Ships from Ben-Hur

by Fong Sam


Prop-making is not what it used to be. Computers and CGI changed everything. However, when you see a prop from the old days, you can’t help but acknowledge the craftsmanship that was employed in those times. We currently have 19 filming miniature ships from both the 1925 and 1956 Ben-Hur films. The same ships were used in both productions.

They are impressive even in their current state. Made of copper, aluminum, steel and wood, this literal armada range from 5 to 9 feet in length. The copper hulls have rusted over the years and the masts have collapsed. Many of the wooden decks are no longer present, though the larger ships still retained mechanical gears for the oars.


Today we are attempting to lightly restore these ships. Mainly just reattach loose parts, put up the mast if that is there, and brush away the dust. They must have been quite a sight 60+ years ago. These really should belong in an institution, where real restoration can be properly performed and subsequently displayed. In the meantime, these will be in our July auction catalog. Here’s hoping they find a good home soon.