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USS Monitor’s Worthington pumps designated historic landmark


The Mariners’ Museum embarked on a multi-year project to create a working replica of a bilge pumps from the USS Monitor. Following more than a decade of conservation and the custom casting of new components, USS Monitor Center conservators unveiled a working replica of the famous Civil War ironclad's Worthington pumps, which are believed to be the oldest surviving examples of the landmark engineering innovation.

NEW PORT NEWS, Va. _ The USS Monitor’s Worthington Direct-Acting Simplex Pumps were designated a historic mechanical engineering landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in a ceremony at The Mariners’ Museum.

“Landmark status for the Worthington simplex pumps recognizes the contribution of the steam pumps to industrial history and to the progress of mechanical engineering,” said K. Keith Roe, current president of ASME. “The Worthington steam pumps join a roster of more than 250 other ASME engineering landmarks throughout the world. Each represents a progressive step in the evolution of our profession, while exemplifying the innovation and vision embodied in engineers everywhere.”

The simplex pumps from the iconic ironclad Monitor were designed by 19th-century engineering pioneer Henry R. Worthington, one of ASME’s co-founders. Worthington, a longtime associate of the Monitor’s designer John Ericsson, sold the pumps, built at Worthington & Baker Works in Greenpoint, N.Y., on Jan. 10, 1862, for $582.22. They were installed on the Monitor to handle water for boiler, bilge, and fire-fighting needs.

The Monitor's engine room was equipped with two steam powered Worthington pumps for clearing bilges and acting as boiler water feed pumps.

The Monitor's engine room was equipped with two steam powered Worthington pumps for clearing bilges and acting as boiler water feed pumps.

Dr. Reginald I. Vachon, past president of ASME, said, “The Worthington steam pumps stood apart for their efficiency and reliability. Their compact size and lightweight design were vital features in marine applications, and the pumps also served as the basis for a variety of other industrial applications.”

Vachon presented a bronze plaque to John V. Quarstein, director of the Monitor Center, and Dr. Paul Ticco, regional coordinator of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, at the August 25 ceremony. Guests were given behind-the-scenes laboratory tours led by Monitor Center conservators.


For more than 150 years after the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the landmark engines and pumps that drove history's first mechanized warship have been silent. The pump invented by 23-year-old New Yorker Henry R. Worthington in 1840 sparked a revolution in naval, hydraulic and propulsion engineering. Before he devised a pump driven directly by an engine's steam rather than a mechanical connection, every steamship boiler in the world lost water and power whenever the engine idled, forcing crews to feed the thirsty boilers by hand. That was an especially demanding task for vessels negotiating canals, where they might be forced to idle their engines for long periods while waiting for the locks to drain or fill. But every craft propelled by steam was affected. The Monitor’s pump was recovered in 2001.

Recovered from the Monitor’s wreck site off Cape Hatteras, N.C., in 2001 by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Navy divers, the pumps are believed to be the oldest surviving examples of Worthington’s simplex design. Undergoing conservation at the USS Monitor Center’s Batten Conservation Complex at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, the pumps will go on display at the Museum when conservation is complete.

The Monitor Center has crafted the only fully operational replica of one of the ship’s pumps. Will Hoffman, senior conservator/conservation project manager at the Monitor Center, gave a presentation about the making of the replica and a demonstration. Supporters of the Replica Project were recognized including Curtiss-Wright, Master Machine and Tool, and Hampton Rubber Company. Plans are to take the replica on a road tour that follows the Monitor Historic Trail from New York to North Carolina. When not on the road, the replica will be used for “STEAM” educational programming at the Museum.

The August 25 designation ceremony was sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers-Eastern Virginia Section and Curtiss-Wright.

About The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Mariners Museum

The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waterways through exploration and engaging experiences. The organization is an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. The Mariners’ Museum is home to the USS Monitor Center, and is surrounded by the 550-acre Mariners’ Museum Park, the largest privately maintained park open to the public in North America. The Mariners’ Museum Library, housed at Christopher Newport University, is the largest maritime library in the Western hemisphere. The Mariners’ Museum has been designated by Congress as “America’s National Maritime Museum.” The Museum is offering $1 admission through August 31. Visit or call 757-596-2222.

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