Who was Captain of the Andrew Harder? A Mystery Solved

Posted on
Log of the Andrew Harder
The rather unassuming cover of the diary kept in 1864 by the captain of Andrew Harder (from Logbook 192)

Last fall, we in the Archives received a request, as we often do, from the History Department of Cristopher Newport University, to provide an internship opportunity for a young man who was to graduate the following spring. Usually this is not difficult for us. This year, however, we could think of nothing to do for young Thomas Fosdick (the CNU student in question) and nearly gave up. The pandemic made it impossible for him to come on site and work on archival material. However, both Bill Barker (fellow archivist) and I knew that log book transcriptions could work. So I found a small logbook dating from the Civil War kept by the captain of the steamer Andrew Harder. But my choice of Log 192 involved an inherent mystery we had hoped Thomas might be able to solve for us. Who was this diarist?

The transport Andrew Harder

Before really tackling the problem of the diarist’s identity, we had to know basic facts about the service of this steamer. The Andrew Harder was a practically new vessel, a screw steamboat built in 1863 for service on the Hudson River between Stuyvesant, NY and New York City.   Read more

Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line

Posted on
Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940, photographed August 5, 1924. (from Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

Some time ago, I wrote a post about a Black entrepreneur in the Baltimore area whose name was Capt. George Brown. As a young man he experienced the degradations of the Jim Crow system while riding the rails, vowing that one he would create a first-class transportation experience for Black people. And he did it! He also built a memorable pair of amusement parks where Black citizens of Baltimore could go and be safe and enjoy themselves. Today, I want to write about Marcus Garvey, a Black man whose dreams for  his people were much larger, who was much more complex, and who was far more controversial than Captain Brown.

Marcus Garvey, like George Brown, believed in the power of ships and transportation to change the lives of Black people all over the world. He founded the company, the Black Star Line, as an embodiment of that dream to link the 400,000,000 people of color around the globe with the continent of Africa. But his story did not end up quite so well as George Brown’s.   Read more

Brittle Fracture: When Ships Split in Two

Posted on
Daniel J. Morrell
Great Lakes steamship Daniel J. Morrell. Photograph by Pesha Art Company, of Marine City, Michigan.

Last month, I began writing about the case of the Daniel J. Morrell, a Great Lakes bulk carrier built in 1906 that went down in a gale in November of 1966. I thought I would tell the story of how the ship split in two, and how all hands perished save 1 man.  I thought, “How very like the story of that film, The Finest Hours, that told the story of Bernie Webber and his crew of Coasties who saved 32 sailors from the wreck of the T2 tanker Pendleton. In both cases, the bow section split off and sank, as the stern section just sailed on.” The Michael Tougias & Casey Sherman book of the same name, by the way, served as the basis for the movie.

Then I thought about other ships that split. The T2 tanker Fort Mercer, that went down in the same storm as Pendleton. The Carl D. Bradley, another Laker. The T2 tanker Schenectady, just sitting at dock when it suddenly hogged and split.  Historians have documented 19 Liberty ships as having split in 2 without warning. There were just too many ships, too many lives lost! What was happening to these vessels?   Read more

What Can You Do with a Ship When It’s Retired?

Posted on
Queen Mary (Turbo steamship : 1936)
Caught by the famed photographer Keith Beken of Beken of Cowes, Queen Mary (1936) sets out for New York for the last time. (From P0001.003, Photographs of Steamships, Motorships and Ocean Liners)

Welcome to the New Year, dear readers! I hope you had a peaceful, restful, enjoyable holiday, which now is finally drawing to a close. As usual, this past season while I took a rest from work, I watched movies. I did not watch, however, one of my childhood favorites, that old Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye chestnut White Christmas.  But I thought about it when processing a curious part of MS0528, the Herbert Beazley Ocean Liner Ephemera Collection. That section we named, “Repurposed Ships.” You see, in the film Bing goes on television to ask his old Army buddies to come to Vermont for Christmas, to help out their former commanding officer who now operates a ski lodge. To introduce the idea, Bing croons, “What can you do with a General, when he stops being a General? Oh what can you do with a General who retires?”

Beazley’s liners

Herbert Beazley was all about ocean liners. A small series within his sprawling collection concerns ocean liners that are no longer ships. Many of you will know about one of them, the Queen Mary, now a hotel in Long Beach, California. Since 2018 another former Cunarder, Queen Elizabeth 2, has joined her as a floating hotel in Dubai. Beazley also collected material about the ongoing proposals to repurpose the United States.   Read more

The Votes are In!

Posted on
Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships
Advertising in favor of Key West ballot initiatives

Last month, I reported on a set of 3 ballot initiatives to change the city charter of Key West (https://blog.marinersmuseum.org/2020/10/a-maritime-issue-on-the-ballot/). Those initiatives sought to establish limits on the size and cleanliness of ships visiting the port of Key West, Florida. As you’ll recall, there were good, valid arguments on both sides of the issue. And during the campaign, as in all American campaigns since the early days of the Republic, passions flew a little high and a little mud got thrown. Americans are a pretty rough-and-tumble bunch!

Election results

Well, as I said, the residents have cast their votes! Bonnie Gross of the Florida Rambler reports that all those ballot questions passed by about 60% in favor of the changes. That means that, if the changes are allowed to stand, the City of Key West will limit the total carrying capacity of ships to 1,300 people.   Read more