Blog of the Collections Department

Returned stolen material

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on the returning stolen pieces, but I am happy to say that they continue to come in.  And some people have been extremely kind and sent extra pieces in to help rebuild our collection.  Here are some of the pieces have that have come back in the last month.

City of Pueblo steamship photograph Robert E. Lee steamship photograph

Photographs of the steamships City of Pueblo (left) and Robert E. Lee (right).

Ward Line Holiday Tours to Havana ad (1) Ward Line Holiday Tours to Havana ad (2)

Advertisement for the Ward Line, Holiday Tours to Havana

Ward Line brochure fore Morro Castle and Oriente (1) Ward Line brochure fore Morro Castle and Oriente (2)

Another Ward Line piece, a brochure for Morro Castle and Oriente, with an image from Morro Castle’s Dance Deck.  The stage is great!

USS America launching, 1 February 1964 (1) USS America launching, 1 February 1964 (2)

Brochure from the launching of USS America in 1964.

Pacific Coast Steamship Co brochure (1) Pacific Coast Steamship Co brochure (2)

Brochure for a cruise to Alaska with the Pacific Steamship Company.

MS Italia booklet (1) MS Italia booklet (2)


MS Italia booklet with small deck plan

Kungsholm booklet (1) Kungsholm booklet (2)

Booklet for the Swedish American Line ship Kungsholm.

Loaning Objects to Jamestown

We are frequently dealing with loans, whether objects are being sent to other places or coming in for an exhibition we are planning.  This summer has been especially busy as we have had several large loans, which are very time-consuming.  This week we brought several large objects to Jamestown that will be used in an upcoming exhibition about the Chesapeake Bay.  This includes two boats, oyster tongs, a culling board and a frame saw.  The end of the tongs and saw can be seen in the pictures below.



Most of the objects were easy to get to their designated space on the second floor, but one boat, named Old Lady, was too large for the elevator and had to be hauled up the stairs.  To accomplish this, we purchased some new straps that would run along the bottom of the boat, which would give people a good handle while protecting the sides of the fragile boat.  We then had ten men get along the sides and use the straps to lift and haul her up the stairs.  Thankfully, it went smoothly and she made it to the exhibition space with little fuss.


Waiting to get the straps in place so she can be hauled up the stairs.  Wrapped up like that, Old Lady looks like a boat burrito.


With such a wonderful group helping us, the move went smoothly and the boat made it to its destination safe and sound.  We still have more artifacts to move, but they are smaller and can be moved much more easily.  So for those in the area or who are looking to visit, be sure to check out the exhibition when it opens on September 19.  It will remain open until September 8, 2015.

Also, keep an eye on the blog because we have a new boat coming in!

Posters, part 7

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Our first poster is obviously a WWII poster and encourages people to remember Pearl Harbor and join the Coast Guard to help defend the country.  The image was done by Charles Rosner.  The second poster has pretty much the same message as the first, just without mention of Pearl Harbor.  Both of these posters were used in a recruiting office in Norfolk, VA, which is probably how we ended up with them.  The third poster is one of my favorites, I guess because I don’t generally associate space travel with the Navy.  It is ca 1955 with an unknown artist.

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“Pour it on” is a great poster from 1942 by artist Jarret Price.  It was made by the United States War Production Board and it looks as though we might have received our copy from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, which would make sense because we have received many posters from them.  The second is another WWII poster and features a sad, but true, message about the inhabitants of Lidice, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).  The third poster ca 1950′s/60′s encourages women to join the Navy and shows three different positions they can hold.  It was done by artist Lou Nolan.

Way Back Wednesday

Dec 23, 1974, Re-enlistment at naval memorial plaque


This image from December of 1973 shows a re-enlistment in front of Navy Memorial Plaque.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the two gentlemen, but behind them to the right you can see a little bit of our walking beam engine from the steamboat Albany.Constructing Gibbs Gallery, 1972


To people who have seen our courtyard, this should look somewhat familiar.  In 1972, the museum used part of the courtyard area to create the Gibbs Gallery, an exhibition celebrating William Francis Gibbs.

