Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thanksgiving Holiday Hours

The Collections Research Center will be closed Thursday, November 26th and Friday, November 27th for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Commanding Lieutenant William Bligh Comes to Mystic Seaport

The most famous mutiny in history and the extraordinary small boat voyage that resulted are retold in William Bligh’s A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship, Bounty and the subsequent voyage of part of the crew in the ship’s boat from Tofoa, one of the friendly islands, to Timor, a Dutch settlement in the East Indies. This account was published in London in 1790, within a year of 
the debilitating seven week open-boat voyage that covered over 3,500 nautical miles. Bligh’s narrative of the voyage includes descriptions of the privations the crew endured, including the difficulty of catching fish, necessitating the action described  in this passage after about three weeks at sea: “The weather was now serene, but unhappily we found ourselves unable to bear the sun’s heat; many of us suffering a languor and faintness, which made life indifferent. We were, however, so fortunate as to catch two boobies today; their stomachs contained several flying-fish and small cuttlefish, all of which I saved to be divided for dinner.” Yum.

Title Page of the newest addition to the G.W. Blunt White Library

This volume, as well as A Voyage to the South Sea…. ,an ensuing book written by Bligh to relay in more detail the story of the overall expedition of the Bounty and the mutiny, were recently donated to the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport as important parts of a larger gift. These two rare examples add to the wealth of an already strong research collection and will find a new, secure home for future researchers in maritime history.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Resource for Scholarship at Mystic Seaport

Each year, hundreds of researchers visit the G.W. Blunt White Library in the Collections Research Center to take advantage of one of the finest collections of primary and secondary materials relating to American maritime history. Those that use the collection include historians, other scholars, genealogists, artists, students, teachers, history hobbyists, commercial users and more. Annually, a segment of academic users make their way to Mystic via the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, of which the G.W. Blunt White Library is a founding member. For over a decade, NERFC, a collaboration of 21 major cultural agencies, has been awarding fellowships to scholars. The Consortium will offer at least 15 awards in 2016–2017, and each grant will provide a stipend of $5,000 for a minimum of eight weeks of research at participating institutions. Awards are open to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who hold the necessary U.S. government documents. Grants are designed to encourage projects that draw on the resources of several agencies.
Each itinerary must:
·         be a minimum of eight weeks
·         include at least three different member institutions, and
·         include at least two weeks at each of these institutions.
The following scholars have visited, or will visit, the Library in 2015. Along with their name and affiliation, each fellow has provided a short description of their project. We are honored to have such qualified individuals take advantage of the broad collections available at Mystic Seaport.
Cynthia Bouton, Texas A & M Univ.- Subsistence, Society, Commerce, and Culture in the Atlantic World in the Age of Revolution - The era of Atlantic Revolutions witnessed an acceleration in the circulation and commodification of subsistence foods, and reorganized social and political links in provisioning chains.  Revolutionary debates politicized property, production, distribution, and consumption in historically specific ways.  This book project studies staple food production, marketplace interaction, entangled trade networks, government policies, and consumer practices to understand shifting food regimes in the international Atlantic. 

Dan Du, Univ. of Georgia– This World in a Teacup: Sino-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century -The Sino-American tea trade during the nineteenth century was a crucial element in Chinese-American relations and the economic transformation of global capitalism. Tea, as a key staple in the international market and one of the largest imports into the United States, illuminates multilateral economic and cultural connections and clashes among the U.S., China, Great Britain, Japan, and India. This project will explore the influence of the tea trade on American material culture. Embargo of tea during the Revolution sparked patriotism in American towns, but historians of the republic consigned tea consumption to oblivion. However, it remained prevalent. It witnessed the making of American cultural, national identity, particularly when compared with English and Chinese tea culture. Furthermore, since consumption allowed capitalism to shape social relations and instill its spirit among ordinary people, tea consumption, which was promoted by marketing and advertising, crystallized the ethos of the nineteenth-century society dissected by class, gender, and race.

Univ. of Georgia Ph.D. candidate, Dan Du, exploring logbooks in the collection.

Andrew Edwards, Princeton Univ. - Money and the American Revolution- Andrew’s research concerns two events, one well known, the other relatively obscure: the American Revolution and the currency revolution in American money.  Over the course of the Revolutionary War, money in American conception and practice changed from measure to metal. This transition, from a ‘unit of account’ to a commodity currency, defined in terms of gold and silver, has long typically gone unremarked under the assumption - shared by many historians - that money is neutral in American political history and that such development is part of the natural course of things, if not entirely uncontested. It is Andrew’s intention to challenge this assumption.

Kathryn Lasdow, Columbia Univ. – “Spirit of Improvement”: Construction, Conflict, and Community in Early-National Port Cities – From 1789 to 1830, budding capitalists advanced a vision for American cities that placed ports at the center of promise and prosperity. But Americans across the social spectrum disagreed over the designs and material realities of port construction. Some city dwellers questioned whether these projects were truly “improvements” at all, arguing they infringed on the property rights of small land- and wharf-owners and displaced entire neighborhoods. Some residents turned to lawsuits, mob violence, and the destruction of building sites to halt impending construction. This dissertation examines this dialectic between capitalist urban planning and community response in early-nineteenth-century American port cities.

