The Public Paperfolding History Project

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The Steamship / The Well / The Battleship
This page is being used to collect information about the history of the origami design known as the Steamship / the Well and its derivative design, the Battleship. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.


In China (and in publications by Chinese authors)


The basic design appears as the 'Steamboat' in 'The Art of Chinese Paper folding for Young and Old' by Maying Soong, which was published by Harcourt Brace and Company of New York in 1948.


In Japan (and in publications by Japanese authors)


The Steamship design is pictured (upside down) in 'Yochien Ombutsu No Zu' a publication of kindergarten material issued by the Tokyo Women's Normal School in 1878.



A version of the Steamship also appears in 1894 in issue 15 of the Japanese children's magazine 'Shokokumin'. The katakana characters for its title read ??? (Bo-o-to).



A drawing of a version of the Steamship appears in an illustration by Takei Takeo in a 1927 issue of the children's magazine 'Kodomo No Kuni' (The Land of Children).


In Western Europe and the Americas


As far as I know the Steamship first occurs as 'Der inktkoker' (the well) in 'De Kleine Papierwerkers 1: Wat men van een stukje papier al maken kan: Het vouwen' (The Small Paperwork 1: What one can make from a piece of paper: Folding) by Elise Van Calcar, which was published by K H Schadd in Amsterdam in 1863.



In the introduction to an article on folding 'Nantucket Sinks' (Sanbos on Legs) in the August 1887 issue of the American children's magazine St Nicholas the writer says 'How enchanting it was to see Napoleon's 'breast-pin' transformed in an instant into his 'steamboat' ...' This is possibly a reference to changing the Cross into the Steamship.



The Steamshop also appears, as 'Battle Cruiser', in 'More Paper Magic' by Will Blyth, which was published by C Arthur Pearson in London in 1923.



'Fun with Paperfolding' by William D Murray and Francis J Rigney, which was published by the Fleming H Revell Company, New York in 1928 contains a version of the Steamship, called the Motor Boat, in which the bow and stern are pulled out sideways.



As 'Fragata' (Frigate) in booklet 1 of 'Trabajos Manuales Salvatella - Plegado de figuras de papel', which were published by Editorial Miguel A Salvatera in Barcelona, pobably in or around 1929.



Another development of the design, into 'El acorazado' (The Battleship), occurs in 'El Mundo de Papel' by Dr Nemesio Montero was published by G Miranda in Edicions Infancia in Valladolid in 1939. Compare the Battleship in 'Fun with Paperfolding' by William D Murray and Francis J Rigney, which is developed from the King's Crown.