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New Bedford Armory History

ArmoryPC1904&2003
A CASTLE FOR NEW BEDFORD
The Building of the New Bedford Armory, 1898-1904

by Arthur P. Motta, Jr.

Introduction
In chess, the rook is shaped like a castle and is a potent player on the board.  Moved in conjunction with the king, the rook executes a unique defensive maneuver called castling, the only time in which two pieces may be moved in one turn. Skilled players have used castling to facilitate the balance of offensive and defensive advantages. Indeed, the lengthy dispute about where to build the New Bedford Armory resembled a chess game, the city grid its chessboard, with Mayor Charles S. Ashley and Armory Commissioner George Howland Cox, the well matched players.
web_Ashley&Cox
From the start, the armory project was contentious and the intense debate it generated illustrates the tidal influences of politics and the press on public policy and urban design. Ashley and Cox’s very public chess match ultimately ended after many compromises but in a clear win for the Mayor. He celebrated that victory just as publicly on May 5, 1904 along with thousands of citizens attending perhaps the grandest dedication of a public building in city history. The armory remains one of New Bedford’s largest and most elaborate public buildings.

City leaders initiate the armory project
In 1898, Lieutenant G. N. Gardiner, a member of the Common Council argued that the city should take its place among the leading urban centers of America and build a proper armory for the local militia, the New Bedford City Guards. His call came as unrest among mill operatives was growing over an impending 10 percent pay cut announced by several textile mill owners. A large strike took place early in that year, which succeeded in shutting down the mills for a time – a prelude to the devastating Strike of 1928. Although the 1898 strike eventually collapsed in the spring, it was not before violence and vandalism required Mayor Ashley to call on the Guards, local and state police to provide protection for the mills. It was clear then that if the situation spiraled out of control city forces could be overwhelmed by the mill operatives, which numbered more than 10,000 in 1898.
Guard
Established in 1852, the New Bedford City Guards were then headquartered in Mechanics’ Hall (now site of the Duff Building) at City Hall Square. The Guards became part of E Battery, 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery in 1898. Councillor Gardiner, a member of E Battery, continued to advocate for an armory for three years. With the support of Mayor Ashley, Gardiner put forward a motion to provide the money necessary to begin the work. On July 18, 1901, the City Council designated $125,000 in the amount of a loan in order to acquire land and build an armory. The loan was executed under the provision of the Commonwealth’s Acts of 1888, which dealt with the establishment of state armories. The Evening Standard detailed the financing:

“After the city has designated the sum of money it is willing to spend on an armory, the state issues 30 year bonds for this amount. The city must pay not only the interest on these bonds, but also the sinking fund; in other words, the cost of the armory and land falls wholly on the city. The armory is under the control of the state authorities; the state is not required to pay rent for the occupancy of it, but does stand the expense of the care, furnishing and repairs. – Editor of Standard.” (Feb. 15, 1902).

Armory site, design, and price tag generates controversy

Mayor Chas. S. Ashley

Mayor Chas. S. Ashley

Several sites around the city were considered and debate about which location would be the best was an ongoing topic in the press. From the start, Mayor Ashley was unwavering in his choice for the armory site: Sycamore and Pleasant Streets. Ashley wanted to see the center of the city expand north, just as the burgeoning city was expanding northward. He envisioned an opportunity to aggrandize the skyline with the turrets and towers of a great castle high on the hill. Passengers alighting from trains at Pearl Street Station would behold an urban horizon resplendent with a multitude of church spires, lofty mansions and fine public buildings. To this end, Ashley wanted New Bedford’s armory to be the envy of all others in the state, both in size and splendor. Indeed, the massive project required additional infusions of cash by the city. On June 26, 1902, the Council voted on additional $38,000, and again on January 14, 1904 another $15,000, making the total amount $178,000.

 This 1895 map shows the future armory's location in relation to Wamsutta Mills and the Pearl Street Station, with reconnaissance views of the downtown & harbor.

This 1895 map shows the future armory’s location in relation to Wamsutta Mills and the Pearl Street Station, with reconnaissance views of the downtown & harbor.

