“A Sport for men–real men”

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This great image of Thomas Fleming Day is in the collection of Mystic Seaport Museum.

I have a new hero—Thomas Fleming Day—the editor of The Rudder magazine in the early 20th century. He was a real character and someone who was certainly not afraid to say exactly what was on his mind!  I discovered Mr. Day while researching the history of the Lipton Cup, a beautifully ornate trophy in our collection that was awarded to the winner of the first ocean race to Bermuda in 1906.  While there are many, many “Lipton Cups” floating around out there (Sir Thomas Lipton was a zealous advocate of the sport of sailboat racing and provided trophies to many clubs sponsoring racing events) our cup is a little more important because it was presented to the winner of the race that is credited as the founding event of modern ocean racing.  Originally called the Ocean Race to Bermuda, it is now known as the Newport-Bermuda Race and it occurs every two years (the next race occurs in June 2018).

The idea for the race originated with Day who believed that ocean racing shouldn’t be limited to large yachts, rich men and professional crews and that amateur sailors in normal boats were equally capable of blue water racing.  To convince everyone that ocean racing in small boats was safe he organized a race in 1904 from New York to Marblehead.  He proposed the race because he said he was “sick of hearing that we are a lot of shore-skulkers, Central Park sailors; that while we can build racing machines and win with them, we have neither the craft nor the skill and pluck to sail on deep water, or even to go out of sight of land.” He thought ocean racing would make yachting what it was supposed to be “a sport for men—real men.”   Read more

You never know what you’ll find in our collection…

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If you are going to be in our area you should visit the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (ARMY) which is getting rave reviews! While there you’ll have to make sure to check out Mariners’ contribution to the exhibition—a pencil…yes, that’s what I said…a pencil…but it’s a FREAKING AWESOME one!

We started working with the curators at JYF on the loan a few years ago after we asked for help identifying some ceramics and the chief curator, Tom Davidson, asked if we happened to have an 18th century pencil in the collection. I immediately asked Cindi (she had been working with our interns on cataloging a collection of 18th century materials recovered from a ship hull in New York) and she said she did remember mention of a pencil. What we discovered when we looked at the piece was seriously cool.   Read more

Great new object for the collection!

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National Archives and Records Administration image of USS Erie (512994)

We acquired a really cool piece for the collection this week to help support one of the Museum’s archival collections. The collection is the William McBlair Papers (MS0018) and it’s one of the Library’s best slavery-related collections. It includes official documentation of McBlair’s US Navy activities and letters to his wife. The collection also documents his Civil War service during which time he supervised the building of the CSS Atlanta (which he then commanded).

William McBlair was appointed a midshipman in 1824. He served on various duty stations, including Falmouth, Massachusetts and Norfolk, Virginia.   As a Lieutenant Commander McBlair commanded the armed storeship USS Erie (it had been converted from a sloop-of-war in 1843) and made several voyages to supply the African and Mediterranean Squadrons.   Read more

An object with a secret even the curators didn’t know about!

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Depot Central de l’Artillerie, 1826

During last Saturday’s Gallery Crawl we ended up getting quite a surprise (and no, I don’t mean the visit by the gigantic bat to the buffet table in the Huntington Room. Okay so he wasn’t gigantic but he was bigger than any bat I’ve ever seen in Virginia!). Unfortunately, the surprise was given to us by one of our signal cannons.

Some of you may remember that the theme for this year’s event was the “secret life of objects” and boy did that cannon have a secret…and it was revealed right in the middle of the event!   Read more

Secrets and the 2017 Gallery Crawl

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The 2017 Gallery Crawl is quickly approaching! As I mentioned before, the theme for this years event is the Secret Life of Objects. I thought I would entice you by showing one of the objects we’ll be highlighting during the event.

The object is a painting of the US Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker. The scene shows a port broadside view of the vessel steaming through a moderately rough sea by artist W.A.K. Martin of Philadelphia.  It’s rather non-descript if you ask me. Just a standard maritime portrait of a vessel—albeit a nice one. Martin very clearly identifies the ship on the front of the painting so we thought it was a little odd that the back of the painting carries the inscription “Loss of the U.S. Brig “SOMERS”, W A K Martin pnxt Phila 18??”.   Read more