Secrets in the Stacks

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Join us tomorrow, Wednesday September 7, at noon for this this month’s Secrets in the Stacks.  Tom Moore, Senior Curator of Photography and Photo Archivist, will share the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation Collection.  This extraordinary collection of photographs visually illustrates the role of Newport News as one of the major military Ports of Embarkation during World War II.

On December 7, 1941, war came to America with the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  In a few short months, the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation was activated.  A giant natural harbor, Hampton Roads served the nation as a military port in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  During World War II, port headquarters was established here in Newport News and the port ranked third in the nation, after New York and San Francisco, in volume of troops and war materiel shipped to both Europe and the South Pacific.  The urbanization of Newport News since the 1940s has erased many of the landmarks that defined the area at the time, and most of us would not recognize very many of those which remain.  The important role of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation in the war effort will be highlighted by this amazing collection of images.   Read more

Two Lives Aboard the USS Nantucket

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USS Nantucket in a post-Civil War image.

Join us at the Library next Wednesday May 4, 2011 at noon for our next Secrets in the Stacks.  This month’s presentation will feature two journals kept by sailors who served on the ironclad monitor Nantucket during the Civil War.

First we will look at the journal of Walter Jacobs, a Union sailor during the Civil War.  A recent acquisition, Jacobs’ journal covers the time period of August 1863 to December 1864, during which he served on two ships: the screw steamer Flambeau and the Passaic-class monitorNantucket.  Jacobs served on the ironclad from February 1864 to December 1864.  Besides accounts of naval action, Jacobs offers rich detail on life aboard Civil War ships and ironclads, as well as a sailor’s opinion on everything from the Union war effort to politics to African Americans serving in the Union navy and army.   Read more

Animal Encounters

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Whale drawings, Logbook #019

One Saturday in March of 1864, a man aboard the whale ship John P. West wrote in his journal, “My Pidgeon layed 4 eggs.”  He also documented the day that his dog fell overboard (Logbook #027).  Nine years earlier Asenath Taber, daughter of a whaler, noted the “beautiful little chicken” her family had on board their ship (Logbook #002).  For these and other people at sea, animals could provide food, serve as companions, and bestow a sense of comfort during what were often years-long journeys abroad.

The life of a whaler was often one of extremes – some days were exciting, with several whales encountered and caught, while others were long and lonely, with nothing on the horizon and feelings of listlessness and homesickness setting in.  Sightings of whales and other animals receive frequent note in many of the journals, with log keepers recording a variety of wild encounters, including sperm whales, right whales, turtles, porpoises, Portugese man o’ war, an array of birds and fish, and – as the log keeper aboard the Courser states rather ominously in his entry from October 6, 1860 – “Monsters of the Deep” (Logbook #300).   Read more

One hull of a boat….

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A different twist this week: a phone-a-visitor.  In conjunction with my volunteering at the Chris-Craft Archives at The Mariners’ Museum library at Christopher Newport University, we receive phone calls from all over the world concerning various Chris-Craft boats.  The mode of reference for research and responses to the callers usually hinges on the hull number of the boat as given at the time of construction.  This is the basic requirement.  I  took a call from a gentlemen from New Hampshire who said that he had a hull plate from a Chris-Craft, but that is all!  He did not know if the boat still existed, as it may have sunk, wrecked, or just died.  At any rate,  he wants plans and drawing so that he can build  the boat around the hull number, as he is a boat builder and can use CAD (computer aided design) to accomplish this effort.  ( 37-foot boat)  While we may never know the end of this story, but I can assure you this will be “one hull of a boat”!