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Click Here  Scale Model Bounty Click Here  Shipbuilder Hans Ditlev Bendixsen Click Here  Old Sailing vessels "made up" article
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The Lily = H.M.S Bounty

The ship used to portray H.M.S Bounty was originally the 2 mast schooner Lily which had been built for use in the coastal lumber trade. The lumber that built San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego came largely from the forests of Oregon and Washington. Between 1870 and 1905 ever larger schooners, built of this same Douglas fir, transported the billions of board feet consumed in California’s successive construction booms. 

The Lily, a two-masted schooner of 142 tons and 210 M lumber capacity, was built at San Francisco in 1882 by Dickie Brothers (James S. Dickie and John W. Dickie) for J.C. Hawley of San Francisco.

About 1890 she came under the ownership of Joseph Knowland. Knowland was a conservative Oakland politician who later owned the Oakland Tribune and had a son who became a US Senator. The Lily was reported in trouble off Cape Flattery, Washington ( the entrance to the strait of Juan de Fuca) in 1897 and was towed in and repaired. All of Knowland's vessels bore the names of girls and they were all taken over by his Gardiner Mill Company (sawmills in Gardiner, Oregon) during the First World War for use in the offshore trade. She was sold to San Pedro California owners in 1920.

In the early 1930s she was wrecking (dismantling a wrecked vessel) on the hull of the Pacific Mail steamer Columbia (ran aground at Pigeon Point near San Francisco on July 14, 1896). Lily was bought in 1934 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at San Pedro and rebuilt, at a Wilmington California Shipyard, as the Bounty for the production of the Mutiny on the Bounty.

The vessel was laid up at Long Beach, Calf., 1935. She was photographed at Long Beach in good condition in 1938-39. A report says that this ship was sunk during the construction of a breakwater near Long Beach. Another account reports that in the 1950s, the vessel was lying at a steep angle, bow up, along the inside of the Long Beach breakwater. These reports are vague and may refer to either one of the two film ships stored there (see first page), both of which may have been thought to have been the Bounty by later passers by. The Port of Long Beach reports that the fate of the two movie ships ....is actually quite hazy.

The Historic American Merchant Marine Survey, Volume VI, done by the Works Progress Administration of the U.S. Government during the depression years, has the following information:

Schooner Lily, built 1882. Length: 117' 4". Length at water line: 106' 2". Beam: 28' 8". Draft: 12' 5". Displacement tonnage, Net. 135.4. Gross. 142.5.

Designed by Dickie Brothers, San Francisco, 1882. Built by Dickie Brothers, San Francisco, 1882.

Original owner, J. C. Hawley, San Francisco. Trade: Lumber

Present owners, MGM Studios, Culver City, California. Trade: Motion pictures

Present status: Rebuilt as H.M.S Bounty, used as property in film, "Mutiny on the Bounty." Present location: Long Beach

No former owner names. Drawings approved, Walter Place. Drawings approved, Eric Stanlein. Checked A. A. Eichler. Survey # 16-28. Signal letters JWKH.


A photo of the stern of the Lily before it was rebuilt as the Bounty. The photo is a detail of a larger photo taken post 1929.

The Photo above is a detail of a picture of the Lily with two much larger film vessels rebuilt to portray the Victory and the Redoutable for the 1929 film The Divine Lady about Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton. See the original photo and read about it here.

An article from a contemporary issue of Popular Mechanics Monthly entitled Old Sailing vessels "made up" as famous ships for the movies about the rebuilding of the vessels for use in the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty film has been found at the J. Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park. (The complete article can be seen here) The article contained this information:

When Hollywood producers decided to film the story of the famous mutiny, they ransacked shipyards for suitable sailing vessels. With four other veterans of sail, the Lily (a former cargo carrier) was brought out of retirement and placed in the hands of skilled shipbuilders at Wilmington, Calif., where many other ships have been “made up” for important roles in the movies.

Working from old plans of the original Bounty and details from the narrative of Capt. William Bligh, her commander on her ill-fated voyage to the South Seas, modern shipwrights began their task of reproducing the historic vessel. To begin with, the hull of the Lily was far too narrow. Built on rakish lines, she lacked the breadth of beam of a ship of war of 150 years ago. To remedy this defect, new ribs were placed around the original hull and covered with planking. The space between this outer covering and the original hull was filled with concrete; which served the useful purpose of ballasting the ship.

Before and after: the smaller picture shows the bow of the Lily before reconstruction was begun. Above, how the bow of the movie Bounty looked after reconstruction.

In place of the Lily's fore-and-aft rig, the movie Bounty was given three masts and a square rig like that of her famous predecessor. Every detail of the complicated rigging is faithfully reproduced. Frowning through ports in the after part of the upper deck are four four-pound cannons. She also carries a pair of swivel guns, mounted on stocks forward, and six aft.

How Hollywood shipbuilders take veteran cargo carriers resurrected from the ship graveyards of the Pacific and rebuild them for roles in film dramas of the sea.


The full-size reproduction of the Bounty under construction in a California shipyard. New ribs are being installed around the old hull of the schooner Lily to give the required breadth of beam.

It now seems to be certain from the Popular Mechanics Monthly article that the vessels were re-built in Wilmington California. But the LA Maritime Museum informed us that there were several shipyards in Wilmington [part of the port of LA] in business at one time. The LA Maritime Museum will now ask several retired boatbuilders whether they have any knowledge of the matter.

John Lyman reported in 1939 that the vessel had this colour scheme: dark ochre bottom, light ochre topsides, one brown wale and two white stripes; stern carvings and window moldings white. The three lower masts were painted, including white chapels, and treated to represent built spars .Doublings are white and the rest of the spars brown. There were topgallants and royals.

I did find a source with this information: "At Los Angeles harbour, Dwight found a man from his home town in charge of the movie ships, one of which was the Bounty, just refitted for use in the motion picture with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton The crews of these old ships were veteran sailing-ship sailors. They helped Dwight refit Idle Hour for the Pacific passage, replacing the rigging and making baggy wrinkles to prevent sail chaff." The young circumnavigator Dwight Long was from Seattle, so the un-named fellow in charge of the ships must have been from there. The quote seems to indicate that the re-building of the ships took place in Los Angeles harbour. (Dwight Long later met Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall when he visited French Polynesia).

One source reports that " life-size replications of the ships Bounty and Pandora were built and actually sailed 14,000 miles from California to Tahiti, encountering torrential seas in the process. There were expensive repairs needed when both ships suffered damages while on the voyage." While most of the filming took place at Catalina and San Miguel Islands near Los Angeles, much background filming did take place in Tahiti (see the Film Information page) but I haven't seen other reports that the replica vessels were also used there. We will need to verify this.

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