August 1974, museum staff member demonstrates aluminum, gold leafing techniques to Nautical Research Guild Conventioneers


In this photo from August 1974, a staff member demonstrates gold-leafing techniques to a group of Nautical Research Guild Conventioneers.  Our most famous artifact with gold-leafing would be the USS Lancaster eagle figurehead on display in our main lobby.


Aug 14, 1934, Lopez Mezquita with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Skinner and Charles Bailey


This last picture is from August of 1934 and shows painter Lopez Mezquita with his finished painting of Charles Bailey, who at the time was the retired Engineering Director at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. and was the Vice-President of The Mariners’ Museum.  He is seated on the chair, beneath him sit Mr. Mrs. Thomas Skinner.  Thomas Skinner was the resident painter for the museum and painted beautiful scenes of the shipyard now in our collection.

Artifact of the month – Bank Note print

July’s artifact of the month is a print showcasing different designs of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, well known bank note engravers


The company originally started with Freeman Rawdon, who established it sometime after 1825.  In 1828 he partnered with Neziah Wright, establishing Rawdon, Wright & Co. in New York City.  Prior to this, Freeman’s older brother, Ralph Rawdon, had formed Rawdon, Clark & Co. with Asahel Clark.  The two Rawdon brothers then merged their companies in 1832 to create Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Company.  In 1847, Tracy Edson’s name was added and they became Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson.

In 1858 the company merged yet again, this time with six others to form the American Bank Note Company (which is visible on this piece), although they owned the largest share (23.9%).  The other companies were Toppan, Carpenter & Co., Danforth, Perkins & Co., Bald, Cousland & Co., Jocelyn, Draper, Welsh & Co., Wellstood, Hay & Whiting, and John E. Gavit.  The company is still around today as a subsidiary of American Banknote Corporation.

And so what about this piece caught my eye and made me list it as the artifact of the month?  The fact that it is such a large piece and contains a huge variety of images used by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson.  If you search for the company online you will find a great variety of pieces manufactured by them, but I’ve yet to find another that is so large and old.  While ours is not dated, we believe it is ca 1858-1965.

This piece is also a great example of how we constantly come across pieces in our collection that have little to no information in the file.  After my boss found this piece, we both started researching it and realized that it is a unique and valuable piece, and so it definitely deserves some attention.

Posters, part 6

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Our first poster is ca 1917 recruiting poster for WWI, done by artist L.N. Britton.  Keeping with the eagle theme, the second poster is also ca 1917 and was done by artist James Henry Daugherty.  The image is a little dark, but when you see the poster close up the colors are very vibrant and eye-catching.  We have an even larger version of this poster and I love to look it.  The third picture ca 1918 by artist Albert Herter.  I had never seen a YMCA poster this old before, so I thought it was pretty neat.

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This second group starts with another WWI era poster, ca 1917.  It clearly is trying to appeal to emotions.  The second poster is from 1917 and encourages people to buy bonds to aid the war effort.  The third is the only WWII poster in this group, being from ca 1944.  This poster was part of a set that warned soldiers/sailors about the dangers of booby traps, encouraging them away from scavenging for souvenirs to take home.  We have quite a lot of these in our collection!

Way Back Wednesday

Aug 14, 1934 Lopez Mezquita, came to the Museum to paint a few portraits, was a member of the Hispanic Society, which AM Huntington founded

Our first picture this month shows artist Lopez Mezquita in August of 1934.  He was a member of the Hispanic Society, which was founded by Archer Milton Huntington, who also founded our museum.  Mezquita was asked to come to the museum to paint portraits of some of the staff, including resident painter Thomas Skinner (a picture of that is to come later).1977, Admiral E.W. Sylvester & ship's officer with lifering from USS Wisconsin

This next image shows Admiral E.W. Sylvester and a ship’s officer with lifering from USS Wisconsin.  Not sure what exactly is happening in the photo, but it looks as if the guy on the left cracked a joke that the guy on the right didn’t appreciate.  Wisconsin is now resting in Norfolk where people can explore her decks.Aerial view of the museum

Aerial view of the museum, probably in the 60′s or 70′s.  It’s amazing to look at this and see how much the museum has grown.  The size has at least tripled since this, especially with the additions of the International Small Craft Center and Monitor Center.

