As summer quickly begins to approach, I’m reminded of a project we had a couple of (awesome) volunteers, Brian and Chris, do last year. This project involved our two smokestack eagles from the American President Lines. These eagles never made it onto the smokestack they were intended for as the ship was requisitioned by the Navy prior to its completion, due to WW II. The ship in question was likely the second President Adams, who began her war service in December 1941.
USS President Adams (AP-38, later APA-19) was built at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia from 1940-1941. She was originally intended to be a civilian passenger-cargo-ship, but was refitted for military service after being taken by the Navy in June 1941. On December 25, 1941, shortly after the United States entered WW II, her first encounter with the enemy was with a German submarine where she sustained no damage. In July of the next year, President Adams was sent to the South Pacific where she took part in the effort to hold Guadalcanal until February 1943. The rest of 1943 and part of 1944 were spent chasing the Japanese up the Solomon Islands. After February of 1945, she spent the rest of her time in the Pacific bringing home veterans, which lasted until March 1947. President Adams was decommissioned in June of 1950 and scrapped in Taiwan in 1974. For more information about her career, click HERE.
This brings me back to the eagles, which were donated to the museum in August of 1941 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company as they no longer had need of them. The eagles remained in storage until August of 1954, when they were cleaned, painted and placed on either end of a shed for display.
The shed was eventually torn down and the eagles went back into storage until May of 2012, when we decided that cleaning them up would be a great project (and help us decided how to go about cleaning the Artifacts in the Park objects). This was a fairly time consuming process as we (and by we, I mostly mean our awesome volunteers, Brian and Chris) had to first use wire brushes to get as much of the rust buildup off as possible. Then we went around the eagles, placing paint stripper on all of the areas where the paint refused to come off with the brush. After that was done, we would use degreaser to clean the eagle and prepare it for a new layer of paint. The same steps were taken with the stars, of which there are eight, four for each eagle.
The image above shows one of the eagles after being brushed and having the old paint removed.
This image shows the very nearly finished project. At this point the eagle needed one more coat of paint and it would be ready to go!
This photo comes from our volunteer Brian, showing all of the hard work he put into cleaning and painting the eagle. And me in the background completely unaware a picture was being taken… Unfortunately I don’t have an image of Chris working on the eagles.
The reason we painted the eagles white is because this is the color they would have been on the smokestack. The white eagle and white stars would have been on a red background.
This is an example of the logo taken from the American President Lines website, which you can access HERE. This particular logo was used from about 1938 to 1955, when it changed to a red eagle with the line’s name spelled out in the wingspan.
Watching the transformation of these eagles was a lot of fun, as it is always satisfying to see a piece restored. And their new condition means that they can now be put on display should the opportunity arise. I also cannot thank Brian and Chris enough for the role they played in this project, as it may not have ever been completed without their help. All in all, a job well done!