Hampton Roads History: The Founding of Newport News

Posted on
Map of Virginia. John Smith and William Hole, ca. 1624. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Although several sections of modern Newport News were visited when the English colonists first came to Virginia, Newport News remained just a place name on maps for more than 250 years. Yet, the Civil War brought attention to this point of land and 30 years later, the city of Newport News was born.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

So, where did the unusual name of Newport News come from? The city’s downtown was labeled Point Hope on Captain John Smith’s map of Virginia. The first references to “Newportes Newes,” with eight different spellings, appears in the Virginia Company’s record of 1619, making it one of the oldest English place names in the New World.   Read more

An Oldie, But a Goodie

Posted on
Engine Forward
Monitor’s main steam engine is perched on its treatment rig within the 35,000-gallon treatment tank. The valve chests are visible on the lower left and lower right, reversing gear eccentrics are positioned dead center and top, and the engine’s cast iron support bed spans the entire top portion of this picture.

This week we’ve been very fortunate to spend some quality time with one of our oldest and dearest friends: USS Monitor‘s vibrating side lever steam engine. Much like our favorite ironclad, this salty lady is over 150 years old but keeps looking better every year.

We took the following pictures on Monday. Please remember that the engine currently sits upside down in the treatment tank.   Read more

Powerful New Evidence Against Anthracite Coal

Posted on
Coal 1

USS Monitor‘s engines were powered by steam generated by boiling water. Water was boiled by burning massive quantities of anthracite coal. Tons and tons of anthracite coal. Even when Monitor was under tow by the Rhode Island during her last hours afloat, coal was the driving force behind the movement of both vessels. Here is a picture of a small piece of anthracite coal excavated from the interior of Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002.

Original letters penned by crew members of Monitor and modern-day books describe loads of coal as fuel. Archaeologists confirmed this information with their discoveries of coal at the wreck site within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But have archivists, historians, and archaeologists led us astray?   Read more

Bells Across the Land

Posted on
Engine Room Gong

This is a photo of USS Monitor‘s engine room gong after conservation at The Mariners’ Museum. We briefly rang this gong in 2012 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the sinking of USS Monitor and to remember the lives of her crew lost off Hatteras, NC in 1862.

On Thursday, April 9 at 3:00pm, staff and visitors at The Mariners’ will be joining the National Park Service’s Bells Across the Land initiative to commemorate 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which represents the symbolic end of the Civil War. We will host a ceremony aboard the USS Monitor replica outside the USS Monitor Center, hear brief remarks from speakers, observe a moment of silence, and ring the replica’s bronze bell.   Read more