Anna Hyatt Hungtington with sculptures, 1965; model of cph at left, part of model of Andrew Jackson as boy in back of her

One of my favorite images, this shows Anna Hyatt Huntington in her studio 1965.  Behind her on the left is a model of Collis Potter Huntington and behind that is a model of Andrew Jackson as a boy on a horse.  A number of her works can be seen throughout our park and museum, including the popular Lion’s Bridge.

Taking the Stars with Peter Ifland

As a museum we deal with a lot of wonderful donors, but few make as big of an impact as Peter Ifland.  So when we learned that he passed away on May 20, we were devastated.  Peter has been involved with The Mariners’ Museum since 1996 while consulting with Willem F.J. Mörzer Bruyns, who was at the time curator of navigation at Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum.  Bruyns invited Peter to The Mariners’ Museum to attend a symposium on navigational and scientific instruments.  Peter then worked with museum staff to publish the book Taking the Stars:  Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts in 1998.  This was followed by numerous donations over the years of Peter’s extensive instrument collection, totaling 154 pieces, many of which can be found in his book.  Besides these donated pieces, he also gave us the funds to purchase other instruments.

Because of Peter’s generosity, it has been said that our collection of navigating instruments “ranks among the world’s largest and most significant of its kind” (Bruyns).  And so I wanted to share some highlights from the collection to honor Peter.


The first piece is a beveled scale pentant made by Jesse Ramsden of London, ca 1795.  It was one of the last instruments Ramsden made as he passed away in 1800.  It is thought that this instrument is possibly the pinnacle of scale division, with its accuracy and precision.  In the last half of the 18th century, Ramsden was one of three English instrument manufacturers noted for their skill in scale division, with John Bird (1709-1774) and Edward Troughton (1753-1836).  This is why the piece was one of Peter’s favorites.



The above piece was another favorite of Peter’s.  It is a Davis back-staff with the marking “Made by Walter Henshaw For John Lock 1711”.  That makes it one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) known dated British back-staffs.  And this is a case where if anyone reading this knows of an older dated piece, we would love to have that information.   The back-staff is 25″ long and possibly made of rosewood with a fine patina throughout.  The signature is punched on the long arm with a few decorative fleur-de-lys, Tudor rose and star punches, as well as outlining throughout.


The interesting piece above is a double sextant made by Ebenezer Hoppé of London, ca 1804.  The double sextant was Hoppé’s answer to measuring large angles.  The main scale has a radius of 8-1/2” and is divided to 150° with a functional range of 125°.  The second scale is divided from 0° from +/- 120°, creating a theoretical range of 365°.  The piece really wouldn’t have been able to measure over about 240° because the light from the index mirror would be reflected into the horizon mirror over that degree.  Hoppé’s instruments weren’t as successful as he hoped and he had to file for bankruptcy in June of 1811.  Peter was very interested in the way that scientific and navigational instruments developed, and so he collected a number of pieces that would seem odd because they weren’t as successful or as widely used.


This next gorgeous piece is a brass Persian astrolabe, made by Hâjjî ‘Alî of Kerbala, ca 1790.  The planispheric astrolabe could be used to find time, as a direct-measure instrument by surveyors, topographers and navigators, to simplify astronomical calculations and, in the case of this instrument, to facilitate the calculations that must be performed to determine the exact time for prayer.  This astrolabe was bought in Baghdad in the early 1890′s and was said to have come from Kerbala. It is well-made, accurately engraved and attractively decorated, and example of the continuation into Qajar Persia of the fine tradition for elaborate astrolabes associated with the astrolabes of the Safavid period. The maker, Hâjjî ‘Alî, is probably unique among astrolabe-makers in numbering his work: of the fourteen astrolabes made by him which have been recorded, ten are numbered, from No. 2 made in A.H. 1203 (A.D. 1788/9) to No. 24, which is not dated (No. 16, the latest of the seven dated astrolabes is from the year A.H. 1210 (A.D. 1795/6).  Ours is marked as work 3.

