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Ivar Widing Collection

Identifier: MSS 0412

Scope and Content

The Ivar Widing Collection contains materials related to Widing's two-thousand-mile journey from Boston to Key West during the winter of 1915-1916. The collection includes two copies of Widing's manuscript, "A Two-Thousand Mile Midwinter Cruise in a 12-foot Boat;" pencil and ink sketches illustrating the manuscript; clippings about Widing and his journey; promotional materials for lectures given by Widing; company stationery for Widing's businesses, which includes an image of the "Wanderer"; a small selection of sketches not related to his excursion; and an unidentified list of addresses.


  • 1910-1916
  • Majority of material found within 1915-1916



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ivar Widing was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1888. In 1905, at the age of 17, he moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 1911. He worked as an illustrator and started a firm in Boston with his business partner, David L. Munro. He was an avid sailor, having been around boats since he was three years old. In 1913, he and his sister Edith took a sailing canoe 150 miles from Boston to Cousins Island in Maine. The following year, he and his partner Munro built a motor cruiser. They wanted to sail around the world, but the outbreak of World War I interrupted their plans.

In 1915, during a quiet time for his business, Widing decided to sail from Boston to Key West alone in a small boat, called the "Nutshell," which was only five feet wide and twelve feet long. He left Boston on December 8 with a small number of supplies. Each evening he camped on shore, but he occasionally docked in a larger city (such as New York City) where he would stay in a hotel, pick up his mail, and restock his provisions. The weather during the early part of his journey was poor; at one point, ice in the harbors forced him to ship his boat by rail from Plymouth to Fall River, Massachusetts. He faced other hazards on the journey, including being chased by a bull off the shore of North Carolina and avoiding robbers in St. Augustine. He arrived safely in Key West on March 31, 1916.

In 1918, Widing married Nina M. Porter, a stenographer originally from New York. He was also involved in a new business venture that same year. The "Wanderer," the motor cruiser he built with David L. Munro in 1916, had an unusual and innovative design that included a hull formed from concrete. Widing's experience building the "Wanderer" led him to join several others in the organization of a new company in Savannah, Georgia, the Concrete Steel Shipbuilding Company. He served as both the vice president and the chief of the hull department. After the company's establishment, Widing and his wife sailed the "Wanderer" to Savannah, and it was the first time that a concrete ship had entered its port. He also received a patent related to concrete ship construction in 1920. The success of the venture was short lived. The Concrete Steel Shipbuilding Company dissolved shortly after the end of World War I, and Widing died in December 1921.


.25 Linear feet (1 Box)

Language of Materials



Manuscript, sketches, and clippings documenting Ivar Widing's two-thousand-mile journey from Boston to Key West during the winter of 1915-1916.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Michael Brown Rare Books in 2017.


Sources consulted by Bridget Bihm-Manuel while writing this finding aid:
  • U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • John Atkin, "The Evolution of Hull Forms: Part Three," Motor Boating 87: no.6 (1951: June): 39.
  • "Girl's Daring Canoe Trip Starts on 150-Mile Cruise," Boston American, n.d.
  • "Makes Rough Voyage in Concrete Ship," Jackson Daily News, 15 September 1918.
  • "Marine Patents." "Naticus:" A Journal of Shipping, Insurance, Investments, and Engineering 10, no.126 (1920:Oct.): 23
  • "Massachusetts State Vital Records, 1841-1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 6 November 2017), Ivar Widing and Nina M Porter, 21 Mar 1918; citing Marriage, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, certificate number 1283, page 99, State Archives, Boston.
  • "Ocean Voyage in Tiny Boat," Boston Globe, 8 December 1915.
  • Rudder Marine Directory (New York: Rudder Publishing Company, 1920), 12.
  • Savannah Unit, Federal Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration of Georgia, "Cuaston's Bluff, Deptford, Brewton Hill Three Allied Plantations, Part 1," The Georgia Historical Quarterly 23, no. 1 (1939): 53,
  • "Ships of Stone-1849 to 1918," Scientific American 119, no.9 (1918: 31 August): 179.
A Guide to the Ivar Widing Collection
Finding aid created by Bridget Bihm-Manuel
November 2017
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America