Artifacts with a Stinky History

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An innocent enough ceramic bowl, but what is that little man inside doing?! FN 859 / 1952.0232.000001

I scared myself in storage the other day. I was pulling ceramics for a researcher when I saw an odd figure painted at the bottom of a large pot. His hands were at his face, mouth and eyes wide open in fear, and his hair was sticking all up in the air. What in the world?! I tilted it toward me to get a better look and a ceramic brown frog was there, yikes!

Turns out it was a chamber pot, which made the situation all the funnier. Now I think the little guy was reacting with disgust, not fear. I imagine him saying, “You just dropped WHAT on me?!” Chamber pots were the early bathrooms, a place to hold your business until you could dispose of it. As a person living with indoor plumbing, my only response is ick. I can only imagine the smell.   Read more

Threading Stories Throughout our Collections

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Just a few of the ship models in our Collection.

We routinely have people contact The Mariners’ Museum and Park to offer to donate objects into our Collection. For that, we are grateful for the opportunities to expand our abilities to tell the maritime stories that connect all of us, especially with the nuance of family history that makes every single donation unique.

Each of those objects, documents, or books, go before the Collections Committee, a group that meets once a month to navigate the decisions in accepting new donations. We must consider the story we can tell with the new donation, the condition and work required to treat it, and if we already have something like it in the Collection. There is a lot of work involved, and we take each acquisition recommendation seriously.   Read more

The Legacy of USS Mayflower: Private and Presidential Yacht, US Navy Warship, Merchant Ship

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From The Mariners’ Museum and Park collection P0001.022-01–PY755

Several years ago, I first learned of USS Mayflower, a presidential yacht. I was studying about the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Conference at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. I was curious but didn’t have time to delve into the ship’s history.

Since then, I keep “bumping into” stories about this ship as I study and learn more about other topics. I read Erik Larson’s Dead Wake about the sinking of Lusitania and then read more about Woodrow Wilson’s relationship with Edith Bolling Galt. Turns out, they spent much of their time getting to know one another while on board USS Mayflower.   Read more

Matthew Henson: An Arctic Explorer

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Matthew Alexander Henson, ca. 1910. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/00650163/. You can search their website for additional photos.

A great deal of our collection is related to explorations and discovery, because so many of those took place by way of the oceans and rivers of the world. We have objects related to the big names in exploration and also some who are not as famous. So I was interested a few months ago to hear a news report refer to an explorer I had not heard of: Matthew Henson. I went straight to our database to learn more!

The report I heard discussed the conservation of 20 dioramas built for the American Negro Exposition held in Chicago between July 4 and September 2, 1940. There were originally 33 dioramas but 13 have disappeared. The Legacy Museum at Tuskegee University is using the conservation of the dioramas to help teach Black art students who have preservation experience. This will help build diversity within the conservation field. The dioramas each displayed significant stories in American history that prominently featured Black Americans such as Crispus Attucks, the WWI Harlem Hellfighters, surveyor Benjamin Banneker, and Arctic explorer Matthew Henson.   Read more

Success (and Liquor) on the Rocks

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The Success Wedged on a Rock, LE 1452. The image can be found after page 94 of John Hamilton Moore’s 1778 book, “A New and Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels,” online here.

2020 has been a rocky year but humor has definitely helped me along the way. So when I stumbled onto this print and couldn’t stop laughing, I knew that I had to share it. The print is titled “The Success wedged on a Rock, being at the same time between the fire of the Spanish Fort at Umata and a Ship in the Harbour.” Irony anyone?

With such a hilarious title I dug deeper and just laughed more. The captain of Success was John Clipperton, a British sailor who was born in 1676 and joined Captain William Dampier on Saint George for an expedition to the Pacific from 1703-1704. This voyage gave Clipperton knowledge of the Pacific islands, which he put to good use when he led a mutiny against Dampier and left in a prize ship. That didn’t end well: the Spanish captured and imprisoned him in Panama for four years under Juan Antonio Rocha Carranza, Marquis de Villa-Rocha.   Read more