Thomas Kemp (shipbuilder)

Thomas Kemp (28 Feb 1779 - 3 Mar 1824) was a Baltimore shipbuilder, known for building some of the fastest and best known privateers of the War of 1812, such as Rossie, Comet, Patapsco, Chasseur, and Lynx.[1][2]

Thomas Kemp
Born(1779-02-28)February 28, 1779
St. Michael's, Maryland
DiedMarch 2, 1824(1824-03-02) (aged 45)
Known forSchooner Comet, clipper Chasseur
Spouse(s)Sophia Horstman (1803-1809), Eliza (Fisher) Doyle (1809-1824)
Childrenfrom Horstman: Thomas H., Elizabeth, and Sophia; from Fisher: John W., Louisa, Margaret (died in infancy), Joseph F., Sally Ann, and William Pinkney
  • Thomas Kemp (father)
  • Rachel Denny (mother)

Early Career as a Shipbuilder

Thomas Kemp moved to Baltimore in 1803 from the Eastern Shore. It is not known where he learned the shipbuilding, but in 1804 he built a schooner with his brother Joseph. In the next few years his shipyard was mostly involved in making repairs to Baltimore vessels. He made some repairs for Isaac McKim on the schooner Maryland, the brig Samuel and the Chesapeak, for Henry Craig on the Vigilante and the schooner Eclipse and for John Conway on the schooner Nonsuch.

Building Baltimore Clippers

On July 6, 1805, Kemp purchased additional property bounded by Fountain, Fleet, and Washington streets at Fell's Point, expending his business and establishing his own shipyard.

It is important to noticed that some of the vessels built by Kemp were attributed to different shipbuilders, partially because Kemp did not put his name on those ships, as it was against Quaker principles.[2]

Ships Built by Thomas Kemp's Shipyard[2][3]

  • Thomas and Joseph (1804), a schooner Kemp built with his brother, Joseph
  • Lynx (1806), 99 tons, a Baltimore clipper schooner for Henry Craig
  • Maria (1806), a schooner for Henry Craig
  • Eidue (1806), 190 tons, a brig for Captain Christopher Deshon
  • Unnamed schooner (possibly Breezio) (1806), 114 1/3 tons, for Captain Christopher Deshon
  • Hawk (or Mohawk) (1807), 124 tons, a schooner for Henry Craig
  • Leo (1807), 244 1/4 tons, a brig for Henry Wilson.
  • a pilot boat (1807) for William Harrow
  • five ships (1807) for Isaac McKim, Henry Wilson, James Barry, John McKee, and Henry Craig
  • Rossie (1808), a schooner and a privateer of the War of 1812.
  • a schooner (1808), 146 1/2 tons, for John McFadon
  • two gunboats (1808) for John Strieker for the United States
  • Experiment (1808), 108 tons, a schooner for Captain Christopher Deshon
  • two schooner brigs (1808) for Henry Wilson and John McKee
  • Aut (1809), a schooner for Charles Kalkman
  • a pilot boat schooner (possibly Wasp) (1809) for James Taylor and Curtis
  • a schooner (possibly Hornet) (1809), 100 tons, for James Taylor and Curtis
  • Comet (1810), a schooner and a privateer of the War of 1812, commanded by Captain Thomas Boyle.
  • a schooner (1810), 189 91/95 tons, for Hollins & McBlair
  • a schooner (possibly Leopard) (1810), 79 50/95 tons, for P. A. Gestier
  • Milo (1810), 230 34/95 tons, a brig for James Williams
  • Wabash (1810), 262 1/2 tons, for Samuel Smith & Buchanan
  • a pilot boat (1810) for William Pitt
  • Extreme (1811), 122 1/3 tons, length 65' 6", a schooner for Captain Robert Hambleton
  • Marmion (1811), 244 tons, for Smith & Buchanan
  • a pilot boat (1811) for William Pitt
  • a small boat (1811) for Joseph Butler
  • Arrow (1811), 180 74/95 tons, a schooner for Hollins & McBlair
  • Emperor of Russia (1810), 430 tons, for Charles F. Kalkman
  • Patapsco (1810s), 259 tons, a ten-gun schooner commissioned as a privateer in 4 June 1814 under command of Richard Moon.[4]
  • Grecian (1812), 187 1/4 tons, for Isaac McKim
  • Chasseur (1812), a topsail schooner and a privateer of the War of 1812, commanded by Captain Thomas Boyle.
  • Lynx (1812), a six-gun schooner commissioned as a privateer under command of captain Elisha Taylor.
  • USS Erie and Ontario (1813), sloops of war, for United States Navy
  • three barges (1814) for United States Navy
  • David Porter (1814), 18 1/2 tons, a sloop
  • Perry (1814), possibly was built by Kemp
  • a schooner (1814), 122 1/2 tons, for Fulford & Clopper
  • a schooner (1814), 124 63/95 tons, for Pearl Durkee
  • Seagull (1815), a sloop for Captain James Martin
  • a schooner (1818) for George Williams
  • a schooner (1819) for Henry Payson & Co.
  • K&R (1822), a schooner built by Kemp and Joseph Robson

After the War of 1812

After the War of 1812 demand on shipbuilding declined and Kemp returned to the Eastern Shore to live at his farm, Wade's Point. He only built a few vessels after the war.


  1. "Finding Aid to the Kemp Family Manuscript Collection, 1732-2004, MS 3181 | Maryland Historical Society". Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  2. Bourne (Winter 1954). "THOMAS KEMP, SHIPBUILDER". Maryland Historical Magazine: 271–282.
  3. Howard I. Chapelle, History of the American Sailing Navy (New York, 1949), pp. 290-291
  4. "Schooner Patapsco entering Bay of Naples". Digital Maryland. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
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