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Taylor, William Howland 1901-1966

TAYLOR, William Howland 1901-1966

PERSONAL: Born May 31, 1901, in New Bedford, MA; died January 6, 1966, at Sands Point Nursing Home, Port Washington, Long Island, NY; married Anne Kay Hocking; children: Stephen Howland, William Hocking. Education: Dartmouth College, graduated 1923.

CAREER: Sportswriter. Reporter for New Bedford Standard, New Bedford, MA, Fall River News, Fall River, MA, and Boston Herald, Boston, MA, 1923-27; New York Herald Tribune, New York, NY, yachting editor, 1927-42. Yachting, 1923-64, began as freelance contributor, associate editor, 1945, managing editor, 1951; Yachting Publishing Corporation, vice president. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1942-45, executive officer and commanding officer of USS PC 598, 1943, 1944, commanded a PC submarine chaser in the Pacific and served aboard a tanker; became lieutenant commander and executive officer of USS Kennebec.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize, 1935, for coverage of America's Cup races of 1934.

WRITINGS:

(With Others) Yachting in North America along theAtlantic and Pacific and Gulf Coasts and on the Great Lakes and on the Western and Canadian Lakes and Rivers, edited by Eugene V. Connett, Van Nostrand (New York, NY), 1948. (Editor) Just Cruising, Van Nostrand (New York, NY), 1949.

(Editor) On and Off Soundings, Van Nostrand (New York, NY), 1951.

Outboards at Work, Outboard Marine International (Nassau, Bahamas), 1958.

(With Herbert L. Stone) The America's Cup Races, Van Nostrand (New York, NY), 1958.

(With Stanley Rosenfeld) The Story of American Yachting, Told in Pictures, photographs by Morris Rosenfeld, Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York, NY), 1958.

Work represented in Best Sports Stories 1951: A Panorama of the 1950 Sports Year, edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre, E. P. Dutton (New York, NY), 1951, The Encyclopedia of Sports, third revised edition, edited by Frank G. Menke, Barnes (New York, NY), 1963, and The Best from Yachting, Scribners (New York, NY), 1967; contributor to periodicals, including True, House & Garden, Publishers Weekly, and New York Times Magazine.

SIDELIGHTS: William Howland Taylor was a respected writer on the subject of yachting and yacht racing and was the first sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the America's Cup races of 1934 between the American defender Rainbow and the British contender Endeavor off Newport Beach, Rhode Island. Although Taylor was already well known in the world of yachting for the quality and accuracy of his writing, with the Pulitzer his fame spread beyond the niche in which he had set the standard. He was the author and editor of a variety of books on yachting, and wrote about the great yachtsmen of his time and in history, including Sir Thomas Lipton, Tom Sopwith, and Captain Charlier Barr, and about boat builders and designers, such as W. Starling Burgess and Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. Robert Cole noted in Dictionary of Literary Biography that Taylor "wrote about the great boats, with names such as Yankee, Rainbow, Endeavour, and America, as though they were racehorses."

Taylor was born in the coastal fishing town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. His ancestors had been whalers and seamen, and Taylor soon learned to sail various kinds of boats. After graduating from Dartmouth College (and before he joined the staff of the New York Herald Tribune as yachting editor in 1927), Taylor worked as a reporter for a number of Massachusetts papers, including the Boston Herald. He stayed in New York for fifteen years, then joined the U.S. Navy. After returning to civilian life, he continued to contribute to the New York Herald Tribune. On July 27, 1944, Taylor published the first piece he had written since he began his Navy career.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Taylor contributed articles to Yachting magazine. After leaving the U.S. Navy in 1945, he joined the Yachting staff full time as an associate editor, and in 1951 he was named managing editor, a position he held until illness forced him to cut back on his responsibilities. He often covered the America's Cup races, yachting's premiere racing event, for the periodical. Taylor's prizewinning coverage was of the 1934 race between Endeavor, a J. Class challenger from England, and Rainbow, the American defender. Sentiment held that the Endeavor would win, based on her superior design, and that the trophy that had been held by the New York Yacht Club would go back with the British crew. But the Rainbow won, sailed by a crew led by Harold S. Vanderbilt.

On September 25, 1934, the New York Herald Tribune ran Taylor's account of the last race in the series. Cole called the article "exceptional as an example of Taylor's prose: clear, straightforward explanations of a different and technical sport. For Taylor the America's Cup races were the epitome of the sport. He was less concerned about the millions spent in earning or defending it than in the goodwill it generated." Many years later, in 1962, Taylor's "The Day We Thought the Cup Was Lost" was published in Yachting.

Among Taylor's books is The Story of American Yachting, Told in Pictures. The volume, for which Taylor collaborated with Stanley Rosenfeld, features hundreds of photographs from the collection of Morris Rosenfeld, Stanley's father. The authors provide a narrative of the lives of yachtsmen from the mid-nineteenth to the twentieth century and examine the appeal of their sport. Taylor felt the attraction to be "the sense of power and authority that comes from command" and the "communion" experienced by the men on a boat as they work together to overcome the elements. In the same year he published The America's Cup Races with Herbert L. Stone, also a Yachting editor, a history of the international competition.

Beginning in 1964, Taylor began to suffer a serious of strokes, and he died in 1966. Cole said that the writer of Taylor's New York Times obituary described him as "a big easygoing, quiet-spoken pipe smoker whose relish for the life of the sea came to him naturally. Throughout his life he developed an intimate knowledge of seamanship. Stanley Rosenfeld . . . agreed, calling Taylor 'a man of wholesome good humor and unstinting energy, tempered with the benefit of his wealth of yachting lore and experience.'" The year after Taylor's death, Yachting published The Best from Yachting, which contains several of Taylor's pieces, including "Just Cruisin'," which Cole called "a short, charming essay that reveals Taylor's love for sailing."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 241: American Sportswriters and Writers on Sport, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001, pp. 298-302.

O'Connor, Dennis, and Michael Levitt, The America'sCup, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

New York Times, January 8, 1966.*

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