Pursuant to the Act of 1888, all existing and proposed armories came under the jurisdiction of the State Armory Commission. Nine armories had been built under the Act, and New Bedford was to be the tenth. At the time, the Commission consisted of three members appointed by the governor: Mr. Joseph N. Peterson (of Salem) was Chairman; Adjutant General Samuel Dalton (of Boston), and General Josiah Pickett (of Worcester). Governor W. Murray Crane, a Republican, appointed an additional member, George Howland Cox of Cambridge in 1902.

Geo. Howland Cox

Geo. Howland Cox

Long the chairman of the Cambridge Park Board, Cox came to New Bedford with definite views about where to locate the armory to best effect. His interest in New Bedford went deeper than the other commissioners. Born in Fairhaven in 1854, his mother was Mercy Nye Howland. Cox married Ella P. Wittermore in New Bedford in 1877. Cox attended West Point, and though he did not graduate, his military demeanor never ceased. An engineer for 27 years with the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co., based in Boston, Cox transitioned to finance, becoming president of the Cambridge Trust Company, where he was known to stand in the center of the bank lobby and bellow orders at clerks and customers alike. His disregard for Mayor Ashley’s ideas and authority immediately generated tensions that the press eagerly reported. Under the headline, “Armory Site Becoming a Political Issue,” the Boston Globe reported, “Mr. Cox, the friends of Mayor Ashley say, arrived with some preconceived ideas concerning the Mayor. One was, they say, a belief on the part of Mr. Cox that the mayor represents the people, but not the heaviest taxpayers. Mr. Cox, they say, has taken his suggestions from the mayor’s opponents.” (February 16, 1902). This was a reference to Cox’s first choice for the location of the armory: the foot of William Street, which included the Double

The Double Bank Building, foot of William Street

The Double Bank Building, foot of William Street (photo: Arthur Motta)

Bank Building and the entire block between Rodman and Hamilton Streets, running east to the water’s edge The Double Bank Building still stands today as the former Fishermen’s Pension Trust, now J.J. Best Banc. & Company. The Double Bank’s directors and abutters (Geo. F. Barrett and the Knowles estate) sent a petition urging the selection of this site. Their asking price was the limit allowed for the purchase of land for the project: $20,000. In 1902, the Water Street commercial district was showing its age. Other financial houses were moving up the hill. The New Bedford Institution for Savings had vacated 33 William Street for its gleaming new temple at Union and Purchase a few years earlier. The directors were part of the old establishment and they resented the Mayor’s opposition to their desire for a profitable exit. Critics of the Mayor suggested that his advocacy of Sycamore & Pleasant was personally motivated as it was in his neighborhood; Ashley’s residence at 91 State Street was just a block west of the site he wanted for the armory.

The Mayor’s location satisfied another aim: deterrence. The armory’s main tower would overlook the city’s largest mill, Wamsutta. Thousands of mill operatives coming and going each day from the Wamsutta Street gates would look up at the hillside fortress and be reminded of the power of the state.

Contemporary view from the Armory tower looking northeast to Wamsutta Mills (photo: Arthur Motta 2007)

Looking northeast to Wamsutta Mills from the main tower. (photo: Arthur Motta, 2007)

It did not go unnoticed at City Hall that Cox’s ties to Beacon Hill helped garner him the armory commission appointment and provided him with a stipend to be paid from the city’s armory budget. Cox’s ties were again evident when the commission chose Olin W. Cutter, a Boston architect to design the armory. Cutter had recently designed the Registry of Deeds and Probate Court at East Cambridge (1897), the Middlesex County Courthouse at Lowell (1899), and supervised the building of Boston’s Irvington Street Armory.

A grand fortress for the city is advocated
Undaunted, Mayor Ashley pursued the architect, providing ideas for a grand edifice at Sycamore and Pleasant. Thus, Cutter’s initial design called for an elaborate fortress featuring double turrets and multiple elements of medieval architecture, including bartizans, crenellated battlements and macholated towers. Indeed, the New Bedford armory had all the features similar to castles such as the Chateau de Pierrefonds in France.

