Girl Power–1918 Style

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Girl filing in plant. U.S. Naval Aircraft factory, Navy Yard, Phila., 1918. Mariners’ Museum Collection #P0005—U-PA0087

When the United States Navy’s Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia needed to ramp up their labor force in early 1918, it began to train and employ women. According to William F. Trimble, author of Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917-1956, the factory’s first female factory worker was Marion Elderton, already on staff as a secretary. That transition happened in December of 1917, and by June of 1918, the labor force included 218 women. One year later (Dec.1918), NAF female employment reached 890, which was 24.5% of the work force.

Yes-they were referred to as girls

Not to put too fine a point on it, I suspect that the writer of the captions on these photographs was male, perhaps referencing the novelty of the subject. Trimble’s use of female and women is fitting for 1990, the time of his publication. Not so in 1918, when women were still fighting for the right to vote.   Read more

Behind the Scenes on the SS United States with Albert Durant

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Waitstaff stands behind a SS United States model with plates and a clock on the back wall. Photograph by Albert Durant, The Mariners’ Museum, MS0536–034.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for a behind-the-scenes tour! It wasn’t so common in the 1950s to photograph the waitstaff and working areas of an ocean liner. This, combined with the African Americans pictured in a group of photographs I discovered in our Collection drew my attention.

Photographer Albert Durant approached the opportunity to be on board the SS United States during its trial run to focus on fellow people of color whose service made the passengers’ journey pleasurable.  I’ve since learned Durant was a trailblazer right here in our backyard.   Read more

Oh, How We Mariners Love Lighthouses

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An ocean wave crashes against a lightouse, almost completely obscuring it.
Wolf Rock Lighthouse, Lands End, Cornwall, after 1870, Gibson & Sons, Scilly. The Mariners’ Museum, P0001.012-01-PL281.

I’m aware that lighthouses serve a practical purpose, where land and water collide, but symbolically, they offer a message of hope and determination when facing adversity.

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean-not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most. ― M. L. Stedman   Read more

Have you heard the one about a train, a schooner, and a drawbridge?

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Train Disaster 1904
Locomotive poised above the Laurel River after crashing through a drawbridge and plunged into the river, 1904, Laurel, Delaware. Photograph by Albert H. Waller.

What’s going on here? Its definitely not your typical maritime photograph.

It’s a curious story. I came across the photograph quite by accident. It was filed under Golden Gate. On the morning of June 20, 1904, the schooner Golden Gate just happened to be passing under the drawbridge at Laurel, Delaware, when this locomotive broke through and plunged 50 feet into the Laurel River.   Read more

Tell Me About It: Colonial Line Pier

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Colonial Lines Pier, New York City
Close view of the Colonial Lines Pier in New York, c.1930

This 1930s photograph grabbed my attention with its jam-packed composition and crisp morning light. Taken from the water, it is a spectacular view of the Colonial Line pier with New York City in the background.

Tell me about it: Is that a bell tower in the foreground part of the pier? What would it have been used for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments area below!   Read more