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

Way Back Wednesdays

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9-Old Small Craft Bldg

Construction of our old Small Craft Building.  About 11 years ago it was replaced with a newer, more efficient building where a good amount of our small craft is now displayed.

This image shows men in our ship model shop repairing a group of our figureheads on January 23, 1940.  Many of our figureheads came to the museum in rough shape and so needed a bit of work to make sure that they were stable enough to be displayed.  As our old photos show, we used to have a large number of them on the wall of our Great Hall.   Read more

Ceramics and other faces

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One thing I learned a couple of years ago is that ceramic figurines are definitely not for me.  We have quite a collection here at The Mariner’s Museum and some of them are hilarious or have downright terrifying faces.

The picture above shows two ceramic pieces, one depicting a sailor leaving his sweetheart and the other is the sailor returning to his sweetheart.  This makes me laugh every time because the sailor didn’t just get a tan, he’s red as a lobster!  When he left he was pasty white and being out in the sun, as sailors are, has done quite a number to him.  I imagine his sweetheart probably had a difficult time recognizing him (imagine her reaction!).   Read more

Go Figure! (-Belle of Oregon)

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The Belle of Oregon Figurehead
The Belle of Oregon Figurehead

Hello there! This week I want to share the Belle of Oregon with you! She is a beautifully crafted figurehead with her dress being my favorite part. This figurehead was a part of the ship Belle of Oregon,  thus given her name. She was built in 1876 by Gross and Sawyer in Bath, ME and the figurehead was carved by Charles Sampson. We acquired her in 1940, but prior to that the figurehead was displayed in the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture in New York City. In 1996-1997 she was featured in the Mariners’ Museum exhibit The Art of the Ship Carver.

The Belle is wearing an off the shoulder neckline bodice with a scalloped wheat design and bows on the sleeves. The hemline of the dress is also scalloped. She is wearing a cape with a sun-burst patter, which cannot be seen in the image above. She is holding something that looks like a pineapple, but really it is an oversize wheat sheaf.  This is because Belle of Oregon (the ship -not the figurehead) transported wheat between the West and Boston, Queenstown and Melbourne. In 1894, she was converted into a coal barge and also carried railroad material.   Read more

Go Figure! (-Galatea)

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Figurehead of Galatea, sea nymph.
Figurehead of Galatea, sea nymph.

This week in “Go Figure!” I have selected a figurehead with a little bit of history and mythology! As far as her background, we have two versions of her history but for the most part we have a good idea about where she came from. In terms of mythology, there is also two versions of the story that she is associated with and I will share both.

Captain Yngve Eiserman told “The Cape Argus,” Cape Town Africa that she came from a clipper ship Galatea. She was originally an American ship but then was bought by Germans. In 1882, she was battered in a storm and was taken to Cape Town for repairs. From here, the damages were too expensive to fix and the ship was condemned. The figurehead we have today was saved by a Mr. Stevens and was then purchased by Charles Bleach. Bleach displayed the sea nymph figurehead at a hotel until it was moved to the South Africa Museum for safe keeping.   Read more