Sensationalism in print sold just as well in the early 19th century as it does now. Fine young cannibals, indeed!
Who knew what tales of woe could hide in a little rare book from the 1830’s? A new addition to the collection at the G.W. Blunt White Library is only about 18 pages long and measures, in size, about 3 inches by 5 inches. But in it are three tales of shipwreck, the most gruesome of which is illustrated here. The book is so tender that we decided to photograph it immediately to make it available digitally, since the binding is so tight that just opening it can do damage to it. Thankfully, not the kind of damage that has been done to a few of the shipmates in the picture. This particular story recounts the hardships of the crew of the ship ANNE and MARY of Galway in 1750 and is somewhat reminiscent of the story of the whaleship ESSEX in that crew members drew lots to see who would become the first supper for the rest of the gang. Whether the story is true (fake news anyone?) has yet to be determined, although it, and the two other stories of shipwrecks bound along with it, seems to have been lifted verbatim from the Mariners Chronicle, another book of shipwreck stories, from 1826.
In 1860 Captain George Blunt Wendell was engaged in hauling guano from Peru to the United States. In addition to the fertilizer he carried, he brought home a piece of Incan history.
As a young man George Blunt Wendell joined a counting house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as an apprentice. However, in 1847 he commenced his seafaring career as a cabin boy and 3 years later became first mate on a voyage. Wendell’s first command was in 1853 and by 1860 he commanded the clipper GALATEA. It was often that a ship master was found to be a thorough seaman and smart navigator, but a poor merchant. Wendell however, used his mercantile knowledge obtained in the counting house to good advantage, and his voyages usually proved profitable for the vessel’s owners and himself.
Some of his last voyages were involved in carrying cargoes of guano from the Chincha Islands on the coast of Peru. Hundreds of American ships were among the multi-national fleets that hauled guano in the mid-19th century. Sea-bird guano was a valuable commodity, especially as a fertilizer, and the Chincha Islands near Callao, Peru were the best source. In a collection of Wendell’s papers in the G.W. Blunt White Library, given to the Museum by Wendell’s son, there is a note from October of 1860 to Capt. Wendell from a Commodore Jones. While it is unclear as to who Jones was, there is speculation that he was part of the Peruvian navy and involved in administration of the port at the Chinchas by the tone of his note. It states: “Dear Sir, I send you by the bearer two small jugs taken out from 300 feet under the guano.” He then follows it with “You must not fire any more guns, as you did last night. It is contrary to the orders of the port and also a fine of $25 for each gun. Yours truly, F.D. Jones.”
The pre-Columbian Incan vessel seen here, an aribalo, was a very common long-necked vessel used for carrying liquids, among other uses, and was one of the subjects of Jones’ letter to Captain Wendell. Incas were known to use guano as a fertilizer in their terraced fields, so it is not unusual that this particular artifact might be left behind on one of the islands. Unearthing such an object from beneath tons of such caustic waste centuries later was a side note to the brutal endeavor of mining there. Most laborers in the 19th century were shipped to the islands and coerced by one manner or other to work there, many until they succumbed from the conditions. How he came by it and why Commodore Jones thought to give this particular object to Captain Wendell is unknown, but it is now a unique object within the collection of Mystic Seaport. Other objects, manuscripts and images from Mystic Seaport have been instrumental in publications and exhibits about this odoriferous subject. Current exhibits on guano include the Smithsonian’s The Norie Atlas and the Guano Tradeand one section of the new exhibit Sea Change in the brand new Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport.
Jonathan Wright was a photographer who accompanied archaeologist and ethnologist John Bockstoce on a 1,600 mile journey across the Arctic in a walrus-skin boat.
If you are like so many other museum goers of a certain age, you have a stash of National Geographic magazines tucked away in a closet, basement or attic. If such is the case, dig through that pile and find the July, 1983 issue. In it you will find an article by former New Bedford Whaling Museum curator (and former Mystic Seaport trustee), John Bockstoce. The article, entitled “Arctic Odyssey”, documents a journey by Bockstoce and associates in a walrus-hide covered umiak across the Canadian Arctic in the late 1970’s. A record of this 1,600 mile journey was also caught with camera lens by photographer Jonathan Wright.
