I’m a curator at The Mariners’ Museum, which is the coolest job ever! Using my magic gloves, I travel through time to investigate stories behind all of our objects, known in the Museum-world as artifacts. The Mariners’ Museum has’ 35,000 artifacts, so I have a lot of stories to tell. Join me as I go behind the scenes to explore mankind’s relationship with the sea.
I can’t wait to see where I’ll go the next time I put on my magic gloves.
No matter where it is, I’m sure it will be a sea-faring adventure!
Click images below to learn how I solved the mystery of the James E. Buttersworth forgery.
Click images below to learn about the time I found my Magic Gloves and our first adventure together.
John Haley Bellamy was a boat builder who worked in several different naval shipyards, including Portsmouth and Boston. Born in Kittery, Maine, in 1836, Bellamy was the son of a ship builder, so it was only a matter of time before he started building boats. His true passion, however, was carving. Beginning in 1857, he carved everything from eagles to clock cases.
Bellamy is most famous for his series of eagles. Called the “Bellamy Eagle,” these carvings are highly sought after among collectors. One even sold for $600,000 at auction in 2005! The Bellamy Eagles are known for his signature style with three key elements. First is the beak. The flat top comes over the bottom so it looks like a rectangular hook. The eyes are also a telltale sign of a Bellamy Eagle because they are often carved with deep lines. Finally, there is a lot of space beneath the wings, giving them a very powerful look. The most famous of these carvings is the USS Lancaster Eagle, mounted in the Mariners’ Museum lobby.
In 1880, Bellamy was commissioned to build a figurehead (a carving to go on the front of a boat) for the USS Lancaster. He carved one of his famous eagles. He was paid $2.30 per day for his work. The eagle took 18 months of uninterrupted work to complete. To begin, Bellamy sketched out the design on the floor of his workshop. Next, he selected gigantic blocks of local pine wood. Before he could carve them, they had to be lifted with ropes and pulleys. Once they were carved, he applied the gold leaf by hand. When completed, the one and a half ton eagle was bolted to the front, or bow, of the USS Lancaster.
When the Lancaster was decommissioned in 1902, the ship and the eagle sat at the dock in Philadelphia for almost twenty years until the figurehead was purchased for $300 in 1921. After that, it stayed in storage in Boston for another ten years. Finally, The Mariners’ Museum purchased the eagle in 1934 for $2,200. It was cleaned and restored and became the iconic face of The Mariners’ Museum.
For more info on Bellamy and the Lancaster Eagle, go to http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140615-NEWS-406150349
The USS Lancaster was a screw sloop-of-war that first sailed in 1858. The term sloop-of-war refers to warships with single-gun decks that could carry a maximum of eighteen guns. The Lancaster was built in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The ship served in the Civil War and the Spanish American War.
The USS Lancaster’s first mission came in 1859. The ship left Delaware Bay for the West Coast, where she would serve as the flagship of the Pacific Squadron. The ship sailed up and down the west coasts of the Americas, protecting American civilian ships. During her time in Acapulco, her presence deterred an attack on the town by Native Americans. While the Civil War was raging on the east coast, the Lancaster was protecting the west coast. After receiving repairs in San Francisco, she sailed back to the East Coast and was decommissioned at Norfolk Navy Yard in March 1867.
The USS Lancaster was recommissioned in August 1869 and left for the South Atlantic. When she arrived at Rio de Janeiro in 1870, she was named flagship of the squadron. In 1874, she was stationed in Key West. Spanish officials had seized the Virginius, an American steamer, and executed part of her crew. The U.S. and Spain were able to solve the matter diplomatically and the Lancaster soon departed for New Hampshire. She was decommissioned in July 1875, and soon had the Bellamy eagle figurehead installed. When she was recommissioned in August 1881, she left for Europe, where she served as the flagship of the European Squadron. During her time there, she sailed everywhere from northern European waters to the Mediterranean to the coast of Africa, doing everything from riot control in Alexandria, Egypt, to attending the coronation of Russian Tsar Alexander III in Moscow to saving a French boy who fell off a pier in Marseille. She went back and forth between South America and Europe until she was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard in September 1889.
She was recommissioned in March 1891 and was sent to the Far East to serve as the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron, sailing the Chinese and Japanese coasts. She returned to the New York Navy Yard in June 1894, where she decommissioned until September 1895 when she was sent to the South Atlantic Squadron. She returned to Boston in 1897, where she was decommissioned until May 1898, when she was sent to Key West to serve as a station ship during the conflict. Once the war ended, she served as a gunnery training ship. She was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in May 1902. She finished her career as a quarantine ship in Delaware and New York. Her great career ended for good in 1933 when they broke her hull.
For more information on the USS Lancaster, see http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/86/86020.htm
One of them is The Explorers Theater, which opened at the end of May, off the main lobby. The theater is a permanent, high-definition, 3D theater featuring a new Dolby technology that is crisper than the images you find in other 3D and IMAX theaters.
Prior to the 3D films, viewers see a five-minute movie on exploration and The Mariners’ Museum, narrated by sailor Gary Jobson, past skipper for an America’s Cup victory. Current movies are Sea Rex, on giant prehistoric marine reptiles and D-Day 3D: Normandy 1944, narrated by Tom Brokaw.
And while the 3D films will “reach out and grab you,” the Explorers Theater will also allow guests to “reach out” beyond the walls of the Museum.
During special presentations, guests will enjoy interactive conversations with explorers, underwater
archaeologists, historians and other experts in the field, all from their theater seats. Using interactive,
cloud-based video conferencing, visitors will be transported to the deck of a research vessel searching
for sunken ships in the Atlantic Ocean, or will visit with a scientist in her lab or even sail aboard a historic
ship on the other side of the world. Stay tuned to The Mariners’ Museum website for more information
on this interactive programming.
Movies are $5 for Museum Members, $6 for non-Members. The cost is in addition to the cost of Museum admission. Click here for more information.
Put your detective hat on and help solve a maritime art mystery! Hidden within the new exhibition of paintings by 19th century maritime artist James Buttersworth is a modern forgery. Investigate the paintings, look for clues of Buttersworth’s style and find the forgery hidden in the exhibition.
James Edward Buttersworth was a famous artist of the 19th century. He was born in Britain but came to America in the late 1840s and worked around New York City and Boston. He mainly worked for ship owners, captains, merchants and yachtsmen who wanted a painting of their own vessels. In fact, many of his smaller works were displayed aboard the vessels from the paintings.
Buttersworth paid close attention to detail in his painting and was considered the best of the best at making realistic artwork. He was known to use a strand of hair from his own head as a paintbrush!