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.