ARGOS – Special Series 14-S
"Central America - ex George Law"
Approximate configuration 1857. Nationality: USA

Type: Side-Wheeler. Shipyard: William H. Webb Shipyard, New York, USA. Built in 1852-1853 for the shipping enterprise of United States Mail Steamship Company.

LOA 278 ft., beam 40 ft, draft 32 ft.. 2141 Gross Registered Tons.

The Model’s Paragon: The CENTRAL AMERICA, as the name implies, was deployed at the time of the California Gold Rush on the route from New York to Aspinwall, the Caribbean terminal of the Panama Railroad. She was built by the William H. Webb Shipyard of New York, famous for the American clippers such as SWORDFISH and INVINCIBLE (1851) and the giant iron-clad USS DUNDERBERG (1865). The ship served as US Mail carrier, passenger transport, and freighter. But notably, she carried Californian GOLD towards the USA’s East Coast financial center. The ship sank in 1857 in a hurricane 160 miles off North Carolina, homeward-bound to New York with the loss of a cargo of 21 tons of gold and many of its unlucky passengers and crew. The sinking of the ship and the associated loss of the gold led to the financial Panic of 1857 in the USA and Europe. The Gold Ship, as it was later called in numerous books and articles, was rediscovered in 1988 by the Columbus-America Discovery Group, and the gold cargo was recovered in extraordinary salvage operations and legal battles.

It is noteworthy that the ship’s captain was the legendary Cdr. William Lewis Herndon, on active duty with the US Navy. Merchant ships carrying US Mail, and particularly gold, were under the command of the US Navy. He perished in full-dress uniform at the wheel.

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ARGOS 14-S 1UR.jpg (45469 bytes) ARGOS 14-S 2UR.JPG (58640 bytes)
ARGOS 14-S 3UR.JPG (54781 bytes) ARGOS 14-S 4UR.jpg (112010 bytes) ARGOS 14-S 5UR.jpg (60088 bytes)

The Model: This is a very finely detailed model down to the well-defined paddle wheels and their intricate housings. The red cove stripe/fender rail is molded into the hull and painted in a sharp and clean line. The copper bottom plating is exposed at the waterline by a flawlessly painted copper line. Spars are stiff rod of proportional sections, but they are not tapered at the ends. The bowsprit is a touch too massive as are the davits, I think. The furled sails add the now familiar Uter-touch, as shown previously on his great FLORIDA and several other smaller ARGOS models. Overall, this is a very interesting and lovely model of this historic US merchant vessel. Along side of other recent paddle wheelers, GEM’s Barbarossa / Britannia, and Sphinx, this ARGOS model is in good company. In my view, the lack of photo-etched ratlines and rigging does not detract significantly from its overall excellence and artistry. The hull of the ship is finely cast and superbly painted, as is characteristic of all Argos models.

Ulrich H. Rudofsky

PS: The 50 cent coin is not real US Mint gold issue!

Reference: Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder

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