The current exhibit in the new Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport has as one of its “tent pole” objects that very umiak, hanging from the rafters for all to see. Its story is shown in text, stills and taped interviews. A handful of the images that Jonathan Wright took as part of the expedition accompany the exhibit. The beauty of the images taken in such a stark setting speaks to his artist’s eye.
His family was kind enough to loan us the images for the exhibit. Jonathan unfortunately met a tragic end in 1980 on another adventure. A mountaineering accident in an an avalanche in the Tibetan Himalayas cut his time short. He did a number of projects for National Geographic and we are glad that he was one of the crew along for the ride in this umiak.
The German submarine DEUTSCHLAND visited the Unite States in 1916 to promote trans-Atlantic undersea trading during wartime. During this visit she collided with a tug in New London, killing 5 crew members.
There have been a number of news items locally about the anniversary of the visit of the German cargo submarine DEUTSCHLAND to New London in the Fall of 1916. You can read the story from The Day of New London here. The arrival of the sub caused excitement up and down the east coast as she also made her way to Baltimore earlier during the same visit.
A major part of the story in New London, beyond the fact that Americans were warmly welcoming a representative of a combatant in a war that had already claimed American lives, was the loss of five lives in the accidental sinking by the U-boat of a tugboat that was assisting it.
The Museum holds a number of documents pertaining to the sinking of the tug in its collection of papers from the T.A. Scott Company. The T.A. Scott Company was a salvage and wrecking company that owned the tug in question. One of their lawyers felt that the captain of the U-boat, Paul Koenig, should be charged with manslaughter because of the circumstances following the loss of five crew members in the collision.
This postcard from the Museum’s collection shows Koenig and the DEUTSCHLAND
The following letter was sent by Koenig to the T.A. Scott company expressing his regrets over the sinking.
In addition to newspaper stories about the visit to New London, boating magazines of all types also followed the visit of the submarine to America, witness the page from an issue of MotorBoat magazine in 1916.
Koenig went on to play a role as an officer in the German Navy in World War I and died in 1933 after returning to his civilian career with the shipping line North German Lloyd.
For a number of years, many of you have been accustomed to visiting the research pages at library.mysticseaport.org. If you have had that site bookmarked, you will notice that it now takes you to a completely re-vamped website. The reasons for making the change are many, not least of which was an urgency to save all the organized data which was in danger due to failing hardware. Rather than living on the Museum’s internal servers as has always been the case, our site is now moved to the ever-expanding “cloud”.
The other main reason for the change is the fact that the old site was looking a bit disheveled, having grown like Topsy over the last couple decades. The new site is cleaner and better organized, using pull-down menus to display the multiple elements included on the pages as you can see in the image below.
As with any new venture, the updated site is not without its hiccups, and we invite you to use the “Contact Us” link to let us know about anything that is untoward. Because there are well over a million links in the associated pages (including just under a million in the ship register index alone), we expect individual problems to arise. Also, some elements from the old site are still being converted, but we felt it prudent to switch to the update before any major problems arose.
The new format makes it easier to add new content to the research pages, so stop back in on a regular basis to see what new digital images or databases might be available. Many thanks to David Caldwell for his creativity and knowledge in converting the old site to the new.
This picture, an exceptional photographic panorama of Greenmanville, the area of Mystic in which Mystic Seaport is found, was taken in 1874 by Everett Augustus Scholfield.
With the opening of the new Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport, a new era in exhibiting has certainly dawned on the Museum. The 5,000 square foot exhibition space will play host to some extraordinary displays for years to come. However, the gallery space is currently a blank slate waiting for its first installation. In the meantime, new Senior VP for Curatorial Affairs, Nicholas Bell, worked closely with the Exhibitions and Collections Departments to make a bit of a splash in two areas of the new building. The first is in the lobby where a 59-foot-wide mural by artist Nikki McClure graces the space above the entry to the new Collins Gallery. The second, pictured below, is located in the new Masin Conference Room, overlooking the Mystic River and is an exceptional photographic panorama of Greenmanville, the area of Mystic in which Mystic Seaport is found.
This picture was taken by a gentleman named Everett Augustus Scholfield, a photographer from Mystic, CT in business from 1865 to 1913. By the time this picture was taken in 1874, Scholfield was a well-established photographer in the area, specializing in portraiture, landscapes, architecture and maritime vessels.
