Artifact of the Month – Commonwealth Model

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5.1.3

This month’s artifact is one of my favorite pieces in the collection.  It is a music box model of the steamboat Commonwealth.

Commonwealth was built in 1854-1855 by Lawrence & Foulkes in Greenpoint, Long Island, NY for the Norwich and New London Steamboat Company.  She was built for service between New York and Connecticut, and was commanded by Captain Jerome Wheeler Williams until 1864.  In 1860 she was acquired by the Stonington Line, and then by the Merchants Navigation and Transportation Company in 1863.  December 29, 1865, a fire at the wharf where Commonwealth was docked caused the ship to be destroyed by flames.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Maple Leaf Carvings

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Nickerson

This month’s artifact choice is a set of 9 maple leaf carvings that I have been researching the last few weeks.  When I first came across them I noticed that there was writing on the back regarding their particular histories, which for some reason was not in our computer system.  The story of the leaves starts with the man who carved them, Gilbert Nickerson of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia.

He was known as the “Old Chairmaker” and collected wood from ships to make into chairs, maple leaves, and other interesting pieces.  In one of his chairs he is even reported to have used a piece from Titanic.  The southern area in Nova Scotia where Nickerson lived was rather treacherous for ships and so a great number of them were stranded or sank, causing lots of wood to drift ashore.   Read more

Artifact(s) of the Month-Bathing Suits

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20-31-1

The museum has a large and varied collection of artifacts, which surprisingly includes bathing suits. This is a small sample of the types of bathing suits we have in our collection that have been worn throughout the past century.

This picture is from 1893 and was in a magazine advertising fashionable ‘bathing costumes’. Yes, this is actually what women wore to the beach during that time. Anything less was considered inappropriate.   Read more

Artifact of the Month- Apollo

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OF19

The museum owns one of the largest figurehead collections in the world, with 92 total either on display or in storage. One of the figureheads purchased by the museum in 1933 and currently hanging in our Great Hall of Steam is named Apollo. At first glance this figurehead seems like nothing out of the ordinary since many ships used Greek gods as figureheads. However, this specific figurehead has a much more interesting past than one would guess.

Apollo probably came from an American ship that wrecked off the coast of Norway. There were stories about this figurehead that seemed doubtful, until 2008 when Mr. Hultgren of a small Swedish museum contacted us looking for information about where Apollo was. As confirmed by Mr. Hultgren, after its ship wrecked Apollo was put in a village in Sweden named Mollӧsund. Apollo stood on a rock beside a flagpole there until we bought it in the early 1930’s. It is said that the children of the village had May Day exercises around the figurehead. In the village Apollo was nicknamed “The Old Man of Ferdinand”, and there are stories that parents would tell bad children to “behave or The Old Man will come and get you!”   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Oil Painting

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QO29

While whaling is not my favorite maritime subject to ponder, it is an important one.  Whaling provided (and in some cases still provides) needed food and supplies for people.  That is why this month’s artifact of the month is a whaling painting.

The piece was painted by Bonaventura Peeters the Elder in 1645.  He was a Dutch painter born in 1614.  Three of his siblings were also painters; older brother Gillis and younger siblings Catharina and Jan.   Read more