Charles W. Morgan sails again!

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Charles W. Morgan
An engraving of the Charles W. Morgan by Charles Wilson, in the collections of The Mariners’ Museum

While we are on the subject of important Number 2’s (see our July 2 post here), I’ve been watching with fascination the re-launch of the Charles W. Morgan, the second oldest ship in America, and her 38th voyage around ports in the Northeast. Built in 1841, the whaler Morgan is the last of her kind and is only junior to the USS Constitution in terms of age. She is the oldest commercial ship afloat in the US. See her itinerary here.

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Sketching History

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The bow of the ship takes form behind a thin veil of scaffolding. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello readers and welcome back to the Library blog! I have a special treat for you today: a glimpse at the birth of the fastest ocean liner ever built, the SS United States! Launched in 1952, the United States was at that time the largest passenger ship ever constructed in the United States.  She served in a place of honor as her namesake nation’s crown jewel for 17 years. Although retired in 1969 and currently in a state of disrepair, the United States deserves recognition for not just the people it ferried across the Atlantic, but for the engineering prowess and detailed specialization with which it fulfilled its role.

In a series of black and white pencil sketches, the artist C. E. Parkhurst captures the construction process of the United States as each piece of her frame – funnel, keel, stern, bow and propeller shaft – slowly comes into being. The pieces are shown individually at first, as each sketch focuses on a different aspect of the ship’s construction. By just looking at the sketch out of context, the individual pieces seem rather commonplace. It’s when one gets to the last of his sketches that one can see the pieces assembled into the whole, with the now-recognizable ship standing ready to sail into history.   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

S.S. United States: Where it Stands

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SS United States
From the Library's collections, the SS United States in 1992, docked at the coal piers at Newport News Point

As Jay discussed in a previous post, The Port of Call blog would like to begin a conversation about the famous S.S. United States, a ship with a fabled history that was built right here in Newport News.  As a current history major and future Museum Studies student,  I am very passionate about the conservation of any piece of American history.  But as a resident of Newport News for the last four years and a student at Christopher Newport University, I am especially devoted to preserving a historic ship as closely tied to this community as the S.S. United States.

So what is the current state of the United States?  After being removed from service in 1969, the United States passed through a number of hands, each with their own plans for resurrection or reconstruction that were all quickly shelved.  In 1996, United States was towed to its current location on the Delaware River, just outside of downtown Philadelphia.   Read more

New Conversation on the SS United States

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United States Leaving Newport News Shipbuilding
Stern side of SS UNITED STATES leaving NN shipyard accompanied by Tug

Readers of this blog will have noticed our determination to bring you as much news about the wreck of Costa Concordia as we can.  Adam Frost has talked to you about the character of Captain Schettino, about the removal of the dead and of the thousands of tons of fuel from the hull of the ship, about the environmental threat that the hulk still poses for the delicate marine environment in which Concordia went down.  We will continue to bring you updates on this most challenging salvage operation until the job is done.

In the upcoming days and weeks, however, Adam and others will be shifting the conversation to pick up on the energy surrounding SS United States.  This year is the 60th anniversary of her launching and there seems to be a growing sense that this, the largest and last of the great 20th-century ocean liners, should be saved.  The local importance of United States cannot be overstated, since she was built right here at Newport News Shipbuilding and many of those employees are still with us.   Read more