The Port of Call Blog

Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 1

We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event.
In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing.
Here are two pirates for today:
Alwilda, the female pirate

Alwilda, daughter of the Gothic King Synardus, chose the life of a pirate when her father arranged her marriage to Alf, the Prince of Denmark. She sailed away with a crew of women all disguised as men and eventually came across another crew mourning the loss of their Captain. The crew was so enamored with her character that they chose her as their new Captain and gradually became a stronger power.
This power attracted the attention of Prince Alf, her would-be husband, who was ordered to interfere with this growing force. In the gulf of Finland, Alf boarded her vessel, killed most of her crew and finally seized her without knowing who she was. After removing her disguise, he finally recognized her as Alwilda and convinced her to take his hand in marriage while on board her vessel. They later shared his wealth and throne in Denmark (Page 14).

(Is that where the Pirates of the Caribbean got that awkward, swash-buckling marriage scene?)

The pirates striking off the arm of Capt. Babcock.
Captain Babcock, of the English brig, Shannon, was on a voyage from Bombay to Bussorah when he was attacked near the islands of Polior and Kenn. The crew of the Shannon resisted and so it was decided by the pirates that a (body) part from each crew member would be put to the sword. One pirate claimed to see Captain Babcock fire upon others with his musket, so they thought it was only right that he “forfeit the arm by which this act of resistance was committed”. It says in this book that it was sliced off with one stroke of a sabre and the captain had to thrust his bleeding stump into warm clarified butter to stop himself from bleeding to death (page 42).
Although there won’t be any conveniently located pots of clarified butter for your bloody stump, I’m sure there will be plenty of other delicious condiments to accompany all of the tasty treats you will find in the food trucks during the Pirate event. And don’t worry, there will be first responders if you somehow get a bloody stump at this family friendly event.
Come on out to see what’s going on at The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm.
Who knows? You might find your Alwilda or your Alf among +14,000 pirates!

Museum and Library donor Norma Beazley featured on The New York Times website

Hello readers,

If you have a moment, I’d like to direct your attention to a touching article posted on The New York Times website. It features Norma Beazley and the story behind the numerous cruise ship menus that her late husband, Herbert, spent years giving to her.
Savoring a Bygone Splendor: The Maritime Menu

The Beazleys have generously donated hundreds of books and thousands of archival pieces at the start of 2012 and their contributions will eventually benefit other researchers and steamship ephemera enthusiasts around the world. To read more details about their donation, see this post by Jay Moore: 
Library receives major donation of steamship ephemera

And finally, if you just can’t get enough menus after reading the NYT article, take a peek at a couple of previous blog posts by Rachel Berman. She discusses some of the menus from an artistic standpoint, and the best part is that she provides spectacular images of some of the covers.
A New Addition to the Library’s Collection!
Food for Thought Series: What a Menu Can Teach About Art

Fair warning… A dark post

While researching in the stacks last week, I stumbled across something from our rare book collection that instantly grabbed my attention.

It’s a book with a lengthy title, so prepare yourself:

The voiages and travels of John Struys through Italy, Greece, Muscovy, Tartary, Media, Persia, East-India, Japan, and other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia : containing remarks and observations upon the manners, religion, polities, customs and laws of the inhabitants, and a description of their several cities, towns, forts, and places of strength.


This book was written by John Struys in 1684 and features his account of the “dangers by shipwreck, robbery, slavery, hunger, torture, and the like”. It’s a very dark, yet interesting account and his illustrations add even more to this piece. Struys provides gorgeous renderings of the towns he saw, but also some gruesome depictions of scenes of torture and massacre.
This image to the left is just the cover page… Does anybody else see what I see?



Below are some of the “family friendly” plates taken from his book. I’ll be sure to warn you of the graphic images.

City of Judia  Delos or Delphos
        City of Judia                                                           The Isle of Delphos
Card of the Caspian Sea  Tartars on horseback
The New Card of the Caspian Sea                                    Tartars on Horseback


Ok readers. Clicking on the images below will open a new window showing Struys’ illustrations of massacre and torture. The third one is really the worst, but I thought I’d spare those who are squeamish.

