Portrait Double Feature

Since the weekly portrait series has been quiet recently, we’re offering two portraits today, both nautically themed.

1: “Lord Bateman”

Lord BatemanThis drawing appears in the logbook of the whaling ship Martha, during an 1838-41 voyage.

2: The mailman

page016

 

Alright, maybe not the actual mailman. But this letter-deliverer was intended to proudly decorate the bow of a 19th-century ship. The image comes from an amazing item in our Brownell Collection, the pattern book of a figurehead carver named R. Lee. You can read more about Lee in volume 2, issue 3 of Occasional Nuggets, but if you’d like to view the pattern book in it’s entirety, it’s now available online.

 

Arctic Stories

The latest Occasional Nugget was recently mailed to subscribers:

Occasional Nuggets 4.2

(Subscriptions start at $15 / year, and you can even subscribe online, so there’s no excuse not to. Find out more here.)

The second essay in the issue focuses on the Greely expedition, an ill-fated (cannibalism is involved, so it doesn’t get much worse-fated) arctic expedition in the 1880s. When a relief party finally arrived to rescue the survivors, one of the members of the relief party (aboard the ship Thetis) kept a journal of the events, and he transcribed the journal of Roderick Schneider, one of the Greely expedition members who died as they awaited rescue. The original of Schneider’s journal was lost, so the PPL copy is now the best record of his ordeal.

As it turns out, the release of this issue was well-timed to coincide with the addition of some arctic logbooks at the terrific OldWeather.org website. The images now available on the site include the logbooks of the ships involved in the Greely rescue, the Thetis, Bear and Alert. This page, for instance, includes the official record of the relief party’s discovery of the Greely survivors.

Fulbright, brighter, brightest

We were very lucky to get a visit last Friday from some exceptional students. They’re part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, so they were from countries around the world. One component of their visit to the US is a volunteer session, so 14 of them showed up at PPL, ready to do some volunteer transcription. (Thanks to Justin Dunnavant for the photos.)

Fulbright Students

Our Nicholson Whaling Collection is well known as one of the best collections of whaling logbooks in the country. But the collection also includes quite a few other resources, including nearly 60 boxes of manuscript materials. (They’re described in a collection guide on our website.) So after getting a brief introduction to Special Collections, they set to work transcribing one small portion, the letters of Daniel D. Mowry.

Transcription in processMowry went to sea as an 18-year-old, and it didn’t take long for him to regret the decision. We have letters from Mowry to his parents during the period from 1858 to 1861, at which point he abandoned ship in Auckland, New Zealand. He continued to write home from Auckland and Sydney, Australia for years.

Daniel Mowry letter

The Fulbright student volunteers set out to transcribe the manuscripts and help fill out the story, and in just a few short hours they made quite a bit of progress.

Students transcribing lettersHere’s a short sample (transcribed by Sylmina Alkaff), in which Mowry tells his parents that he’s abandoning the voyage:

Dear Father & Mother
You will no doubt be much surprised when you get this letter to hear that I am no longer in the Sea (Gull). I left the ship about four weeks previous to this date….
My dear Father and Mother I have done a thing which you will at first blame me for. But could you know all could you
but know what I have endured and what I have seen with my own eyes you would blame me not. Her thirty three months I staid in that ship and they were months of misery to me. I took no comfort of my life neither did any of the ships company.

It should be a great story when it’s all told. Within the next few months we’ll plan to have the images online with the transcriptions by the Fulbright students. Since they were working with limited time, many of the letters are not yet fully transcribed, so blog readers can have a chance to put some of the pieces of the story together as well by doing some voluntary, online transcription work of your own.

Thanks again, Fulbright students!

group photo

 

 

Multi-Purpose Massacre x 2

Just a quick note highlighting an image to appear in the next issue of Occasional Nuggets:

bearsAndWhales

This print (from our Nicholson Whaling Collection), depicting a simultaneous, multi-species arctic bloodbath (whales at sea / bears on land) was produced in the late 1790s for a geography book, Thomas Banke’s A New, (Royal), and Authentic, System of Universal Geography, as indicated by the title at the top edge of the illustration. With just a little editing, you have a plate that was used for Charles Middleton’s A New and Complete System of Geography in the 1770s*. The following image is hard to see, but the similarities should be clear (with the exception of the title above the image):

Middleton

And if we move even further into the past, we find the following, from John Harris’s Navigantium atque itinerantium… of 1744**:

Harris

The similarities are striking, especially when you look at it in a mirror:

Harris2

More information about these and many other images of whale-related butchery is available in Elizabeth Ingalls’s catalog of the Whaling Prints in the Francis B. Lothrop Collection.


