The Remarkable Mrs. Captain McGuire

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Figurehead carved by Herbert Gleason of the Boston firm McIntyre & Gleason in 1864. Accession#1939.0029.000001/OF76

In early 2019, an East Carolina University student, Jacquelyn Hewett, studied one of the figureheads in our Collection for her American Maritime Material Culture history class. The information she uncovered was enlightening and indicated that a change in the attribution of ship name was in order.1 While confirming her research, I uncovered the story of a wonderfully awesome woman I thought I would share with you!

The subject of Jacquelyn’s research had been acquired in 1939 in Cape Town, South Africa, by Captain Yngve Eiserman, a marine surveyor who became a buyer for the Museum. Unlike many other figureheads in the Museum’s Collection, which are divorced from their ship history, Captain Eiserman determined the carving had come from a German-owned full-rigged ship called Galatea   Read more

Lancaster Eagle Scavenger Hunt

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View of a large eagle figurehead in a thrift shop
Lancaster Eagle figurehead, 1926-1934. The Mariners’ Museum, # P0001.015/01-PO0514.

The Puzzle

This is where our colossal eagle figurehead was sitting in 1933 when buyers for the Museum found it. Wouldn’t it be fun to walk through this store? Think of all the treasures you might find.

In fact, I’m going to list a few items pictured in this photograph and ask you to look closely to find which of these items ARE or ARE NOT in the photograph! (Hint: Five items ARE pictured.)   Read more

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

I say Mortella. You say Martello.

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This aquatint, ca. 1812-1820, showing the bustling port of Toulon, was drawn and engraved by Charles Barrallier and published by Paul André Basset. It depicts the vast size and importance of Toulon, the home base of the French Mediterranean fleet. (The Mariners’ Museum #1940.0361.000001/LP 2073)

Sometimes the quirks of technology can reveal something really interesting! While compiling a list of objects in our Collection related to submarines, our Collections Management System threw me a curveball. For some unknown reason, my search caught a watercolor showing British ships anchored in Saint-Florent bay in Corsica around 1795. While I’m no expert, I’m pretty confident the Royal Navy didn’t use submarines during the French Revolutionary War.1 If they did, then this image shows them submerged and without periscopes! At any rate, I was intrigued that the object record contained so little information despite the specificity of the scene. I began researching the story behind the image and it ended up being really interesting! 

It all started on February 1, 1793, when revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain. The British immediately began assembling the various fleets they would need to fight the French.  Throughout May and June, Lord Hood, commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean fleet, gathered 15 ships-of-the-line and nine frigates at Gibraltar. On June 27, Hood sailed the fleet to Toulon, France, and instituted a blockade to lure the French Mediterranean fleet out for a fight. A short time later, the British blockade was joined by 24 Spanish ships-of-the-line under Admiral Juan de Langara. Faced with such a powerful force, it’s no surprise the 17 French ships (including two 100-gun vessels) weren’t willing to leave the safety of the port.   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