USS Sequoia (1925)
Designed by John Trumpy and built by Mathis Yacht Company, Cooper’s Point, Camden New Jersey. She was built for the wealthy Cadwalder family of Philadelphia who used it on Chesapeake Bay and Florida. She was sold in 1928 to William Dunning, an oil company executive. He used it for gambling trips to Cuba and Mexico. Mr. Dunning had to sell it during the 1930’s depression. In 1931 ownership was Purchased by the US Department of Commerce who used it as a decoy ship to lure “bootleggers” trying to sell illegal alcohol on Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay. Repeal of Prohibition occurred in 1933.
Sequoia is 104 feet long, 18 feet wide, draft of 4 ½ feet, capable of 12 knots. Made of white oak frames, long leaf yellow pine hull planking, teak decks and mahogany interiors. Originally, she was powered by a gasoline engine.
Interior view and President Ford holding a Cabinet meeting.
Presidential Yacht – US presidents used Sequoia for family outings, important meetings with foreign government representatives and others. During periods that it was not the Presidential Yacht, other government officials used the yacht for similar purpose.
President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) – Had an affinity for Trumpy – Mathis yachts. He was a guest aboard a friends 98 foot Saunterer early in his administration. Hoover sold the then steam powered Presidential Yacht Mayflower (not a Trumpy – Mathis) and used Sequoia as the unofficial Presidential Yacht.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt(1933-1945) – Had Sequoia transferred from Commerce to the Navy Department and had an elevator installed. In the period just prior to WWII, the wooden Sequoia was deemed unsafe for the president to use and a steel hull USS Potomac became the Presidential Yacht. Sequoia was assigned to the Secretary of the Navy until 1969 when Sequoia was recommissioned as the Presidential Yacht.
President Harry Truman (1945-1953) – The USS Potomac served as Presidential Yacht until 1945 when Presidential Yacht Williamsburg took over the duties. Sequoia, was used for atomic arms control talks.
President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) – Eisenhower had the Williamsburg decommissioned in 1953. There was no official Presidential Yacht but important government meetings were held on Sequoia by Eisenhower and other key government officials. One such meeting resulted in the “Sequoia Report” about United States defensive policy.
President John Kennedy (1961-1963) – President Kennedy’s use of Sequoia is not well documented but he did spend his 46th birthday on board and held strategy meetings about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Lyndon Johnson (1963 – 1969) President Johnson had been an invited guest aboard Sequoia several times before elected President. President Johnson ordered the elevator installed by FDR removed and replaced with a bar. Johnson used Sequoia to lobby members of congress on critical legislative issues.
President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) - President Nixon recorded more than 80 trips aboard Sequoia. One such trip discussed an agreement between the US and Russia about prevention of nuclear war.
President Gerald Ford (1974-1977) – President Ford held a Cabinet meeting aboard Sequoia.
President James Carter (1977-1981) – It is estimated that it cost $800,000 per year to maintain the yacht. President Carter had the yacht sold at auction to display a sense of government frugality.
Additional Presidents that have walked the decks of Sequoia are George Bush and Bill Clinton while it was owned by private interests.
Post government service - Time and the high cost of maintaining and operating the vessel have not been good for Sequoia. She has had several owners since being sold by the US government. The high cost has not resulted in happy financial rewards for owners. In 2019 the vessel needed a substantial overhaul. The yacht was placed on a barge and towed up to Belfast Maine for a complete restoration. The restoration is expected to take several years.
Sequoia on a barge being transported to Belfast Maine for overhaul (2019)