Friday, January 30, 2015

Conservation Work in the Greenmanville Church

The picture of the elegant diners is from the Grace Line passenger steamer SANTA PAULA in the 1930’s. In the background is a large 14 by 8 foot painting of the ship W.R. GRACE by Charles Robert Patterson which eventually came to the Museum in 1961 and has hung in the Aloha Meeting House (the Greenmanville Church) since that time.
Conservators working on the GRACE

From its time aboard the ship and the intervening five decades in the church, the painting has built up quite a layer of grime. Two conservators from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (at right) spent three days here in the Fall putting a little sparkle back into the clipper ship by stripping off some of the layers of dirt. The project was inspired by Bob Webb, a former curator at the Kendall Whaling Museum and the Maine Maritime Museum and a performer well-known in sea music circles. Bob passed away last year and one of his wishes was to see the painting conserved since, in addition to his other passions, Bob was also a writer and one of his books was a biography of Charles Robert Patterson, the artist. To help fulfill his wish, Bob’s widow Helen has been raising funds to help pay for the conservation work. Stop by and see if the painting looks a little perkier to you. And give a nod of thanks to Bob for helping to make it happen.

Detail of the W.R. GRACE (MSM accession # 1961.302)
The work is a depiction of the W.R. GRACE leaving the coast of California in the 1880’s. There were four “SANTA” ships built in the 1930’s and each one had on board a painting done by Charles Robert Patterson. There is one in the Maine Maritime Museum that went to them from the W.R. Grace offices in Boca Raton in 1999. It is also a painting of the W.R. GRACE and is entitled “Report Me All Well,” and that one was in the SANTA ELENA. When the SANTA ELENA was turned into a troop ship, the painting came out and was later trimmed down and repainted to fit in the W.R. Grace company offices. The other two SANTA ships, the SANTA ROSA and the SANTA LUCIA, carried portraits of the ship M.P. GRACE. The whereabouts of those two paintings is unknown. The one in our church is considered the masterpiece of the four and the only one kept in its original round-topped, half-moon configuration.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Badger Doesn't Bite

When the five-masted schooner JENNIE R. DUBOIS was launched in February of 1902, she became the largest vessel ever built on the Mystic River. 249 feet long and 2,237 tons, she was built by the Holmes Shipbuilding Company and named for the wife of Rhode Island judge E.C. Dubois. She was built for the lumber and coal-carrying trades and proved to be too large for the Mystic River, having become stuck in the mud when she was launched. Hopefully the owner of the $100,000 vessel carried enough insurance because the DUBOIS was lost only a year and a half later in September of 1903 after being run down in the fog near Block Island by a German steamship while carrying a load of coal. She became a hazard to navigation and was dynamited to guarantee safe passage in the area. Local historian Carol Kimball wrote a nice article for The Day in 2002 on the construction and demise of the DUBOIS. The schooner was rediscovered 104 years later in 2007 by a group of local divers and was once again in the news.

JENNIE R. DUBOIS by S.F.M. Badger (MSM acc. # 2014.70.1)

This painting of the JENNIE R. DUBOIS is a recent gift to the Museum and joins another painting of the DUBOIS in the Museum’s possession (accession number 1957.10), both by the same artist, S.F.M. Badger. Solon Francis Montecello Badger was born in Charlestown,  Massachusetts in 1873 and died as a relatively young man in 1919. Having studied under William P. Stubbs in his youth, Badger’s style is very reminiscent of Stubbs’ work. Mystic Seaport is very happy that the donors of the painting decided to keep it in the Mystic area where it will be truly appreciated.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Hours at the Collections Research Center

The CRC will be closed to researchers during the weeks of Dec. 22nd and Dec. 29th. We will reopen to researchers on Wednesday, January 7th at 2:00. Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 1, 2014

A Trip to Remember

The CHARLES W. MORGAN, and everyone associated with her, had a hectic and momentous summer of 2014. When the MORGAN  returned home to Mystic Seaport in August, it was after a successful cruise that saw her sail to New London, Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank, Boston and the Cape Cod Canal. While two of the most memorable events would be her historic return to her home port of New Bedford and her sail on Stellwagen Bank where she sailed with whales for the first time in nearly a hundred years, her passage to New London from Mystic will be one remembered by thousands. As she left Mystic Seaport in mid-May and headed down river through the town’s famous bascule bridge, local marine artist Russ Kramer caught the moment in an ink drawing on an envelope which he then had canceled at the local post office, commemorating the event in fine fashion. Cheering throngs lined the river from Mystic to Noank before she headed out into the Sound to make her way to New London for her final fitting out and sea trials prior to heading off on her historic journey.



