Artifact of the Month – Painting of SS Kaiser Wilhelm II

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kaiser wilhelm

Today’s object of the month is an oil painting featuring the steamship Kaiser Wilhelm II in front of the Great Pyramids of Egypt.  I remember when I first came across it as I thought it was such a strange image with the ship completely out of water, but of course that’s how an allegorical painting is supposed to look.  With my interest piqued, I went to check out the file folder to see what the background of this painting was.  To my dismay, there was next to no information in the file and the wrong artist had even been attributed to the painting, despite the fact that there is a clear signature in the bottom left hand corner.

I am a rather curious person by nature, and so not knowing anything about this painting was rather painful.  Taking what little I knew about it, which was basically just the artist, I turned to my best friend for answers, Google.  I soon found out that the artist, Otto Bollhagen, was a well-known painter in Bremen, Germany.  This is where he set up his ‘atelier’, meaning studio.  Underneath ‘Atelier Bollhagen’ on the signature is ‘Bremen’.  The business Otto started in 1892 continues today under the leadership of a great-grandson.   Read more

Immigration – Creating the United States

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As one who works on genealogy in her spare time, I have always (well, since I was a teenager) been interested in immigration.  This is why when I came across two prints showing before and after images of a gentleman who emigrated to the United States, I wanted to share them.  Immigrants are a vital part of our country and who we are, despite how horribly they have often been treated.

I think what I liked most about these two prints is what they imply.  The first, titled “Outward Bound”, shows a man who is clearly poor and fallen upon hard times studying an advertisement for a ship to New York and holding what is most likely his last coin.  The second image shows the same man (at least I assume it’s the same man) cleaned up and well dressed, clearly much better off than he was in Ireland, looking at an advertisement for a ship back to Ireland.   Read more

September Artifact of the Month – USS Leviathan Eagle Ornament

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Eagle decorative ornament from the SS Vaterland, courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.
Eagle decorative ornament from SS Leviathan, courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

When asked to work on this collections blog, my supervisor asked what artifacts in particular drew my attention. It’s a little awkward to say, but I’ve always been a fan of wartime histories and I may or may not have responded with a jubilant “WAR,” which sounds worse when you excitedly exclaim it in front of people. Regardless of my intern embarrassment, my declaration has ensured that I often get to focus on war relics, such as this month’s artifact, a metal eagle ornament from SS Leviathan. The eagle is a decorative metal piece that would have been displayed on the interior of the ship following its renovations. It’s two toned in color, with a blueish colored body, and gilt accents on the feathers and legs. It’s pictured twice below, once in color, and once in black and white so that it is easier to see the detailing on the piece.

Leviathan was originally SS Vaterland, a passenger liner built at Hamburg, Germany. In 1914, she was the biggest ship in the world, but only made a couple of trips prior to the outbreak of World War I.  Vaterland had just arrived in New York when war was declared, and was therefore unable to return to Germany. Prior to this, she had made only three round trips between New York and Europe. Instead she remained in a terminal in New Jersey for three years until the United States entered the war in 1917. At that point, Vaterland was taken and turned over to the U.S. Navy, who renamed her Leviathan and kept her in service as a troop ship until 1919. Following the conclusion of the war, Leviathan again found herself in limbo, until she was sent to the Newport News Shipyard in southern Virginia to undergo a complete overhaul and renovations to turn her back into a passenger liner. Her renovation was actually supervised by William Frances Gibbs, the naval architect who would later design SS United States, and the owner of two of the baseballs that were featured in our April Artifact of the Month.   Read more

June Artifact of the Month – Gondola Mania!

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Miniature Venetian gondola. courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.
Miniature Venetian gondola. courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

This month we’re taking a look at two very similar, but also very different, items that we have here at The Mariners’ Museum. We have two gondolas within our collection, a miniature work of a Venetian goldsmith that measures 2 and 1/8″ long, and a full size gondola that measures a whopping 35 feet and 8 inches long, and weighs about 1,100 pounds.

The miniature is made to scale of approximately 1:192, and it has two gondoliers included on the boat. The standing gondolier is 3/8 inch, while the second gondolier is sitting down, in front of the canopy which is hinged and can be opened. The seated gondolier is unique to the style of gondola’s prior to 1791, when the struggling Venetian state had to change to one man gondolas in order to downsize spending and save money. (That’s a downsize rate of 50 %!) The little gondola is made up of 18 carat gold, and decorated with gold filigree. The Mariners’ Museum purchased it from the Bodley Book Shop in New York in 1939, and while the exact goldsmith who created it is unknown, it is thought to have been made around 1840. In 1996, The Mariners’ Museum based a Christmas ornament on the miniature as part of a series of ornaments that were designed after pieces of the collection. The ornament was coated in 24 carat gold and available for purchase in the Gift store.   Read more

Lady in red…

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The visitor of the week has somewhat of a personal anecdote, but focuses on a charming leittle lady who was part of a group of senoir citizens from Charlottesville
touring the museum. This charming and petite lady was dressed in a fire engine red outfit and a classy matching hat, and walked with a cane. Somewhere during the tour, she mentioned a Curtiss airplane, and I said we do not have any here, but there was a Curtiss air museum in upstate Ne York. She replied that she knew of it, and that she was from Penn Yann, N.Y. I asked her if she knew of the name “Warder” of Geneva, N.Y. (which is just a few miles from Penn Yann , Senator Warder having been wife’s father and 18 year State Senator from N.Y. She said she must have left N.Y. before the Warder name became known to the public.

So, I recounted this story to my wife, who said that her family went back to 1876 in Geneva. She said to me “do you think that lady left before then! ?”