The Port of Call Blog

Amazing Imagery… Part 2: At Sea

Hello readers!
Here’s part two of my blog featuring stunning images that really caught my eye as I was looking through our photographic collection. This time, I’ve focused on images at sea. Enjoy!






The image to the left features a view of three jibs on the mast of the Enterprise. This photograph was taken by Edwin Levick in 1930.














Here is another image of the Enterprise, but from a different perspective. This is a view of the deck taken from the mast.











Here, soldiers and sailors are seen climbing down the side of the President Coolidge as they abandon the ship on October 26, 1942.











Here, the Heron Neck Lighthouse is shown with the ocean splashing on the rocks. This photograph was taken by Ralph Smith and his notes state that this lighthouse in Maine was built in 1854 and stood 28 ft. high.










Here, the Black River (West Breakwater) Lighthouse is shown. The notes state that it was built 1909, rebuilt 1919, and stood at 51 ft high.


Amazing Imagery… Part 1: On Land

Hello readers!

I thought make a little two-part blog featuring some stunning images that really caught my eye as I was looking through our photographic collection.






This photograph of the Biloxi Lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi, was taken by Ralph Smith. Don’t you just love those clouds?










This photograph, also taken by Ralph Smith, features the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse in Cape Canaveral, Florida. According to Smith’s notes, it was built in 1848, then rebuilt in 1894. The perspective almost gives me that feeling of falling.









I seem to admire Ralph Smith’s work because I also love his photograph of the Cape Henry Lighthouse, built in 1881. Here he has perfectly captured the image that I think we’ve all attempted during lighthouse tours. I say “attempted” because I know all of mine have hands and peering heads in them.









Ralph Smith also captured an image featuring the keeper of the Cove Point Lighthouse adjusting the lens. According to Smith’s notes, this lighthouse was built in 1828 and rebuilt in 1857.











In this photograph, taken by Edwin Levick, Harold Vanderbilt, and W. Starling Burgess, an interior view of sail loft shows people busy making sails.




BOHR, IMLS, and Jessica

Good morning, readers!

Jessica Eichlin is our guest blogger today and she’s here to share the unique experience that she’s had with the Monitor, the Library, and the Monitor Center over the past few months. Read on to see what she has been up to!


IMLSOne of the ongoing projects here at The Mariners’ Museum Library is the Collections Access Project, an IMLS grant whose focus is on the cataloging and digitization of archival resources that have to do with the Battle of Hampton Roads (BOHR). I was a cataloging intern for the project last summer but thanks to my experience at the Library, I have a new-found appreciation for the Monitor and the BOHR project as I spend my time now as an intern for the Monitor Center of The Mariners’ Museum.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Battle of Hampton Roads was fought on March 8-9, 1862 at the confluence of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was the first battle fought between two ironclad ships-a new technology at the time. The USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack), clashed and fought to a draw. Neither ship won, but since the Virginia was thought to have retreated first, the Union considered it a victory and a morale booster.

As I worked on the project last summer, I read through a constant stream of names. John Lorimer Worden, Alban Stimers, John Ericsson, David Dixon Porter, and many others filled the pages of the collection I was assigned to catalog. I worked with MS0013, the Isacc Newton Jr. Collection, and cataloged a variety of manuscripts which included military documents, personal letters, and photographs. Isaac Newton Jr. was the First Engineer on the Monitor, but I didn’t know much about him at the time. 

After spending 120 hours over the summer working on the Isaac Newton Jr. Collection, I knew a lot more about the Battle of Hampton Roads and about the Monitor than when I started and my experience truly came full circle when I started interning for the Monitor Center. I was taken on a tour of the facilities on my first day and I was able to see the Wet Lab that has now been temporarily shut-down. I got chills viewing the tanks which contain parts of the engines. These engines were the same ones used every day by First Engineer Newton during the Battle of Hampton Roads so it was truly incredible to view the artifacts first-hand.

Textbooks and dates can only tell us so much, but these artifacts truly speak for themselves.
Newton’s list of crewmembers lost on the Monitor MS0013.

Jessica has been a wonderful intern for the Library and we know that the Monitor Center is lucky to have her. The BOHR grant is scheduled to be completed this year so we’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Chris-Craft Exhibit Now Open

PI932-ExhibitPoster (2)


Our latest exhibit is now open in the Library. American Classics: The First Half Century of Chris-Craft will be on display through May, 2014.


The legacy of Chris-Craft is rich in both tradition and innovation—the glossy mahogany hulls they built remain instantly recognizable as the epitome of classic pleasure boats. And with additional model lines that eventually included aluminum, plywood, steel, and fiberglass hulls—as well as kit boats and sailboats—there was a Chris-Craft designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of buyers around the world.



The story of Chris-Craft is one of originality, of business and industry acumen; it speaks to meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to craftsmanship. Using photographs, advertisements, and other materials drawn from our extensive Chris-Craft Collection, American Classics follows the trajectory of this unique corporation during its first decades—the evolution of a small-town, family-owned business which became the world’s largest builders of pleasure boats and drastically changed the industry.


