Half a ship is better than none!

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Compass from Esso Nashville (Accession number 2017.19.01). Gift of John S. Pearson

The Museum recently received the donation of a Ritchie “underlit” compass from a vessel that has a rather unique story associated with it.  The vessel, the steam tanker Esso Nashville, was built for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey by the Bethlehem Steel Company at its Sparrows Point, Maryland shipyard. After its launch on June 15, 1940, the Esso Nashville had a fairly standard career transporting barrels of fuel oil to ports in the United States, Great Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean.

Considering the ship was transporting cargo throughout the Atlantic during World War II, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the vessel became the victim of a U-boat attack. It’s the story of what happened after the attack, both in the hours and months following, that I found really amazing.   Read more

Forsaking Hudson

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Henry Hudson. Accession number: LP 2656

Today is the anniversary of a really unfortunate historical event. On this day in 1611 the crew aboard the ship Discovery mutinied and cast their captain, Henry Hudson, his son and seven other crewmen adrift in a small boat in the large Canadian Bay that now bears his name (Hudson’s Bay).

Hudson is probably one of the most well-known explorers of the Age of Exploration, but like others of the time, most of his successful discoveries were made by accident.  Hudson’s first voyage occurred when he was hired by the Muscovy Company to try and find a route to China by sailing through the Arctic.  His first voyage started in April 1607 when he sailed with a crew of ten, including his son, along the coast of Greenland to the Arctic Circle. Eventually the ship reached Spitsbergen and although he failed to find a route through the ice, they did see lots of whales, walruses and some seals.   Read more

The Glorious First of June

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Q 225 lithophane illuminated

Well apparently, people ARE reading my blog posts! My recent post titled ‘An “Illuminating” Experience,’ led to the identification of the “unidentified 18th century naval battle” depicted on one of our lithophanes (thankfully I did peg the right century).  Reader Andy Cook identified the scene as the sinking of the French 74-gun ship-of-the-line Vengeur du Peuple during the battle affectionately known by the British as the Glorious First of June (1794).  The scene was taken from a lithograph adapted from a painting by French artist Auguste Étienne François Mayer (1805-1890).

As you would expect, at least when it comes to large-scale naval battles, there were many factors that led to the fight, which makes it hard to distill the action into just a few paragraphs. However, since it’s considered to be the first major fleet action of the French Revolutionary Wars and one of the greatest convoy actions in naval history I’ll give it a try!   Read more

Two Heroes for Memorial Day

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Launching of the President Coolidge. Accession#: MS0155.02.02.10

I am a day late but not a dollar short on today’s blog post (we have 1574 thanks to the start of Dollar Admission on Friday and a busy Memorial Day weekend!). Today’s post grew out of a convergence of many things and I had hoped to put it up yesterday but I was just too busy.

Several weeks ago, while working on devising talking points for the staff, I stumbled across some amazing images related to the President Hoover/President Coolidge model in our Ship Model gallery. The images are not only fantastic, they help relay a story of great sacrifice and courage worthy of remembering on Memorial Day.   Read more

An “Illuminating” Experience

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Lithophane, made by the German firm Von Schierholz at the Plaue factory in Branderburg. Accession number: Q225

At the Bronze Door Society’s Annual Garden Party on Sunday I had an interesting conversation with one of the Museum’s members and learned about a collectible I had never heard of before. He even told me we had two examples in our collection!

The object is called a lithophane.  Just so you don’t make the same mistake I did, it has nothing to do with paper. A lithophane is a panel or other object made of thin porcelain that has a picture intaglio molded into its surface. The picture only becomes visible when light is transmitted through the object.  Different depths of porcelain allow varying intensities of light to pass through the object enables the images to be fairly detailed.   Read more