|President Rutherford B. Hayes was the first U. S. president for whom a yacht was placed at his disposal. Purchased in 1873 by the U. S. Navy for dispatch purposes because of her speed, the USS Despatch was originally the commercial steamship America. This wooden-hauled steamer was 198 feet in length and weighed 570 tons. She carried out special assignments, operating along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Gulf of Mexico. She was ordered to the U.S. embassy at Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire. She was decommissioned in 1879.|
After extensive repairs, USS Despatch was re-commissioned and used as a training ship for cadets of the U. S. Naval Academy. Again in 1880, she conducted special assignments in the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay and along the U. S. East Coast until 1891. She was frequently used by the President of the United States as the first presidential yacht. She also carried the secretary of the Navy, cabinet members, and congressional committees.
|General Albert Myer|
In his diary, Hayes recalled a Friday evening sail of the 9th of July 1880. He wrote: Last evening we sailed in a steam yacht down the Potomac from Seventh Street Wharf almost to Fort Washington and reached home about half after nine. The party consisted of General [Albert] and Mrs. Myer and a young daughter of nine, Mr. [William K.] Rogers, Phoebe, and Andrews, and Lucy, Rutherford, and myself. We were guests of General Myer. The weather was favorable. Rain threatened but none fell until during the night after our return.
The USS Despatch was subsequently used by Presidents Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Harrison. President Grover Cleveland was transported to and from Bedloe's Island in New York harbor for the dedication and unveiling of the Statue of Liberty on the 28th of October 1886.
Until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter sought to end the "imperial presidency," every U. S. president had a yacht made available to him.It was used to review the fleet, entertain foreign dignitaries, confer with allies, and serve as an escape from the crowds and the demands of his office.
The USS Despatch ran aground off Assateague Island in 1891.While the crew made it safely ashore, the steamer was lost forever.