Thomas F. Kilkenny Collection

Ted Kilkenny

Ted Kilkenny aboard the Cheng Ho
holding a coconut eating crab. 1940.

Creator: Thomas Francis Kilkenny, 1894-1956.

Extent: 3 Scrapbooks-15 inches long by 10.5 inches high stored individually in archival boxes and 1 folder containing 3 magazine articles.

Repository: The Bertram Zuckerman Garden Archive, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Research, 11935 Old Cutler Road, Miami, FL 33156-4296.

Abstract: The personal scrapbooks of Thomas “Ted”  Kilkenny, builder and first captain of the Cheng Ho, which cover the construction, launch and voyage of the Cheng Ho, as well as miscellaneous magazine articles and newspaper clippings. The collection contents date from approximately 1936 through March, 1946.

Administrative Information: Scrapbook #1 consists of the building and launch of the Cheng Ho.  The scrapbook is green leather with the words “Cheng Ho” in English and Chinese characters embossed across the front. “T. F. Kilkenny” is embossed in the lower left hand corner.

Scrapbook #2 consists of Kilkenny’s personal photos from the Fairchild Expedition of the Cheng Ho with Dr. David Fairchild (1939-1940). The scrapbook is green leather with the words “Cheng Ho” in English and Chinese characters embossed across the front. “T. F. Kilkenny” is embossed in the lower left hand corner.

Scrapbook #3 consists of numerous newspaper clippings dating from approximately 1936 to 1946, the majority from the Newport Balboa News of Newport Beach, CA. The scrapbook is green leather with “Scrap Book” embossed in gold across the front and “T.F. Kilkenny” embossed in gold in the lower left hand corner.

1 folder containing miscellaneous magazine articles.

Acquisition Information: Donated to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden by Anne Kilkenny, daughter of Thomas Kilkenny, on May 20, 2009.

Access: The Collection is open for research. Please consult the Librarian/Archivist for access: Nancy Korber, 305-667-1651 x3424 or nkorber@fairchildgarden.org

Usage Restrictions: All photos are property of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Preferred Citation: Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Archive. The Thomas F. Kilkenny Collection.

Biography: Thomas Francis Kilkenny was born in Providence, Rhode Island on May 29, 1894. He became interested in the sea and boats at a young age. In World War One, he served as an ensign aboard the USS Montana. During this time he met Paul Stevens and Phil Rhodes who would later become well respected naval architects. They designed many of the yachts Kilkenny built in Hong Kong at the Ah King Ship Yard in the years leading up to World War Two. During the war, the shipyard would come under Japanese control; however, Kilkenny was able to regain ownership after the war was over.

Kilkenny travelled extensively. One such voyage, the 1936 sailing of the So Fong, from Hong Kong to New York, was well documented by the world press. It was during these travels that Kilkenny met John Archbold and Dr. David Fairchild. It was they who recommended Kilkenny to design, build and captain the Cheng Ho, the yacht used for the Fairchild Garden Expedition of 1939-1940. It is this project which is the main focus of this collection.

In 1947 Kilkenny married Jane Winks of Oregon, US. They would live in Bali, Hong Kong and Japan where he continued to build boats. In 1950, they moved to Portland, OR where their daughter Anne was born. Kilkenny became a “gentleman squire”, raising cattle and game birds on a twenty acre farm.  He died in September 1956.

Processing: Collection arranged and processed by Janet Mosely, December, 2010.

Collection Scope and Content Note: Scrapbook #1 contains 175 black & white photos of the building and the launch of the Cheng Ho. 

Scrapbook #2 contains 194 black & white photos of the trial trip of the Cheng Ho in December 1939, as well as photos from the actual expedition. 

Scrapbook #3 contains 106 pages of newspaper articles dating from 1936 to 1946 as well as miscellaneous brochures and 10 black & white photographs.

Unless otherwise stated, all photographs on this page property of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Please contact the Archivist for permission to use or reproduce photographs.

Please contact:
Nancy Korber
Librarian/Archivist
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Conservation
11935 Old Cutler Road
Miami, Florida 33156 USA
library@fairchildgarden.org
tel. 305/667-1651, ext. 3424
fax 305/665-8032