The Library is open Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 12:00 pm-5:00 pm; Thursday, 12:00 pm-7:00 p.m.

We hope you’ll stop by to check it out!


Rare Maps & Sea Monsters

Good afternoon, readers!

Mariaelena DiBenigno is a special guest blogger today as a graduate student in the William and Mary American Studies Program.  She has been an intern with us for a few months and she has been working exclusively with our rare map collection. In addition to cataloging these resources, she’s been on the hunt for something more…
Read on to see what she has been up to!

While cataloging The Mariners’ Museum Library’s collection of sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century maps, I have also been scanning the illustrated seas for the unusual, the astonishing, and the monstrous. Part of my current project involves searching for depictions of sea monsters in the oceans, near land and along the edges of the maps. Fortunately, this rare map collection contains a multitude of sea monsters, as you’ll see below.

In the map, Septentrionalivm regionvm descrip. (MSM0125) by Abraham Ortelius, 1592, there is a colorful ichthyosaur gracing the waters off the coast of Ireland as he plays a mandolin in the lower left corner. There are also images of the whale-like physetera, or spouter, and its counterpart, the large-bodied cetus.

MSm0125-jpg635174338040000000  MSm0125Detail_01-jpg635174338280000000
MSm0125Detail_02-jpg635174338560000000  MSm0125Detail_03-jpg635174338740000000

All manner of mermen and mermaids decorate seas. On several cartouches, like the ones below, strangely cherubic creatures with fish tails romp about.

Below, the map Tvrcici imperii descriptio. Concordia parue res crescunt, discordia maxime disabunter (MSM0115), by Abraham Ortelius in 1592.

MSm0115-jpg635174337240000000  MSm0115Detail-jpg635174337450000000

Below, more cherubs are featured in the map, Typus Universalis (MSM1712) by Sebastian Münster, 1540.


Very few maps in the collection depict menacing sea monsters, although one seventeenth century text, Architectura Navalis, shows sailors shooting galley cannons at three threatening sea creatures from the map Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula (MSM0001by Frederik de Wit, 1660.

MSm0001-jpg635174336190000000  MSm0001Detail-jpg635174336440000000

I have learned that sea monsters serve three purposes on maps:

1. They display the great oceanic unknown to audiences with atlas access.
2. They demonstrate a community’s desire to frighten away enterprising foreign fishermen.
3. They simply help decorate large swathes of sea.

While we can’t always be sure what each individual sea monster represented, we do know that these illustrations were replaced with ships in the early eighteenth century. As the seas became more and more charted, the age of the map-based sea monsters came to an end.

I am sure that Maria will uncover several more sea monsters in our rare map collection during her stay with us. Just keep in mind that you are always welcome to drop by the Library to see them in person!

New Year… New archival projects!

Happy New Year, readers!

It has taken me some time to get back into the swing of things here at the Library, but I am happy to deliver some exciting news… We have created our own digital library, The Mariners’ Museum Library Gallery, in order to shine a spotlight on some of our rare and unique resources that have been digitized. This ongoing project will allow our patrons to view our online exhibits, our digitized manuscripts, journals and logbooks, our rare maps, and eventually, some of our photographs. Click the image below to see what we have so far!


Also, with the new Library Gallery, we have the ability to begin crowdsourcing our digitized manuscript materials. This means that you can select a page from one of our handwritten archival resources and type what you see. This kind of transcription project would be a huge undertaking for our small library staff, but with your help, you will be practically making our never-before-seen manuscripts “findable”, searchable, and readable for our international researchers. If you’re interested in becoming involved with this project, all you need is a transcription account, access to the internet, and patience/familiarity with reading 19th century handwriting.  Also, be warned… It can be addicting!


Holiday Wishes from The Mariners’ Museum Library



The minutes are ticking away here at the Library because the holiday break is upon us yet again.


Just so you know, we will be closed, and services will not be available, beginning December 20, 2013 to January 5, 2014.


Before I leave, I just wanted to thank you for a great year and to wish you all a safe and happy holiday! Enjoy this last post of 2013!








In this image from our HRPE Collection, Santa poses and receives bags of mail and packages for the soldiers at Newport News, VA on November 21, 1945.











In this next image, also from our HRPE Collection, Brigadier General John R. Kilpatrick is shown standing beside a Christmas tree before making a statement at the Christmas gathering on the Norfolk Army Base on December 24, 1942.









Finally, some more festive images from the HRPE Collection to get you into the spirit of the holidays.
Clockwise from top left: P0003.J11419, P0003.E5710, P0003.E11232, P0003.E11373

J11419J5710HRPECHRISTMASE11373               E11232

Winter is coming…

We’ve had a schizophrenic start to the cold weather here in Newport News but since my car door was iced shut yesterday morning, I began thinking about all things cold and frosty. I’m usually bundled up in blankets, or I have layers upon layers of clothing, so I wondered… How did those out in the freezing cold seas dress?