Gregory Rosenthal, SUNY Stony Brook – Hawaiians who left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876- For decades, historians have written of the Atlantic World as an historical arena of transoceanic exchange and the circulation of people, goods, and ideas among African, European, and American actors. But only recently have historians begun to use the same tools to reconstruct histories of other transoceanic spaces, such as the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Gregory’s project contributes to the study of the nineteenth-century Pacific World by focusing on the paths traveled within and beyond Hawaiʻi by Native Hawaiian wage workers in the transoceanic economy. For nearly a century, from the 1780s to the 1870s, Hawaiian men labored in extractive industries all across the Pacific, from China to Hawaiʻi to California and on ships at sea. Hawaiian workers extracted sea otter furs, sandalwood, bird guano, whale oil, cattle hides, gold, and other commodities. All of these trades were of global economic significance in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By placing Hawaiian working-class actors at the center of nineteenth-century Pacific history, Gregory argues that the movement and mobility of Hawaiians across the ocean in search of work was a key component of trans-Pacific integration.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Fish Story: New Painting for Mystic Seaport

A painting entitled “Off Block Island” by Ellery Thompson is a recent gift to the collections at Mystic Seaport. Thompson was a local fisherman, author, artist and raconteur of some note. His story-telling ability landed him in the New Yorker in 1947, subject of a profile by writer Joseph Mitchell. Afterwards, Thompson went on to write his own books about life as a Connecticut fisherman.  Draggerman’s Haul: the Personal History of a Connecticut Fishing Captain and Come Aboard the Draggers, were published in the 1950’s when Thompson was in his 50’s. 

"Off Block Island," by Ellery Thompson.

Ellery Thompson painted hundreds of pictures in a primitive style and many of these made their way into friends’ homes and not a few into local museums and historical societies. Mystic Seaport is glad to have a number of his works. Mystic Seaport owns a western-rigged dragger named FLORENCE, and one of the boats seen here is purported to be her. Thompson was born in 1899 and died in 1986, but his character lives on in his books, some oral histories and, of course, his brightly-colored paintings depicting scenes from his life experiences.

Monday, June 29, 2015

H.M.S. BURFORD Puts into Safe Harbor

The H.M.S. BURFORD model has returned to the Collections Research Center after a stint on exhibit. British Naval historian William Laird Clowes once called it one of the finest models of its type ever built. The model at Mystic Seaport was acquired in 1973 and has been one of the premier objects in the collection ever since. H.M.S. BURFORD was a 70-gun, 3rd rate ship of the British Navy built in 1722. One of her commanding officers was Admiral Edmund Vernon, after whom Mt. Vernon is named. While there is some question as to the date the model was built, it was certainly done in the first half of the 18th century, if not in 1722. It came into Admiral Vernon’s possession and stayed in his family until it was purchased at auction in London in 1929 by Junius Morgan, grandson of J.P. Morgan.

The magnificent model has a white bottom, varnish topsides and a black boot stripe. She has 4 anchors and 68 gun positions with two full gun decks, a square bow, lateen mizzen, and a two-level poop deck. There is a lion's head painted on the inside surface of each of the gunpost covers. Her poop-deck railing has a painted scene of nudes in grass on a blue background. Two quarter galleries, one stern walk, a painted decorative strip and two gunports below her lower windows on the stern also grace this model. An elaborate carving on her stern shows a bust of a king at the center framed by two gods, with a lion on each side with Neptune. Her figurehead is a crowned lion and the model is mounted on a mahogany veneer stand with 2 metal braces amidships. One can easily spend an hour picking out all the details her model makers put into her.

Curator Fred Calabretta maneuvers the model from building to van.

Until last month the BURFORD was a part of our Treasures from the Collections Exhibit in the R. J. Schaefer Building. With the advent of the new Ships, Clocks and Stars Exhibit coming this Fall, the model was moved back to the Collections Research Center, a nice safe harbor, until she next goes on display. A delicate job, she was moved from the exhibit to the CRC by our Collections Manager Chris White, our Curator of Collections seen here, Fred Calabretta, and a number of other Museum staff. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!

The Collections Research Center will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in honor of Independence Day.

Sailing Card. Collection 112, Manuscripts Collection,
G.W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The MAYFLOWER in Lilliput

With the departure of MAYFLOWER II from Mystic Seaport in May, 2015, the Museum will not be left without any Pilgrim representation. The Museum owns a number of MAYFLOWER models and one, a model of Lilliputian proportions, was donated to the Museum in 1952 by its maker, Henry R. Stiles of New London. Mr. Stiles was born just after the Civil War and graduated from Yale in 1888. His career was that of an optical surgeon and he spent a number of years as such in the U.S. Army. He retired with a disability acquired in the line of duty with the rank of Major in 1905 but was eventually lifted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He donated seven of his creations to Mystic Seaport in 1952 when he was 86 years old. Using his exacting skills and surgical tools, Col. Stiles spent many hours creating miniature models of sloops, schooners, brigs, sampans and more. The 5 3/8 inch MAYFLOWER alone took Col. Stiles more than 615 hours by the time he completed it in 1939. The scale of the MAYFLOWER model is 1 inch to 22.5 feet and her rigging blocks are so small that their details cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Model of MAYFLOWER. Henry R. Stiles, 1939.
Mystic Seaport accession number 1952.1573
(Click for larger view)

A long-time trustee of Mystic Seaport noted that in the early 1950's this model was one of the first things that was seen as you entered into what was then the Museum's main exhibit building. See the changes coming to Mystic Seaport in the form of the Thompson Exhibition Building and the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, giving the Museum substantially more exhibit space than could have even been dreamt about in 1952.