Of Two Worlds

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Dugout canoe
Jason Copes/The Mariners’ Museum and Park
The Mariners’ Museum 1969.0001.000001A_01a

Early European explorers and settlers to Virginia found that the Indigenous population had a successful watercraft of their own: the dugout canoe. Canoes were laboriously crafted from a single log.  A fire was allowed to slowly burn into the wood and the accrued char was scraped away using a stone or oyster shell.  The resulting vessel was durable, stable, and capable of carrying between 10 and 20 people.  

The Mariners’ Museum and Park holds a single colonial-era canoe.  And it’s pretty interesting.  The artifact was discovered by fishermen in Powhatan Creek (James City County) in 1963 and housed at Jamestown Festival Park until it was gifted to the Museum in 1969. Composed of three major fragments, the canoe would have originally been over 26 feet in length with a width of around 25 inches. The wood is pine and an approximate count of the annual growth rings would have put the source tree at more than 200 years old.     Read more

Japan Surrenders ⸺ September 2, 1945

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USS Missouri (BB-63) steaming to her anchorage in Tokyo Bay for the formal signing of the Japanese surrender, 29 August 1945.  Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command (NH 96780)

Nearly 75 years ago, a Navy mess table was the center of the world’s attention.  The deck of battleship USS Missouri bore witness to representatives of the Empire of Japan and the Allied powers.  The occasion: the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, ending hostilities in a conflict that saw the loss of 85 million lives around the globe.

General Douglas MacArthur, new Supreme Commander, Allied Forces in Japan, oversaw the event.  He invited the assembled civilian and military officials forward to make their signature with the hope:

“… that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past – a world founded upon faith and understanding – a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish – for freedom, tolerance and justice.” 1   Read more

Noone asked me…

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Image credit: Marc Nucup

…but I thought I would volunteer an annotated list of some of the maritime history books that I have found myself pulling off the shelf (again and again) for reference during my twenty-year tenure at The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

The Story of Sail by Veres László and Richard Woodman (Chatham Publishing: 1999) is a dense volume of over 1000 scale drawings of (you guessed it) sailing vessels. A wealth of details about sails and rigging are complemented with great drawings of the vessels themselves all backed by a thorough bibliography.   Read more

A Manuscript Volume

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Title Page.
VF145 .I6 Rare O (Mariners’ Museum Library and Archives)

The call number is VF145.I6. The work is entitled Instruction d’artillerie, 1818-1839. The volume was first encountered as a partially cataloged item in the Museum Archives and encountered purely by happenstance. The 38 centimeter-tall bound manuscript’s text is hand lettered, done in a bold style with almost mechanical precision. 

The book’s decorative embellishments are folksy, yet almost modern in their whimsy. The drawings are superlative. Perhaps the work was copied from another source, but never allow that consideration to detract from its wonder.    Read more