Who was Captain of the Andrew Harder? A Mystery Solved

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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

Sea Monsters Revisited – The Carta Marina and beyond

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Olaus, Magnus, Archbishop of Uppsala, 1490-1557. 1572. “Carta marina.” University of Minnesota Libraries, James Ford Bell Library., Accessed March 23, 2021. https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/item/p16022coll251:138

As noted in a previous blog, one of the most famous and intriguing maps of the 16th Century is Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina, first published in 1539.  The Carta Marina depicts the geography of Northern Europe, the British Isles and Iceland. More importantly, it is populated with figures from Scandinavian history and folklore, and with animals both real and imagined.

In 1555 Magnus published his Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the Northern Peoples), which included a black and white version of the Carta Marina.  The library has a 1561 Italian edition of the work, Storia d’Olao Magno, arcivescovo d’Vspali, de’ costvmi de’ popoli settentrionali, as well as a 1567 Latin edition.  The 1567 edition in the library contains a simplified version of the Carta Marina. The 1572 version depicted below is from the University of Minnesota Libraries, James Ford Bell Library.   It will have to stand in for the example in the Museum’s library due to the condition of the map and the difficulty of photographing it.   Read more

Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line

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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

African Americans and the Newport News Port of Embarkation in World War I

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Corporal Benjamin Harrison Splowne, Museum Collection

He stands there, tall and proud, gazing into the camera, a backdrop of the United States Capitol behind him.  Dressed in a high-collared wool uniform with a corporal’s rank insignia sewn on his right sleeve, Benjamin Harrison Splowne had reason to beam.  Drafted in June 1917 into the National Army, he was promoted to the rank of corporal within a few months of his induction.

Exactly where and when this photograph was taken is subject to speculation.  It is conceivable that it was taken in Newport News, as Benjamin Harrison Splowne was stationed at Camp Hill, Virginia for a brief while in 1917.  In fact, he was promoted to corporal on November 16, 1917 at Camp Hill, shortly before shipping overseas.  The Museum is fortunate to have his promotion certificate, along with his studio portrait, for they help document the often-overlooked role of African American soldiers during World War I, both in Newport News as well as abroad.   Read more

What is “Hidden Histories”?

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“Photographs of the Personnel of The Mariners’ Museum” dated 1935. INST-ST-28, Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

What is “Hidden Histories”?

Just as I was about ready to post this blog, I had to rewrite my opening because I just spent 45 rewarding minutes on the phone with a wonderful gentleman, Mr. Brown. Our mission at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is to connect people to the world’s waters – because through the waters, through our shared maritime heritage – we are connected to one another.    Read more