Syam  astracan  Flead


If you are ever in the Library and you are curious to see what else Struys illustrated, come by in person and take a look at all of the details that are a bit difficult to see online.

Life on board a ship…

Just the thought of spending any amount of time on the water makes me nauseous because I’m the kind of person who gets seasick sitting on a ferry. To even think about doing anything besides curling up in a ball and waiting for it to be over is an accomplishment in my eyes. That’s why I just had to share what I saw in collection MS0007,  the Robert Weir Papers.

In 1862, Weir enlisted in the Union Navy and served as third assistant engineer and second assistant engineer on the USS Richmond. While on board the sloop-of-war USS Richmond in the early 1860s, he spent some time to capture scenes from everyday life on board a ship in his pencil and ink drawings.
We are lucky to have his unique works in our archives, so please enjoy this small sample!


Weir gives us a glimpse into training activities. Below is an image of a broadsword exercise:


In the drawing below, Weir provides a caption for the scene: “Pikemen – Away!! Repelling boarders”. I love how he pays careful attention to the details. See that small box towards the bottom right-hand corner of the image? In the actual piece, this section is approximately 1/2 cm, but he has provided a label for the contents of the box: “LOADED IX IN SHELL 5 sec.”


In the sketch below, Weir provides the following caption for this image of the ironclad Manhattan: ”a truthful sketch of the Manhattan as she was when I visited her this morning- our load was very near being landed high & dry in her decks several times-”


Finally, Weir also provides a view of the vessels Genesee, Richmond, Monongahela, Kineo, Mississippi, Mortar Boats, Essex, Albatros and Hartford in battle.

This is just a very small sampling of the drawing in the Robert Weir collection. Come on by the Library to see his other illustrative works (and to see the very fine details). In addition to these snapshots of life at sea, we also have his satirical pieces, sketches of vessels, fleets and correspondence.

Passenger Lists from the Archives

Every so often the Library has visitors who are interested in finding evidence that a family member traveled via steamship during a certain time, to/from a certain place. One of our many unique resources from the archives helps to solve this mystery: passenger lists.

In our MS0015 Steamship Ephemera Collection, our volunteers have worked hard to catalog 371 passenger lists from the vessels of 58 steamship lines with voyages that range in date from 1878 to 1988. Many of these lists include the voyage date, the port of departure, the ports of entry, and, of course, passenger names. Other lists also include the names of the captain and his crew, sailing schedules, route maps, and general “housekeeping” information for passengers.


Here are some interesting examples that you can expect to find in this collection:

Beautiful covers:

Bremen MS15.14353                          Lady Drake MS15.02231                        Waesland MS15.16867


Lists of passenger names:


Merion MS15.00647                                Canada MS15.04185


Logs and Maps:


Orotava MS15.17307                                                       Kaiserin Auguste Victoria MS15.08855


Finally, there was a personal favorite of mine:
This is the list for the S.S. Vega which measures in at 2 3/4” by 3 7/8”!


Vega MS15.18037


As always, you are welcome to drop by the Library to see our passenger lists from the Steamship Ephemera Collection for vessels from A-W! (Not ‘Z’ since we have lists from Acadia to the Western World) Also keep in mind that if you can’t make it in, just contact us to order a PDF version of the passenger lists.

IMLS & The Battle of Hampton Roads

Hello readers,

It has been a busy summer and one that has been especially interesting for Library staff. We are all deeply involved in a project that has been funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to catalog archival resources from our collections that involve the Battle of Hampton Roads (BOHR).
So what does this project mean for the Library staff and our dedicated volunteers and interns? It has become an opportunity to spend much more time researching and describing singular items in BOHR collections. Given this opportunity, I thought I’d share something that I found interesting in a four page letter from the collection of Jacob Nicklis’ papers.
On December 28, 1862, Jacob Nicklis wrote to his father from the USS Monitor. In the letter, he informs him that they are anchored near Fortress Monroe awaiting the Montauk and the Connecticut, so he is taking the time to write about where he has been since the last letter, and to say where he will be going in the coming days. Jacob then shifts gears to provide his father with a detailed description of his Christmas while on board the Monitor.
This all seems like an average letter that you would send home to loved ones, right? Well, towards the end of his letter on pages three to four, Jacob tells his father not to write back until he hears from him again. Jacob then ends the letter with what I considered a very chilling comment:
“They say we will have a pretty rough time a going around Hatteras but I hope it will not be the case.”