Russ Kramer is a well-known, talented marine artist with a studio in Mystic. He is currently the president of the American Society of Marine Artists. You can view some of his work at http://www.russkramer.com/. His gift of the illustrated envelope is one of many MORGAN-related pieces that have made their way to us in 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Week..

The Collections Research Center will be closed to visitors Wednesday, November 26th - Friday, November 28th for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The End of the Building, but not the Name


Norman Rockwell would have loved this picture. A father and son standing side by side engaged in a patriotic scene early in the 20th century that would have sold a boatload of war bonds in later years. The father is William Porter White, a career navy man from Illinois who entered the navy in 1874 at the age of 15, graduated from the Naval Academy, and served his country for the next 52 years, ending his stint as a Captain. The boy, George William Blunt White, known to all as Blunt, is 10 years old in this picture taken in Chicago in 1905. Blunt would later serve in the U.S. Navy Aviation Corps in World War I and then spend the next four decades as a successful businessman in the Mystic area. Along the way he started sailing, eventually becoming the Commodore of the Cruising Club of America. He also took an interest in the local Marine Historical Society (Mystic Seaport), joining the Board in 1947 and serving as the Vice President from 1955 until his death from a heart attack in 1962 while doing what he loved. Sailing.


William Porter White and son, G.W. Blunt White, 1905. MSM accession# 2002.20.23
After Blunt’s passing, his good friend, Henry DuPont, was instrumental in raising and donating funds to build the new library at Mystic Seaport, which had been in planning since 1960. The Museum memorialized Blunt by naming it the G.W.  Blunt White Library. Completed in 1964, the Library's design and construction were overseen by Dr. Charles W. David. Dr. David was instrumental in bringing about a transformation at Mystic Seaport through his scholarly endeavors and keen understanding of institutional process. Prior to becoming Mystic Seaport's first professional librarian, Dr. David had been the Director of Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania. Henry DuPont had also contracted him to oversee the research library design, construction and staffing at the Hagley Museum and Library at Eleutherian Mills near Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. David's expertise in libraries and fund-raising was critical to the early development of the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport and the Library’s growth into the successful operation that it is today. He helped lift the Museum and indeed the field of maritime research and scholarship to a new level of esteem and capacity.

Sketch of the original G.W. Blunt White Library.

Over the years the Library’s collection has grown into the largest maritime research library of its kind in the country with its broad collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, ships plans, charts and maps and more. When the Museum was considering expanding the Library building in 2000 to house the ever-growing collection, a decision was made to reconsider the expansion for a number of reasons. The two primary reasons centered on the site of the building. First, the underpinnings of the granite-clad edifice were suffering from the intrusion of both fresh and brackish water. The building had been situated on a piece of land that not only suffered from having the ground saturated due to high tides, but also had the unfortunate happenstance of being located directly above an underground stream that magnified the watery problem during rainstorms, causing and  regular seepage into the basement of the building. Mold and mildew became an insurmountable problem. Second, the site overlooked prime real estate for future Museum expansion and any addition to the Library needed to move in the direction of the river, thereby fragmenting the space for future uses.

The decision was made to finally move the Library out of the deteriorating building in 2007. The collections and staff made the journey across the street to the Collections Research Center in the Rossie Mill after necessary monies were raised by friends and trustees to outfit a section of the CRC for Library use. Today the G.W. Blunt White Library remains a major center of maritime research and also acts as the gateway to the rest of the collections at Mystic Seaport.

Blunt’s legacy was carried on by his son, Bill, another long-time, active member of the Museum’s Board, and Bill’s son, Blunt, who also served his time as a trustee. It is sad to see the passing of an era with the razing of the former library building, but the boy in the uniform will continue to be remembered in the new G.W. Blunt White Library in the Collections Research Center at Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cruise of a Connecticut Privateer....

A logbook of a Connecticut privateer during the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, was purchased recently by the Museum. Commanded by Jesse Denison, the sloop DOLPHIN of Stonington cruised local and Caribbean waters in search of both French and Spanish prizes in 1762 and early 1763. Sanford Billings kept the logbook/journal that details some of the encounters of the DOLPHIN.



Two weeks after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the war, the DOLPHIN’s crew (supposedly ignorant of the pact), in company with the crew of two ships from Philadelphia and Virginia, marched on a fort in Hispaniola:

“Landed 150 men all well armed and marched up to the town. 
Found two cannon, six swivels. We took the Place…..
Returned on board the DOLPHIN all hands well 
except one man wounded with a musquet ball in the shoulder.” 

The following day they learned of the truce and made sail for home. As with so many other logbooks and journals, this one went on to have another life recording such things as school attendance by local students, accounts of goods bought and sold and Billings' family genealogy.