Commonwealth Model Sings Again! (sort of)

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Steamboat Commonwealth, ca 1864

A couple years back I wrote a blog about our wonderful music box model of the steamboat Commonwealth; read that HERE.   Just a quick background on it, the model was made ca 1864 by John Dean Benton, who worked for Tiffany & Co.  The model was presented as a retirement gift from the Norwich and New London Steamboat Company to the Captain, Jerome Wheeler Williams, who had never had any major mishaps in his career.  Ironically, Commonwealth caught fire and sank the year after Captain Williams retired.

One thing I had mentioned is that we had a recording of the music on an old Echo-Matic tape that we hoped to have digitized sometime in the future as we can no longer play the music box itself.  Earlier this year Cindi looked into companies that could do this for us and she found George Blood Audio.  This morning they sent us the digital file and it is awesome!  We know that two of the songs are “Nellie Bly” and “By Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon”.  We are currently unsure what the other songs are, so if anyone has an idea, please let us know.  Enjoy!   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Commonwealth Model

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5.1.3

This month’s artifact is one of my favorite pieces in the collection.  It is a music box model of the steamboat Commonwealth.

Commonwealth was built in 1854-1855 by Lawrence & Foulkes in Greenpoint, Long Island, NY for the Norwich and New London Steamboat Company.  She was built for service between New York and Connecticut, and was commanded by Captain Jerome Wheeler Williams until 1864.  In 1860 she was acquired by the Stonington Line, and then by the Merchants Navigation and Transportation Company in 1863.  December 29, 1865, a fire at the wharf where Commonwealth was docked caused the ship to be destroyed by flames.   Read more