Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Steamship / The Well / The Battleship
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami design known as the Steamship / the Well and its derivative design, The BattleshipKing's Crown and its derivative 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 Japan


The Steamship design is pictured (upside down and presumably under an entirely different name) in a publication issued in 1878 by the kindergarten of the Tokyo Women's Normal School.


In Western Europe / USA


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.



'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.



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.



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