Page 3 and 4
As many of you know, the Monitor sank off the coast of Cape Hatteras, December 31, 1862, and Jacob Nicklis perished with 15 of his crew members.

It’s these separate and personal accounts of the time surrounding the Battle of Hampton Roads that make reading and making sense of the resources so interesting. The end of the project is about a year away and the results are something that I hope you’ll all look forward to. You can expect to be able to discover individual items from our BOHR collections through our online catalog, and you can also look forward to the ability to view images of the items we have cataloged thanks to the efforts of the Museum’s Photo/Digitizing Specialist.
In the mean time, don’t forget that you’re always welcome to come by the Library to view our one-of-a-kind resources in person!

A New Addition to the Library’s Collection!

Hello readers,

We here at the Library have some exciting news: the Library has been fortunate enough to receive a donated collection of cruise ship paraphernalia from Mr. and Mrs. Beazley. The collection is quite extensive, and includes thousands of items ranging from ship plans to cruise schedules and everything in between. There is a good bit of history in the Beazley Collection, with some of the items dating to the early 20th century. Among the objects in this collection are a set of items I think worth mentioning particularly: menus.


The Beazley Collection contains some wonderfully colorful and beautiful cruise ship menus, ranging in date from the 1930s to the 1980s. I think this range in dates is of special importance because it gives the viewer a chance to see how cruise ship aesthetics have changed over time in accordance with their clientele. This must say something about the particular society and culture at which the menus were aimed, don’t you think? In addition, the menus come from different cruise lines operating from different countries, which means that they represent different societal aesthetic preferences; this is quite interesting when one thinks about why, for example, a German cruise ship would have menu illustrations of one kind, but an American cruise ship’s menu would have illustrations of a completely different nature.


The Beazley Collection as a whole contains much valuable material, but I think the menus are among the most fun items to look at (they are certainly some of the prettiest objects). Below are some examples of the different types of menus in the Collection; enjoy the view!

Auld Lang Syne B41 F7 Samaria                 Admiral Evans 50 F1                  B5 F27 Olympiade 1936 menu 

SS Samaria                                                       SS Admiral Evans                           Olympiade menu from 1936


Columbus blue man on horse menu B50 F11                  Bremen 1929-1939 3 Asian figures B6 F29                    Brittanic the Coronation Spoon menu B50 F7 

SS Columbus                                                  SS Bremen 1929-1939                          SS Brittanic


Bremen 1929-1939 Schlof Fussen B6 F29                 Menu for Normandie ov4                 Columbus gold cityscape menu B50 F11 

SS Bremen 1929-1939                            SS Normandie                                          SS Columbus

Mississippi Queen bill of fare B 25 F 15                         Swedish American Line Kungsholm 1928-1941 B21 F1


Mississippi Queen                                                    SS Kungsholm 1928-1941

Food for Thought Series: What a Menu Can Teach About Art

We usually think of menus in purely functional terms, right? It is a sort of small booklet one gets in a restaurant that lists the possible foods we could order. Ocean liner menus, however, strive to be more than just functional; they are part of a whole vacation experience and therefore play more than just a purely functional role on a cruise. These menus must enhance the guests’ experiences on the voyage and impress them (as presumably the rest of the cruise does). Ocean liner menus are, in effect, part of the “whole package.” Because of this, ocean liner menus, especially older ones, were decorated, aesthetically pleasing pieces of art, as well as menus. The menus in the Beazley Collection exemplify this idea with their often colorful designs:

This menu cover, for example, from the ocean liner Bremen (1929-1939), is like a work of art unto itself. Can these menus then function as more than just utilitarian objects that showcase food? Yes, they can and did. The menu covers often offered the viewer valuable insight into a society’s cultural or aesthetic values.

Consider, for example, this menu from the Columbus, from a German-based cruise ship company:

The art on this cover is reminiscent of German art of the time (mid-20th century)  called Plakatstil (or “Poster Style). This style of art emerged in Germany in the early 20th century and was mainly used for advertising. The below poster designed by Lucian Bernhard in 1905 for Priester matches is a classic example.

