker.

(Sources sometime disagree on dates for the design and construction of the Duster. We deferred to information by Riverton Yacht Club in this article.)

We appreciate your comments, additions, and corrections. Please comment below or contact us if you can add to the origin story and history of the Duster sailboat. – JMc

Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

9 thoughts on “Duster origin photo – local legend or fact?”

    1. Sorry, Don, I could not tell from looking thru old newspapers. There were many mentions of Carhart family members in Riverton during the early to mid 1900s but I could not find an address. Marter, or Marty, Carhart was mentioned in connection with Riverton School awards, athletics, and boat racing. I can’t rule out that he lived in Delanco as an adult. Maybe it’s in the yacht club records, to which I do not have access. Will let you know if I find out.
      John McCormick, Editor

  1. If there were an original five, my father Ted Hunn & his brother Knute built one of them in the basement of their family home on Howard Street. They had to remove half the front porch to get it out. The current owners have restored the porch that lived for many years with a major part missing. All for a boat.
    Ted & Knute earned a “Saw & Hatchet Class 1935” trophy for their efforts. (I have it in a special place.)

  2. Hi, Lydia,
    I am glad that you found us.
    Probably forty years ago or so, when I was making stained glass panels, lamps, and suncatchers to supplement my teaching pay, a man introduced himself to me as Spider Hunn. I had made a number of sailboat suncatchers – J24s, Lippincott 30s, Dusters, Stars, etc. – but Spider wanted me to construct a suncatcher to resemble his sailboat with its unique spider spinnaker. I remember that he was quite pleased with the result. I have a photo of it somewhere here.
    The remarkable photos of your former family home at 2 Lippincott Avenue that you scanned and sent us were a great addition to our growing archive.
    Our online Historical Newspapers files contain dozens of references to Ted and Knute as well as to other members of the Hunn Family.
    If you have any other Riverton related photos, documents, or information that you think our readers would enjoy seeing, please contact me at rivertonhistory@gmail.com
    John McCormick

  3. As a former owner of Duster 100, the boat hanging from the 3rd floor window. I have heard of this photo from Mr. Robert Lundstedt but never did see it until now. The boat was in our family from the late 60’s until my wife and I sold it in the mid 80 after doing some extensive rebuilding of the boat in the winter of 81-82. Thanks for the great posts of long-ago memories and the great picture.

  4. As the owner of #111 and later #321 (We managed to get that number way out of sequence by asking for it. The current number was still in the 200’s), I spent many years sailing and racing Dusters out of RYC. We built #321 in our basement at 910 Cedar Street and only had to remove the door to get it up the stairs to the garage. I remember that Ricky Tool built his boat around the corner on 10th Street in the basement also ( His father and uncles built racing motorboats and the garage was occupied by one under construction!), but had to remove part of the wall to get his out! The Lippincotts built 4 Dusters in their basement around then (249-252), but I believe they had a basement door big enough to get them out. Dusters were often built in strange places! Sailing Class at the Yacht Club used Dusters at that time. We drew numbers to see which boat we would race. Carol Knight taught the classes. The last year that a trophy was awarded was 1960. The perpetual trophy is with Hank Croft as far as I know. I sent it back to him and I have the trophy that I got to keep. I’ll try to get a photo to you. Our boat #321 was sold by my parents while my brother and I were away at college. I believe that it went to Lake Naomi in the Poconos.

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