Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 1

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We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event. In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing. Here are two pirates for today: Alwilda, the female pirate

Alwilda, daughter of the Gothic King Synardus, chose the life of a pirate when her father arranged her marriage to Alf, the Prince of Denmark. She sailed away with a crew of women all disguised as men and eventually came across another crew mourning the loss of their Captain. The crew was so enamored with her character that they chose her as their new Captain and gradually became a stronger power.
This power attracted the attention of Prince Alf, her would-be husband, who was ordered to interfere with this growing force. In the gulf of Finland, Alf boarded her vessel, killed most of her crew and finally seized her without knowing who she was. After removing her disguise, he finally recognized her as Alwilda and convinced her to take his hand in marriage while on board her vessel. They later shared his wealth and throne in Denmark (Page 14).

(Is that where the Pirates of the Caribbean got that awkward, swash-buckling marriage scene?) The pirates striking off the arm of Capt. Babcock. Captain Babcock, of the English brig, Shannon, was on a voyage from Bombay to Bussorah when he was attacked near the islands of Polior and Kenn. The crew of the Shannon resisted and so it was decided by the pirates that a (body) part from each crew member would be put to the sword. One pirate claimed to see Captain Babcock fire upon others with his musket, so they thought it was only right that he “forfeit the arm by which this act of resistance was committed”. It says in this book that it was sliced off with one stroke of a sabre and the captain had to thrust his bleeding stump into warm clarified butter to stop himself from bleeding to death (page 42). Although there won’t be any conveniently located pots of clarified butter for your bloody stump, I’m sure there will be plenty of other delicious condiments to accompany all of the tasty treats you will find in the food trucks during the Pirate event. And don’t worry, there will be first responders if you somehow get a bloody stump at this family friendly event. Come on out to see what’s going on at The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm. Who knows? You might find your Alwilda or your Alf among +14,000 pirates!

ATTENTION: Wooldridge Talk Tonight!

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Hey everyone! This is just a reminder that at 7pm tonight, the renowned map collector William C. Wooldridge is launching his new book at an event right here at The Mariners’ Museum! Published by the University of Virginia Press, Wooldridge’s Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War contains hundreds of maps and represents a lifetime spent meticulously detailing the evolution of chartography during Virginia’s formative history. For those of you who can’t wait for the event to start, you can stop by The Mariners’ Museum Library anytime before 9pm and see some beautiful Dutch maps from the Wooldridge collection on display. The exhibit is called “Charting the New World: Dutch Maps from the Wooldridge Collection,” and is an excellent companion piece to the Wooldridge event at 7pm.  

The event will be held in The Mariners’ Museum Concourse area near the admissions desk. It will feature a lecture by Mr. Wooldridge himself and a display of some of his finest and rarest maps, followed by a light reception and a book signing. Remember, it starts at 7pm tonight, so bring your books!

Sailing Into History

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The USCG Eagle, used for training at the Coast Guard Academy. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello again readers, and welcome back to the library’s blog. As I write this post, OpSail 2012 is drawing to a close in Norfolk, Virginia. This past weekend was a celebration of the maritime heritage and culture that is shared by so many nations of the world. The United States had proud representatives in the form of naval vessels like the USCG Eagle, but so too did the United Kingdom, Canada, Indonesia, and many others. Ships like Germany’s FGS Hessen opened their decks to curious guests, while their crews took turns answering questions and exploring the other vessels for themselves.

And yet, it was not just maritime heritage that we celebrated – it was also a commemoration of the War of 1812, whose bicentennial will soon be upon us. This occasion made OpSail 2012 a patriotic celebration as well as an international one, as military re-enactors and historic wooden ships like the Godspeed – a replica of one of the vessels that carried the Jamestown settlers to Virginia –  joined modern military vessels in saluting the War of 1812.   Read more

Saving the S.S. United States

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Recently we have been blogging about the effort to conserve and reconstruct the historic steamship United States.  The ship, which was built right here in Newport News, has a special connection to this community.  One Christopher Newport University student is taking this connection to heart.  Sophomore Andrew Jelonek, a history major and avid fan of ocean liners, has taken it upon himself to spearhead a fundraising campaign for the SS United States right here on CNU’s campus.

In an article in CNU’s own Captain’s Log newspaper last week, Andrew described his interest in the steamship United States.  “In middle school I first got into ocean liners from the Titanic, and I just expanded and started learning about the other cruise ships,” said Andrew.   Read more

S.S. United States: Looking to the Future

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William Francis Gibbs
William Francis Gibbs, designer of the steamship United States, stands in front of the ship at a Hudson River Pier in New York. Mr. Gibbs wears his trademark fedora hat.From the Library collections.

I left you in my last post with the purchase of the S.S. United States by the SS United States Conservancy in the summer of 2010.  The Conservancy had saved the historic vessel from the scrapyard, but what do they plan to do with the ship?

The donations from the “Save Our Ship” campaign allowed the Conservancy to purchase the ship and to pay the costs of keeping the vessel as it is today.  However, like so many of the United States‘ previous owners, the Conservancy has big plans for the record-setting ocean liner.   Read more