Scholfield was innovative and artistic and used various processes to produce his images over time. The image above was made from a large glass negative in the collection of the Museum. The negative was produced using the collodion process, a method that had many advantages including being able to produce multiple images from the same negative, unlike a daguerreotype. The detail achieved through the use of this process, and the extended exposure time, is quite impressive. The absence of people in the photograph is explained by that exposure time. In a few areas, “ghosts” can be seen as people move in and out of camera view while the glass plate is being exposed.
Achieving a “clean” picture to print in such a large format was achieved through the magic of Photoshop and the diligence of one of our photographers, Joe Michael, removing every imperfection in the plate that has deteriorated over time. It is a nice touch to ring in the new with a reflection of the past.
A graduate of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Ms. Vann is currently the Director of the Marine Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Ms. Vann notes that throughout the active years of the transatlantic slave trade, some European and American women gained economic and social influence by involvement as participants in the slave trade. They challenge the dominant narrative that the slave trade was practiced exclusively by white men. Her article focuses on female slave traders from Britain and American colonies during the period of 1650-1760, with a concentration on New York, the former Dutch colony that fell under English rule after 1764.
Her research is largely based on review of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, slave ship records, newspapers, journals, court records and diaries. Sources were evaluated with intentional focus on women who were previously overlooked. Their existence during the early years of the transatlantic trade challenges common notions about both gender and the slave trade and additionally raises important questions about the role of women slavers in other times and places.
A fascinating study, this article is a well-deserving winner of the Morris Prize Article Contest.
The Little Sea Torch, published in London in 1801, was a translation of a French book of sailing directions entitled Le Petit Flambeau de la Mer. The author of the translation, John Thomas Serres, was the son of marine artist Dominic Serres and a very accomplished marine artist in his own right.
Serres the younger dedicated the volume to The Right Honorable Earl Spencer, then the First Lord of the Admiralty and one of a number of influential patrons he would have, including both HRH King George III as well as his son the Duke of Clarence. The book, as can be seen from the title page, described the coastal waters and ports of England, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean region. In addition to the text, Serres illustrated many of the ports in multiple views. Below are just two illustrations among many, these showing a view of the harbor of Naples along with a chart of the Bay of Naples, both executed by Serres.
This book in the collection of the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport is just one of many illustrated works on charts, maps and sailing directions, some dating to the mid-17th century. We are fortunate to have had our own patrons over the years to donate such items to our collection and we look forward to adding more such treasures in the future for use by the many researchers who make their way to our collections.
While sailing from Boston towards the Northwest Coast beginning in 1821, the IDA was standing a mile or so off of Valparaiso on the 20th of November 1822, when : “At 11 P.M. We was suddenly alarmed by a violent shock that effected the ship as if she had struck the bottom, all hands sprung on deck and cried out the ship ashore…
The Museum recently acquired a logbook of the Boston ship IDA from 1821 to 1823. The IDA was built in Amesbury, Massachusetts in 1816, and at 115 feet in length and 28 in breadth, she was almost the exact size of the Museum’s own CHARLES W. MORGAN. The following events in Valparaiso, Chile in November of 1822 were the last recorded for the ship, except for a note in the back saying the ship was sold in March of 1823. The customs house in Boston lists the documents for the ship as being returned after the vessel was sold in Buenos Aires in November of 1823.
While sailing from Boston towards the Northwest Coast beginning in 1821, the IDA was standing a mile or so off of Valparaiso on the 20th of November 1822, when : “At 11 P.M. We was suddenly alarmed by a violent shock that effected the ship as if she had struck the bottom, all hands sprung on deck and cried out the ship ashore, we tried the pumps and hove the deep sea lead, found no water in the ship, nor bottom with 50 fathoms of line, it so much resembled a ship drawing over a coral bank that I was induced to heave the lead, but on reflection knew it was impossible for her to have struck any bottom in so heavy a sea as was on at the time without bilging the bottom in. I then thought of a wreck of a vessel but lastly I imputed it to an earth quake.” Prior to the earthquake, on November 18, the captain had sent a boat ashore at the mouth of the River Maipo at San Antonio, and with much relief brought the boat back aboard on November 22. “They got on board and informed us that there had been a heavy shock of an earth quake on shore and that Valparaiso had been nearly destroyed and had lost 23 lives in the fall of a Castle. St. Jago & several of the towns in the interior had suffered severely the inhabitants about the sea coast fled to the mountains for safety fearing that the sea would flow in upon them, animals of every kind on shore appeared to be affected by the shock.”
