William Henry Bartlett and his Steamship Adventures

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William Henry Bartlett, from volume 1 of “American Scenery” by Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1840. Many of Bartlett’s images appear in Willis’ books. TMMP Library, E165 .W73 Rare.

I have recently spent a lot of time with an artist named William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854*). Not really him, more like the printed engravings made from his artwork, but we have over 100 in the collection so I kind of feel like he is family now. After cataloging so many of his prints I started to notice that I was typing the same thing over and over: steamship in the background, steam coming from the funnels. The more I looked the more I saw them, sometimes featured in the image but often in the far distant background. That made me wonder, what was it about these steamships that fascinated Bartlett so much that he included them in his artwork on a regular basis?

*As an aside, there is a second British artist named William Henry Bartlett who lived from 1858-1932.   Read more

The steamers of Brown’s Grove

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Steamer Avalon, built in 1888 (from MS0573, Harlan & Hollingsworth Company Plans)

It appears I’m writing a series on excursion steamboats! Who knew? I suppose it’s the working from home, the inability to go anywhere, that makes me long to board a steamer and head for a waterside amusement park!

But I know why I am writing about this one. I want to help keep our president Howard Hoege’s pledge that we would work hard to “awaken in every corner of our communities a sense of a shared maritime heritage that transcends race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomics, and all of the ways in which we sometimes feel different from one another.” So I’ll focus on a rather special excursion steamer, owned and operated by Captain George Brown, that took African Americans of the Baltimore region to Brown’s Grove Amusement Park. Special, because in the 1910s until Brown’s Grove burned in a tragic 1938 fire, it was the only excursion steamboat and amusement park combination entirely owned and operated by African Americans. Brown said it was the only such combination in America.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Steamboat Thomas A. Edison

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MD158A

Due to a busy schedule, I was unable to create an Artifact of the Month blog for February, but I will remedy that this month by naming our model of the steamboat Thomas A. Edison as Artifact of the Month for March!

Our model is currently in storage, but has been on display a number of times in the past, as recent as 2007.  We purchased it in 1968 from renowned model maker John Fryant.  The original Thomas A. Edison was built at Apalachicola, Florida by John Loftin, with a home port of Key West, Florida.  There is some question to the date as it is usually reported as 1904, but Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States reports it as having been built in 1901.   Read more

Returned stolen materials

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No. IIII. Stockton City (1)

And again I have another batch to share with everyone.  It is a small group of stereoviews, which are something I find very interesting as I had never heard of them before working here.   For those who are not familiar with them, they are those cards with two images.  The idea is that in a viewer, the photos line up to create a 3-D effect to your eyes, and so these were very popular when introduced.

Stockton City   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Calliope

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This month’s artifact of the month is our miniature 24-whistle steam calliope, ca 1901.  The calliope was invented in 1855 by Joshua C. Stoddard and had its debut in Worcester, Massachusetts on the 4th of July, 1856.  It was made to work by having a number of graduated whistles pitched to create the appropriate sound.  When the player hit a key, steam would be released into the appropriate whistle to create the desired sound.

The calliope was built in Cincinnati by George Kratz and may very well be the last Kratz steam calliope built by Kratz in existence.  This piece comes from a showboat named French’s New Sensation.  She was the fifth showboat to bear that name and was built at Higginsport, Ohio in 1901.  The calliope was frequently used to announce the showboat’s arrival into town to attract visitors.   Read more