SS Mosel and insurance fraud

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Alexander Keith, Jr., image found on Wikipedia

On December 11, 1875 a horrible explosion occurred at the dock in Bremerhaven, Germany, leaving over 80 people dead and many more maimed and injured.  The story of how this came to be starts with a man named Alexander Keith, Jr., also known by the alias William King Thomas.

Keith was born 1827 in Scotland and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was a boy.  As a young man he worked briefly for his uncle, Alexander Keith, who was a well-known and influential man in Halifax having served as mayor and owning a popular brewery, Alexander Keith’s.  The brewery still operates to this day.  When the Civil War broke out in the United States Keith saw an opportunity and aligned himself with the Confederacy although he seized every chance to take advantage of both the North and the South.  He was a ruthless man and eventually ran off with a chambermaid and investments worth $1 million.  His victims hired a detective to hunt him down, causing Keith to have to move further west until he eventually reached Highland, Illinois.  Keith married and settled down for a short time until the law came calling in December of 1865.  When he had the chance, he and his wife fled to Germany where they lived the high life.  But, as it usually happens, money ran out and so Keith had to come up with a scheme to get more.   Read more

Artifacts on the Move!

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Entrance to the Museum

Recently I had the good fortune of being in the Boston area and was able to visit some of our artifacts currently on loan to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.  Their exhibition, Ocean Liners:  Glamour, Speed, and Style is open from now until October 9, after which it will be traveling to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  We loaned them a number of fantastic pieces, including some that are quite large.

In the second room, seen in the picture above, the engineering of these mighty ships was discussed and two of our artifacts were included.  The first is the piece hanging from the ceiling, a towing tank model of SS United States.  This model was tested in the U.S. Navy’s David W. Taylor Model Basin at Bethesda, Maryland in 1946.  The other piece is the cream-colored half model on the wall to the right.  It doesn’t look like much in this photo, but it is a 21′ plating model for SS United States, made in 1949.   Read more

Recent Projects

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05-17-2016 (2)

We’ve had a number of interesting projects occurring lately, with two of the most exciting involving models.  The last couple of months or so, we’ve had our two America’s Cup models (Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand from the 34th America’s Cup Race) put together in a diorama by Charles Landrum.  That diorama was finished last week and it looks awesome!

The next and last step is to have a case made for it so the piece can be put out on display.  The diorama is meant to illustrate one of the 2013 races between the American and New Zealand boats.  If you’re interested in learning more about the 2013 races you can check out my blog here or their official website here.  Can any one spot the dolphins and shark?   Read more

Returning Pieces

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Thousand Island Steamboat Company pass, 1896 (1)

Once again I have more good news about pieces that were stolen by our former archivist.  We have a received a number of returns in the past few weeks, including some very rare pieces.  While this process has not been easy, especially when dealing with people who will not return the items or even respond to our letters, we have dealt with some people who restore your faith in humanity.  We have had a few people who returned the items they purchased on eBay, as well as sending us new items as donations to help build up the collection again.  To these people we are eternally grateful.

So, again I will share some of the returned pieces.  Enjoy!   Read more

Donor Celebration

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Norddeutscher Lloyd Line poster

Last week was a whirlwind of activity for us and for several others in the museum as we celebrated the donation of the Herbert Beazley steamship collection by Norma Beazley, who is a wonderful lady.  Last year Cindi and I spent two days in Houston packing the collection and then two days driving it back to the museum in a moving truck.  It was a long journey, but very worthwhile when we started to see what exactly it was we had brought back (a total of about 22,000 pieces!).  We had objects, videos, photographs, postcards, slides, books and a very large number of archival pieces.  Archival pieces generally include flat paper pieces such as menus, deck plans, passenger lists, receipts, tickets, baggage tags, etc.  Between us and the library staff (as well as a number of awesome interns) it took us about two months to completely inventory the collection.

What is so great about this collection (besides how massive it is) is how many wonderful things have now come to our museum because of it.   Read more