Maria Graham, the wife of a British naval officer residing in Valparaiso during 1822 wrote of the same earthquake and its stressful effects on animals as well in her published journal. “The house received a violent shock, with a noise like the explosion of a mine. I sat still; and Mr. Bennet, starting up, ran out, exclaiming, “An earthquake, an earthquake! For God’s sake follow me!”…The vibration still increasing, the chimneys fell, and I saw the walls of the house fall open.” She continued, “The motion of the earth changed from a quick vibration to a rolling like that of a ship at sea.” As to the animals, “Amid the noise of the destruction before and around us, I heard the lowings of the cattle all the night through; and I heard, too, the screamings of the sea-fowl, which ceased not until the morning.”
While this was one of a number of major earthquakes in the same exact area over the last 200 years, there are few recollections in English of the quake, so this particular view by a sea captain may very well be unique.
This area of Chile is regularly wracked by earthquakes and has seen some of the strongest in history. Thirteen years after the earthquake described above, another earthquake to the south of Valparaiso in Chile was described by Charles Darwin. He arrived in Talcahuano about two weeks after the earthquake and visited Concepcion, the site of the quake. The chart of Valparaiso Bay below was surveyed and drawn by officers of H.M.S. BEAGLE at that time in 1835.
No, this has nothing to do with sweet ol’ granny sitting for her family portrait. Rather it has everything to do with taking advantage of new technologies in imaging to give virtual (and actual) visitors a more complete view of an object than they could get seeing it laying in a traditional museum display case.
Photogrammetry is the term. Photogrammetry is a photographic technique used in measuring distances with cameras, oftentimes for aerial maps and the like, but many museums are using the process (in concert with other scanning procedures) to create visual virtual 3-D models of objects.
If you click on the image it will take you to a 3-D model created by the Rhode Island company named The Digital Ark. The Digital Ark did some tests using a photogrammetric method to create the image you see. They used well over two hundred images of the piece of scrimshaw and stitched them together with software to make a 3-D version of the tooth that can be spun in space and viewed from all sides, giving us the opportunity to display things in an entirely new fashion.
View the tooth in full screen mode by clicking on the two diagonal arrows. Rotate it in space by manipulating the image with your computer mouse or touchpad.
Given to the Museum in 1941 by trustee and collector H.H. Kynett, the tooth in question has on one side patriotic symbols including an American eagle, a shield and cannons with the motto “E Pluribus Unum” and some stylized roses. The other side has an anchor, a 3-masted ship with guns, and a banner displaying the words “Success to our Navy.”
While we are just in the test stages of working with this time-consuming process and technology, we feel it offers tremendous opportunities to show visitors many different types of objects in their entirety that they would not otherwise be able to experience. Wish us luck!
Growing up in a small town and attending a two-room schoolhouse as a child, I was fortunate to have some interesting, and interested, teachers. One such was an older woman born a decade or so before World War I who, along with teaching English, Math, Spelling and Geography, inspired her pint-sized students with her avid interest in music.
Having obviously learned her repertoire at her parents’ knees, she animatedly played the piano to accompany her singing of a host of songs from the Gay ‘90’s. All of which we learned as well (and sing to this day). Our Miss Gliha would have loved the collection of sheet music housed in the Collections Research Center at Mystic Seaport.
There are over 1,500 pieces of sheet music at Mystic Seaport, ranging in date from the War of 1812’s The Fearless Tar to the Little Mermaid TV series in 1993. Most have been collected for their nautical content, either in the lyrics of the song or the content of the illustrations on the cover or both. Shown here are a few representations of themes included in the collection. Click on the images to get a better view.
The Three Bells Polka was written in honor of Capt. Creighton of the Glasgow Ship THREE BELLS. In 1854, the THREE BELLS was one of three ships that rescued 500 passengers from the steamer SAN FRANCISCO. Unfortunately, another 200 passengers were lost. Creighton received a medal and $7,500 in cash from the U. S. Government for his efforts in rescuing the people that he managed to take aboard. A polka seems an odd musical form to commemorate such an incident, but Capt. Creighton (or at least his remembrance on paper) now lives on in the museum’s temperature and humidity-controlled Collections Research Center.