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This last piece (one of my favorites) is a more recent by donation by Peter and is a sextant made ca 1830-1839.  What makes this piece so fantastic is its Royal background.  It was presented as a gift to Prince Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orleans by Captain de Courtigis, which is evident from the inscription on the piece.  Despite it being a finely crafted piece, there is no maker’s mark.  Capitaine de Courtigis, who is recorded in the Garde Royale, served in 1830 in an infantry division stationed at the Petit-Luxembourg, near the heart of power in Paris. At the same time he is recorded as a member of the French geologic society. He invented a system of extremely rapid and efficient setting up and breaking down a military camp site in a matter of minutes; this was demonstrated in the presence of the Duke of Orleans in 1837. The latter, the recipient of this instrument, was undoubtedly Ferdinand Philippe, who held this title from 1830 to 1842, and whose father was King of France, himself heir to the throne. Ferdinand Philippe had attended the Ecole Polytechnique, and had a brilliant military career. He was a true lover of the arts and furnished the palace with an important collection of fine and decorative arts.  This piece remained in royal hands until about six years ago, when it went up for auction with a number of other pieces, allowing us to obtain and preserve it for future generations (Hooray!).

We are so grateful to Peter for his donations and support throughout the years, and he will definitely be missed.  His legacy and love of instruments will continue to live on through his research and collection, of that we will make sure.

Artifact of the Month – Bull Boat

Our artifact of the month for June comes from our International Small Craft Center exhibition and is a bull boat, ca 1939.



The bull boat (or sometimes bison boat) was named for the material that covers the framework. Traditionally women were the ones who built & used these boats for transport and communication between the villages on the Missouri River and its tributaries.  A small paddle was then used to paddle in the direction desired, as shown in the photograph below.

Mandan Bull Boat, 1908 Edward Sheriff Curtis (American, 1868-1952) Collection of Portland Art Museum, Portland Bequest of Dr. Fae Heath Batten

Mandan Bull Boat, 1908
Edward Sheriff Curtis (American, 1868-1952)
Collection of Portland Art Museum, Portland
Bequest of Dr. Fae Heath Batten

This particular bull boat was built specifically for the museum in the 30′s when we were searching for boats to help round out our small craft collection.  We hired Crows Heart of the Hidatsa Nation at Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, who had built these boats for others and was an expert at doing so.  We managed to obtain a buffalo hide from Canada Packers Co. in Toronto and had it shipped to the reservation.

Photography by Tom Siegmund, from exhibition Stationary Voyages: the Boat in Photograph¸2007

Photography by Tom Siegmund, from exhibition Stationary Voyages: the Boat in Photograph, 2007

Crows Heart of the Hidatsa Nation

Crows Heart

Crows Heart was born around 1858 and served as an informant for Alfred Bowers, an anthropologist studying the local tribes.  In reminiscences captured by Bowers, Crows Heart tells stories of his life, including the first time he went hunting for eagles.  Knowing that one person would have to suffer in order to achieve a good hunt, so he offered himself up and was tied to the edge of a cliff, hanging by sticks in his chest.  The next morning he was cut down and the party had success in catching eagles.  At the time he built our bull boat, Crows Heart was using this type of craft to get himself around as needed.


Automatic doors can be fun!!

In 1936, The Mariners’ Museum became high-tech with the installation of automatic doors in the main entrance.  These were the first automatic doors in the area, and it is reported that people would come to the museum just to check them out and “play” with them by going in and out.

In the lobby, looking through the automatic doors to the gallery

In the lobby, looking through the automatic doors to the gallery

In the gallery, looking towards the doors

In the gallery, looking towards the doors

Everyone was so excited about these doors that they had to describe how exactly they worked in the Daily Press on January 12, 1936.  It is as follows:

“Incorporated into the new section are a pair of automatically opening doors, also of bronze.  The outer doors give on a small foyer.  Inner doors swing between the vestibule and the museum proper.

As the visitor approaches the inner door, he is likely to reach out his hand to push it open ahead of him-though he may be struck by the fact that its surface is unbroken by know or handle.

Before he can touch the door, however, it swings inward without being pushed.

The secret lies in ‘electric eyes’ – probably the only such arrangement in this vicinity, and a comparatively new departure in architecture.”

Although no longer installed and functional, we still have these doors as they are an important part of the museum’s history.

This kind of thing really gives one perspective on the advancement of technology through the years and just how far we’ve come.