* Image borrowed from Eighteenth-Century Collections Online.

** Image borrowed from the John Carter Brown Library, and available online.

Time Machine: 28 November 1812

The regular portrait series takes the week off today. In it’s place, the first of an occasional series that highlights an item from the collection created on this day in the past.

The first post celebrates the completion of our project to re-house the Updike Autograph Collection. (Mentioned previously here.) As you might recall, this collection of fascinating manuscript items was previously difficult to access and stored in acidic folders and boxes. Thanks to volunteer Ramon Cartwright, a finding aid for the collection is now available online; and thanks to funds provided by subscribers to our Occasional Nuggets publication and the efforts of volunteer Pat Loan, the entire collection is now rehoused in archival folders and boxes.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting a few items from the collection on the day of the year they were created, starting with this letter from Raymond Perry to his mother Sarah, dated 28 November 1812. In the letter Raymond describes the public response to his brother Oliver’s heroic actions at the Battle of Lake Erie.

The following transcription accompanied the letter:

Off Bristol Harbor
28th Nov. [1812]
My dear Mother –
I have not written
your for some days, owing to being
to much engaged getting down the
River this far – Alex. left me
day before yesterd in Providence
he recd. the attention due [to his?]
gallantry. every one was anxious to
be introduced to the young Hero
of Erie – his mind is much improved
so much so, that, it was a subject
of remark at our mess Table. he
supported a conversation for some
time – my Father was on b[oar]d this
Eveng. on his way to New Port
where he says it will be necessary to
visit often – I cannot express how much
my satisfaction is, to see him so
much pleased with his appointment
he is in excellent spirits, every one in
Bristol seems anxious to know him. the
De Wolfs are raped up in his interest
The Female part of‘the Family talk
much of the pleasure of your society as
soon as you can join them – The House
is a very good one, and stands in the
best part of the Town – Mary An
De Wolf is a charming girl, and I have
reason to believe very much my Friend
[They were married in 1814]
We were to a pleasant Ball two evengs
since in honor of Oliver – the House
was brilliantly illuminated, and over
the entrance was the appropriate motto
“Dont give up the ship”. I was recd
with more politeness than all my
vanity could flater me I deserved
but, I was next Brother to the greatest
man in our Country -. Of Comd Rodgers
[I?] have but little to say, only that
[he?] is wonderfully polite to [?]
and on duty, he is extremely
careful how he acts. I think
our cruise will be pleasant – our
mess is cheerfull – The wind is now
from the northw[ard] nd a probabilty
of a snow storm & fear we shall get
out – I will write the girls if we
do not get out – but this letter is for them too. Your affect Son
Raymond

Addressed to:
Christopher R. Perry Esq
Chelsea Landing
Norwich
Con.

If you’re interested in finding out what else happened today in history, check out our RI Collection Blog, where Tracy Connolly has begun a series called “100 Years Ago Today,” which draws on items from the Providence Journal of a century past.

Welcome the Newest Member of our Whaling Log Family

Back in December, I briefly mentioned a new addition to our fantastic Nicholson Whaling Collection, but now I can offer a few more details. The logbook records the 1875-9 voyage of the very ill-fated whaling ship the John Carver:

The emphasis is really on the “ill”: The voyage started with Master #1 (Aaron Dean), who died and was replaced by Master #2 (Lysander Gault), who fell ill and was replaced by Master #3 (John A. Coffin), who also fell ill and was replaced by Master #4 (J.F. Stanton). Stanton himself became ill as well, but he managed to complete the voyage.

So how unusual is a situation like this? According to whaling scholar (and one of the driving forces behind the excellent American Offshore Whaling Voyages database) Judith Lund only 27 voyages, from among the thousands undertaken, went through four masters (another 14 had even more). And that figure includes voyages in which a single master was counted twice (if he was replaced at some point and then resumed command, for instance).