Music for Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat was written by William Jerome and Jean Schwartz, popular collaborators in the 1900’s and 1910’s. The song title, best known for the song of the same name in the Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls, is a completely different song, except for the refrain “Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rocking the boat!” The 1913 version seen here has to do with a young woman fending off the advances of her sailor suitor.
A very colorful cover appears on the music for The Ship I Love, written in 1893 by Felix McGlennon and, as can be seen on the cover, “Sung with immense success by Tom Costello.” The heroic Captain intones from the deck of his sinking ship, “I’ll stick to the ship lads, you save your lives, I’ve no one to love me, you’ve children and wives.” He finishes the chorus with “But I’ll go down in the angry deep, with the ship I love.”
The number of pieces in the collection attests to the popularity over time of sea-related emotions to either tug at the heart strings of the public, or to entertain them with the farce and silliness. Either way, we have been diligently scanning the collection and hope to have it online in the near future if you wish to try your hand at playing and singing such greats as The Midshipman’s Farewell or The Mermaid’s Cave.
A recent inquiry into the life of Massachusetts mariner Isaac Hinckley once again brought to light his charming watercolor of the launch of his first command, the Brig REAPER.
The REAPER was built by Thatcher Magoun in Medford, Massachusetts in 1808. Hinckley, at the ripe old age of 25, became her master and part owner. Hinckley says of the painting, “An attempt to show the Brig Reaper as she appeared on the stocks at Medford-but it is past my Art; therefore here I leave it- Launching Day-.” The painting is part of Manuscript Collection 184, the Isaac Hinckley Papers, at Mystic Seaport. From the written description of the collection: “Isaac Hinckley, born in 1783, was a shipmaster from Hingham, Massachusetts who had gone to sea as a young boy, and acquired his first command at an early age. These papers indicate that during the years 1809-1810 he was master of the brig REAPER for a trading voyage from Boston to Aden and Calcutta. He was then master of the ship TARTER, 1812-1813, for another voyage to Calcutta, and then commanded the ship CANTON for three voyages from Boston to Canton, China between 1815-1818. It was during the homeward passage of this last voyage that Issac Hinckley died (58 days out of Macao), leaving a widow in Hingham and six children, 2 to 11 years of age.” Hinckley was 35 years of age at the time.
Thirty-three years later, in 1841, and again 205 years later, in 2013, another ship was launched. The site of the first launch was also in Massachusetts. The CHARLES W. MORGAN, now the last remaining wooden whaleship, must have looked very similar to the REAPER as she slipped into the water at the shipyard of the brothers Zacharia and Jethro Hillman in New Bedford. Then, in 2013, under the watchful eyes of many hundreds of attendees, she gently dipped her hull into the waters of the Mystic River to commemorate her arduous and successful restoration. This ceremony was the culmination of years of planning and hard work and the preamble to a successful voyage the following year that would see the last of the New England whaling fleet make a peaceful visit to the whaling grounds off Massachusetts. The painting below by celebrated marine artist Geoff Hunt captured the excitment of the moment on July 21, 2013.
For the last five years or so, Mystic Seaport has been the temporary home for one of the most amazing murals ever painted. When Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington finished their masterpiece in the late 1840’s, the result, known as the Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World, was celebrated as a realistic depiction of the whaleman’s life in pursuit of the leviathan.
Just recently, Mystic Seaport staff members assisted New Bedford staff in removing the second of seven rolls from our Collections Research Center for its trip back to New Bedford where it will undergo long-anticipated conservation work. The first roll was retrieved last year and the first phase of its conservation is nearing an end in public view at New Bedford under the watchful eye of the half-scale whaling bark LAGODA. This oversized painting stands nearly eight and one half feet tall and if opened up to its full length it would stretch for approximately a quarter of a mile. It may very well be the longest painting in the world. When it was completed it was displayed in New Bedford and then went on a tour throughout the United States. Each roll stood vertically on a spindle on a stage with a take-up reel positioned some feet away. As the panels stretched and rolled between the two spindles, a narrator would describe to the seated viewers just what it was they were observing as they vicariously traveled around the world on a whaleship. You can learn more about the panorama and view a video production about it at the following link: Panorama History. Mystic Seaport is happy to have been of service to our fellow maritime museum while they endeavored to raise funds for the conservation work.