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

History is in the Details

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A scene from the shore looking out on Hobart, Tasmania. From Meyer’s Universum volume 8, published in 1841. LE989/1936.0603.000001

The Mariners’ Museum and Park has thousands of prints in our collection, and one of my recent projects has been to catalog the prints and engravings from a German book titled Meyer’s Universum, oder Abbildung und Beschreibung des Sehenswerthesten und Merkwürdigsten der Natur und Kunst auf der ganzen Erde, or in English Meyer’s Universe, or Illustration and Description of the Most Remarkable and Strangest Things in Nature and Art all over the World. These illustrated travel books from the 1800s had fabulous names but for short, we’ll call it Meyer’s Universum.

There are only 29 of those prints in the collection so this should be pretty quick. I start by finding the book where the prints are published, verifying the edition (and therefore the year), then describing and researching everything in the image: buildings, bridges, statues, rivers, if I can identify it I will provide the history. We already had the name of the book, how hard can this be?   Read more

Tell Me About It: Colonial Line Pier

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Colonial Lines Pier, New York City
Close view of the Colonial Lines Pier in New York, c.1930

This 1930s photograph grabbed my attention with its jam-packed composition and crisp morning light. Taken from the water, it is a spectacular view of the Colonial Line pier with New York City in the background.

Tell me about it: Is that a bell tower in the foreground part of the pier? What would it have been used for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments area below!   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