Other notable features of this log:

  • It documents the mental breakdown of a sailor, John Fry, who jumped overboard and attempted to swim away from the ship.
  • It is accompanied by the voyage’s original shipping papers and an unusual manuscript contract outlining the payment to members of the crew:
  • It also includes other ephemeral materials, like these notes between Master #3 and Master #2:

    The additional materials are listed in the Nicholson Whaling Manuscripts finding aid.

The log of the John Carver is available for use now, so stop in anytime (or contact us first) to work with this newly-available piece of whaling history.

New acquisitions to the Nicholson Whaling Collection are made possible by a generous acquisitions endowment provided by the donor.

Whaling Photographs

The Nicholson Whaling Collection is best known for its logbooks and journals, but it includes other formats as well: scrimshaw, manuscripts and photographs. Thanks to volunteer Pat Loan, a portion of the whaling photograph collection is now listed online, described either by ship name or a location.

The images listed include a lot of whaling ships:

Bark Progress (Ser. B, Box 1, #39)

But also scenes from the whaling industry:

&

C.E. Peters Shipsmith and Whalecraft Mnfr. (Ser. B, Box 2, #71)

and images from whaling towns, especially New Bedford:

Cart with peanuts (Ser. C, Box 1, #3)

The list is available online at http://www.provlib.org/spc-whalingphotos

Happy Shark Week

(Yes, it’s almost that time again.)

The image above is taken from Caroline Maxwell’s Feudal Tales (published in London around 1810*). The  illustration is hand colored, and follows page 94 in our copy, accompanying the poem titled “Insanity”, which is not, as you might expect, a ballad about a man eaten by a shark. Instead, it’s a poem about a woman who loses her mind because her lover is thrown overboard from the ship he was sailing on. (The illustration faces a page of text describing his “wat’ry grave”.)

Feudal Tales is available online, from the engraved title page, to “Insanity“, with many interesting illustrations scattered throughout. But if you’re browsing this online copy (digitized from a copy at a University of California library) you won’t find the shark image after page 94. In fact, it won’t be anywhere near “Insanity”; instead it’s found after page 76, the conclusion of the poem “Port Royal Shore: A Ballad”, which outlines the story of William, a man missing his love so badly after a 6 month voyage that he jumps overboard as soon as the ship is in sight of land:

Ah, fatal haste, a shark unseen,

In wat’ry ambush lay;

Who, fast his dreadful teeth between,

Seiz’d William for his prey.

William dies within sight of Janet, his love, of course.

It seems that this poem is a better match for the image, and placing it next to “Insanity” is a mistake, but our copy is a useful reminder that books and their illustrations were often separate, and the binder or the purchaser decided what images and text corresponded.

As it turns out, the wandering shark attack illustration seems to be only one of many such instances in this copy of Feudal Tales.  Images are given new and unusual contexts throughout the book, and whoever originally owned and read this copy might have had an experience unlike that of any other reader.


* 820.7 M465f SpecColl

Whaling in 3D

Our Nicholson Whaling Collection is best known as one of the best sources of whaling logs in the world. But the collection also includes a lot of other amazing, whaling-related material, including manuscripts (over 70 boxes), scrimshaw and photographs, including stereoview photographs like this one:

Stereoview cards like this one were widespread and made in a standard size, and they were designed for use in a viewer. Their essential function was to trick the brain into seeing depth within the image. (More information about stereoviews and the history of 3D images here or here or here.)

Best viewed in person, it’s possible to mimic the effect somewhat by creating an animated composite that shifts quickly back and forth between the two images on the card. The result of the image above, for instance, would be something like this (click the image to view animation):

Ironclad on the water

When Matthew Brady wasn’t photographing Abraham Lincoln, he was taking some of the most iconic photographs of the Civil War. Here is an example from our Caleb Fiske Harris Collection on the Civil War & Slavery: a  photograph of an ironclad, identified as “probably the Camonicus or the Onondaga, at anchor in the James river in the spring of 1864.” The photograph was laid into the Civil War diary of Manchester W. Weld.