Using flat, bold colors and easy to read fonts, Plakatstil was a reaction to the preceding Art Nouveau style, which had favored complex decorative designs. The simplicity of Plakatstil posters meant that they were easy for the customer to read and understand. Soon, however, posters in this style were being created not only for advertising but as individual art pieces as well. This menu cover is a perfect example of this. Utilizing the classical tenants of the Plakatstil style (simplified shapes and objects, a simple central image, eye-catching colors), this menu transcends its utilitarian purpose and becomes, arguably, a piece of art. In this way, ocean liner menus in the Beazley Collection (and beyond) do more than just teach us about what people ate on their trips; they educate us about the arts of different cultures and times as well.

Bills of Lading

I delved into our collection of ships’ papers a couple of weeks ago in search of bills of lading, and more specifically, the descriptions created for the cargo on board. These documents were receipts issued by the ship master after verifying that the cargo was received in good order and condition before he shipped them to their destination.

Our bills of lading that span from the late 18th-20th century are not all identical like the cookie-cutter forms you see today, but they still have several similarities in their content like the names of the consignor and the consignee, a description of the goods with their weight or tonnage, their destination, and the rate of freight.

Although some of the descriptions are extremely brief, 8 boxes of merchandise, others, like the one below, demonstrate the great lengths that were taken to faithfully represent every bit of cargo being transported.

Juno sailed from the harbor of Newport to Savannah La Mar in Jamaica January 11, 1775.

Juno sailed from the harbor of Newport to Savannah La Mar in Jamaica January 11, 1775 carrying the following:

100 barrels superfine light flour
103 barrels common light flour
30 hogs heads
Indian corn
20 Teirces rice
18 Teirces ship bread
10 barrels mackrel
32,000 cedar shingles
37,408 whipping boards
21,723 casks red oak hogshead stoves
35 shoats
10 barrels lamp oil
40 boxes spermaceti candles


This other bill of lading for 40 crates of earthenware shipped from Liverpool to New York on the Magnet in September of 1821 features the detailed inventory taken on the back to determine the rate of freight which varies depending on the kind of good.

CSa 102.01


CSa 102.02


In order to prevent any dishonest or fraudulent activity as the cargo reached the destined port, bills of lading were usually distributed to the shipper as his receipt, while another is kept by the captain of the vessel, and the last is sent to the consignee.

Sarah Anne Island by Jessica Eichlin

Hello readers!

My name is Jessica and I’ve been a volunteer at The Mariners’ Museum Library for just over a year now. I am transcribing a set of logbooks from a 1850s whaling voyage right now, which includes a log from the captain, his wife, and his ten year old daughter. The variety of perspectives in these logs gives a great insight into life at sea during the mid-nineteenth century. The logs, while slightly different in their content, all mention every day happenings on board the ship, whether it be fish that were caught, repairs that were made, or business affairs. In addition, they also mention the location of the ship whether anchored at a port, visiting an island, or even just passing a landmark.


As the logs mention these places, I have been charting their voyage and pinpointing where they were at a certain point in time. On December 10 or 11, 1854, the ship Alice Frazier passed the Sarah Anne Island. Both mother and daughter mentioned seeing this island, and I looked it up as usual to chart on my map. Unfortunately, the Sarah Anne Island does not exist. I could not find records for it anywhere, so I thought maybe it was a ship. No luck, because the mother’s log would have mentioned it being a ship instead of an island. I kept digging, and finally found out that the Sarah Anne WAS an island… one that had existed for a brief period of time between 1858 and 1932. Claimed by the Guano Islands Act in 1858, the island was used as a supply for guano, or bird dung, for fertilizer use.


Oceania, 1861, MSM1274, MSM1, Collection of Antique and Rare Maps, The Library at The Mariners’ Museum


The Alice Frazier passed the Sarah Anne on December 10, 1854, according to the mother’s logbook, four years before it was officially claimed in the Islands Act. The island appears on maps published in 1861 as well as in 1910, but does not appear on any maps after 1932. A solar eclipse in 1937 prompted researchers to search for the island in 1932 as it would have been the perfect location to view the eclipse, but the island was nowhere to be found.