The following samples from our photographic collection just might give you an idea:




To the left, we see an image of James R. Dennistoun dressed for the cold in a sweater and hat as he leaves to feed the mules on board the Terra Nova.


In 1912, he joined the British Antarctic Expedition of Captain Robert Falcon Scott as a crewmember in charge of the mules and sled dogs that were to be used in order to be the first to reach the South Pole.


Photograph taken by D. F. Welch, 1912








In this next image we see Mr. Otis and Wheelman dressed in heavy jackets, hats, and gloves during the 1901 Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition to find a possible route to the North Pole.


Three vessels left from Tromsø, Norway on July 16, 1901  in order to be a part of the journey: Frithjof, America and Belgica.


Photograph taken by William S. Champ, 1901





To the left, we see three team members of the British Antarctic Expedition all bundled up from head to toe as they stand on an ice floe near the bow of a ship.


Photograph taken by D. F. Welch, 1912









Here we see two native Alaskan boys wearing hats and heavy fur jackets as they sit in a kayak in Nunivak, Alaska.


Photograph taken by Edward Curtis, 1928







Finally, this is more like what I imagine most of us feel and look like towards the end of winter: under the weather, fed up and waiting for spring.


In this image to the left, we see Edward “Teddy” R. G. R. Evans, second in command of the British Antarctic Expedition on the day that they got to Akaroa, New Zealand in April 1912.  He is sitting on deck in a winter jacket and hat with his legs covered in blankets as he smokes his pipe.


Photograph taken by D. F. Welch, 1912





All there is left to say is good luck, bundle up, and if you’re somewhere out there in single-digit or negative temperatures, think warm thoughts for a few more months?

Happy Thanksgiving from the Library

The hours are winding down here at the Library as we get ready to close for the Thanksgiving holiday until Monday, December 2nd. Before we leave, I wanted to share a few images from our photographic collection to get you into the spirit of too-tight pants, turkey comas, and being thankful, of course.



In the image to the left from our HRPE Collection, we see six members of the Mess Service Command from Camp Patrick Henry peeling potatoes en route to one of the 22 reception stations in the United States.

Even though this picture was taken on July 14, 1945, it’s a good example of the teamwork that it’s going to take to put together a feast. Especially if you have over a handful of people coming over.

PVT. Moses M. Smith, T/4 Joseph Densling, PVT. Urban Corey, PVT. Mathew Morris and PVT. Coli Sullivan





The image to the left is also from our HRPE Collection where S/Sgt. Polly Thompson is seen inside of an ice house on November 14, 1944.

The bird is always the star of the show on Thanksgiving and I know of a few picky people who find it difficult to find the perfect “one”.  She doesn’t seem to mind inspecting a couple of Thanksgiving turkeys for an overseas shipment, and I bet that the recipients appreciated it.







In this next image from the HRPE Collection, we see Pvt. Lenwood E. Brinson chopping meat on the troop kitchen car of a troop train on July 14, 1945.

The caption on the back of the photograph explains that Pvt. Brinson was one of a seven-man crew of the Mess Service Command which sent cooks on troop trains to all parts of the country.

Yes, more food prep.. But it’s all worth it…






Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


E10948     E9500     H5422

Some of the smallest books I have ever seen…

A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around in the rare books again when something made me look twice in disbelief. I had never noticed these before: Miniature books!

According to the Miniature Book Society, these were books measuring no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness. Knowing this, I wondered, were these works tucked away in pockets? Were they really used? The thickness of the books combined with a tight spine made it a little difficult for me to read the ones in the images below, so were these meant to be secretive?

I do have to share one thing that made me laugh because I imagined someone carrying this tiny book to tell the gem of a joke below and hearing nothing but crickets…

The Red Sea
A sailor, who had served on board the Romney, with Sir Home Fopham after returning home from India, finding that wigs were all in the fashion, bespoke a red one, which he sported at Portsmouth, to the great surprise of his companions. On being asked the cause of the change of colours in his hair, he said it was occasioned by his bathing in the Red Sea.
Page 160 from Jack’s kit or, Saturday night in the forecastle.

Anyway, the ones below are not all technically “miniature” books, but they’re tiny nonetheless!

De imperio Magni Mogolis sive India vera commentarius. By Joannes de Laet
DS461 .L15 Rare

DS red

The soveraignty of the British seas. Proved by records, history, and the municipall lawes of this kingdome. Written in the yeare 1633. By that learned knight, Sr John Boroughs.
JX4410 .B7 1651 Rare

JX red

Jack’s kit, or, Saturday night in the forecastle : being a choice collection of naval songs, nautical jokes, dog watch yarns, and galley witticisms. By an Old Salt ; the whole revised and arranged by Old Comic Elton.
PN6110 .S4 A5 Rare

Title page both red

An apology for idlers, and other essays. By Robert Louis Stevenson
PR 5488 .A1 Rare

Title page both red