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A $10,000 Silver King

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: George I. "Pete" Esthus
Credit: Wikipedia

Sarasota History - A $10,000 Silver King photo

Ordinarily, when a Silver King is mentioned, it brings to mind a two-hour struggle to boat or land a 185 (or more) pound tarpon.

Ordinarily, when Sara-de-Sota is mentioned, it brings to mind a two-week long celebration commemorating the naming of the city of Sarasota.

Ordinarily, as you may now know, I look for and find things that are sometimes out of the ordinary. And so I want to relate to you the following excerpts from an article that appeared in "The News," November 13, 1955, about a different Silver King and Sara-de-Sota.

Historically, mention of the Ringling Estate brings to mind Objects d'Art, hotels, boulevards, mansions and yachts, all of which were associated with the locally known brothers, John and Charles.

Yet, hidden away for almost 30 years on the Ringling's Estate, has been one of the most fabulous hydroplanes ever constructed. Never very famous in international racing circles, she was well-known in Sarasota during the late 'Roaring Twenties.'

This mahogany-hulled hydroplane, the Silver King, was built by and for two of Sarasota's earliest yacht club members and boating enthusiasts, William Selby and Robert Ringling (Charles and Edith's son). It was built in Ravenhurst, Canada by the Ditchburne Company at an original cost of $10,000 excluding the engine. Twenty-eight feet in length, she was built with all copper riveting and six-inch thick oak ribs and stringers. The engine that was installed in the Silver King had originally been in an earlier boat, the Sara-de-Sota, designed by Frederick W. Keith. Robert Ringling commissioned this boat to be build by the Simmons Boat Company of Chicago about 1921.

The story is told, by some persons who said they were there, that the Sara-de-Sota, driven by Fred Blossom, set numerous world speed records in the Gold Cup Races in 1928. Research, not always the final word, has established the authenticity of some of those claims as reported in the March 11, 1928 Sarasota Herald.

At least one race was run in Sarasota Bay in 1929 with Robert Ringling at the helm of the Silver King (with the 300 horsepower engine from the Sara-de-Sota against the Sara-de-Sota with Fred Blossom at the controls (with a replacement engine).

I can only assume that the results were inconclusive because I didn't find the results published in any periodical of the time. So, it's just possible that only the yacht club members knew who gained the bragging rights.

But, alas, with the dawning of Black Friday, October 29, 1929, the Ringling/Selby boats were dry-docked. The Sara-de-Sota went to Lowe's Boatways, only to be torched in the 1950s because of non-seaworthiness. The Silver King was consigned to a barn on the Ringling's estate property near the museum. It has recently (1955) been bought by Mr. Charles Cutler who hopes to re-hab it for his personal use.