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

Fabulous Fotos: Meet Cricket, the mighty tinclad

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USS Cricket (1863-1865, “Tinclad” # 6), The Mariners’ Museum and Park, #MS0091-02.-01-0096

Upon first glance, this vessel appears to be just another steamboat. The word tinclad piqued my interest. Naturally, I am familiar with ironclads from our exhibition Ironclad Revolution and the conservation of USS Monitor’s turret in our Batten Conservation Complex. But tinclad vessels? Sounds a bit wimpy to me.  It turns out that Cricket has a great history, albeit not significant, in the American Civil War.   Read more