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Lancaster Eagle Scavenger Hunt

The Puzzle

This is where our colossal eagle figurehead was sitting in 1933 when buyers for the Museum found it. Wouldn’t it be fun to walk through this store? Think of all the treasures you might find.

In fact, I’m going to list a few items pictured in this photograph and ask you to look closely to find which of these items ARE or ARE NOT in the photograph! (Hint: Five items ARE pictured.)

Weather vaneCoffee MugPhonographBoots

About the Creator

The Lancaster Eagle was carved by John Haley Bellamy in 1880-1881. It was created for and mounted onto the sloop-of-war USS Lancaster. The Eagle had a wingspan of 19 feet and weighed 3,200 pounds. Although the figurehead was originally gold-leafed, in 1933, when the photograph above was taken, she had been painted to resemble an actual eagle, brown and white. In the 1960s, Museum staff removed the old paint and gold-leafed the Eagle to return it to its original state. Today she is prominently displayed in the Museum’s lobby.

The Find

After years of exposure to the elements, the figurehead was sold in 1925. The Atlantic Marine Exchange of Boston purchased the Eagle from the US Navy for $262.89. In 1933, their inflated selling price was $2,500. After some negotiation, the Eagle was purchased and brought to The Mariners’ in 1934.

Following is an excerpt from Fred and Nola Hill’s first buying excursion on behalf of The Mariners’ Museum. They were in Boston, with Homer Ferguson, president of the Museum.

Our greatest find along the waterfront safari literally towered above our heads. The dark and dingy shop in question was a busy mecca, complete with the aroma of oakum and oilskins and the thousand and one things required for ships. Sailors were selecting gear and replacements for fitting out their vessels. Enthusiastic yachtsmen were overhauling block and tackle. Our group entered the shop after peering through the grimy windows and seeing relics of days gone by.

“What do you know about that carved bird?” we asked casually, after we had been in the shop for some time. Above our heads was an enormous carved eagle whose outstretched wings extended over the dusty showcases.

“All I can tell you,” said the owner with little enthusiasm, “is that it has been here since I was a boy. My father couldn’t even remember where it came from. It is supposed to be a figurehead from an old sailing ship, but I think she would have sunk at the dock carrying such a heavy bird.”

This is from an unpublished manuscript by Nola Hill titled “The Museum Pieces.” The title comes from the Hills’ first meeting with Homer Ferguson, in which he referred to them as ‘Museum Pieces.’ They were field agents and buyers for the Museum and traveled to Europe, South America, and the Atlantic seaboard. They retired in the early 1960s.

Are you ready for the Scavenger Hunt?

Send me your finds in the Comments section! Happy hunting!


Museum’s Object file (OF-31A)

Frederick F. Hill Photograph Albums (MS0157)

Hill, N. Museum Pieces, Vol.1. Museum’s Collection Management file

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