The New Bedford Armory's original plan by Olin Cutter

The New Bedford Armory’s original plan by Olin Cutter

On the design, The New Bedford Mercury reported that the armory “will be one of the handsomest in the state; one much more attractive in appearance than the Fall River armory, which has commanded no little praise. …The plan calls for a building of stone with rock-faced finish, the walls being crowned with battlements and surrounded by graceful conical-roofed towers. The general effect is that of a castle in feudal times.” (Feb. 6, 1902). Pleased with his labor, Cutter commented that the Sycamore & Pleasant site would be “capable of better treatment, architecturally.”

But the ornate design gained little appreciation from the Boston-based Armory Commission. Many in New Bedford suspected the Commission’s lack of enthusiasm was borne of a desire that the capitol city’s armories not be bested. While reviewing Cutter’s ornate plan, Adjutant General Dalton quipped to the press, “What would happen the first time a mob got a piece of artillery or fired a piece of railroad iron up on the roof… An armory is intended to be a practical structure, for use in time of trouble, just as the militia companies are.” (Feb. 11, 1902).  In response, the Evening Standard editorialized:

““One can but feel a touch of regret at Adjutant General Dalton’s unappreciative question, “What are those things on top of that building?” referring to the ornate plan of an armory which has had some publicity in New Bedford, and his curt remark that “if military requirements have anything to do with this plan, they will have to go.”  What was wanted was a triumph of architecture; not less, but more. If the architect failed in his drawing anywhere, he failed in luxuriance. Adjutant General Dalton may not know it, but an armory is wanted as an ornament to the city…” (February 13, 1902)

The editorial neglected to consider Dalton’s lengthy military career, which began before the Civil War with the 14th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and later with the 1st Regiment, Heavy Artillery. Dalton’s mob-scenario stemmed from his knowledge of the murderous draft riots of 1863 in New York and Boston, during which armed mobs attacked the armories in both those cities in revolt over President Lincoln’s Enrollment Act in March of that year. Indeed, the Railroad Strike of 1877 and the Chicago Haymarket Riot of 1886 fueled national fears of class warfare and advanced efforts to erect armories in all the major cities.

Mayor Ashley's site required an unusual perpendicular plan

Mayor Ashley’s site required an unusual perpendicular plan

Cox supported Dalton’s remarks, pointing out that the Mayor’s site (two lots perpendicular to each other), would require the massive drill shed be built perpendicular to the castle structure, called the Head House. Standard armory plans called for the drill shed to be parallel and directly behind the head house. Mayor Ashley countered that Sycamore and Pleasant (known as the Humphrey-Mason lots) could be had for $5000 less than the Double Bank Building site. Not to be put off, Cox argued, “I believe when it comes to contracting for a building, it will be found that the value of the stone in the two big stone buildings [will be] perfectly adaptable for head house walls, [and] will more than offset the difference in the cost of the lots. If the city will throw out those two sidewalks adjoining the lot, it will be amply large for an armory.” (Eve. Standard, Feb. 12, 1902). The mayor seized upon Cox’s admission that the sidewalks would have to go and immediately contacted the Standard to expose the flaw. In the paper’s editorial column the next day, it blasted Cox’s ideas as “absurd” and chided the out-of-towner for his presumptuous attitude in attempting to redesign New Bedford’s downtown: “Mr. Cox assumes too much when he incorporates in his scheme a library or a High School at ‘the other end of the vista.’ …Finally the city authorities will never, we trust, narrow the streets by discontinuing the sidewalks on either side of the lot.”

An alternative armory design for the bridge site

An alternative armory design for the bridge site

Cox was not deterred. He continued to argue that an armory at the foot of William would be the logical site for an armory that was to be larger than most as not only E Battery, but also Naval Company G would occupy it, and its adjacency to the water would be an important asset. Indeed, a massive building was being planned to accommodate four companies, but the paper’s admonishment and public opinion forced Cox to concede. When the Armory Commission presented its final report on potential sites to Governor Crane on February 26, 1902, it bowed to public opinion and dropped the William Street site. But Cox announced that his second choice was yet another waterfront location, called the Bridge Site, at the western end of the New Bedford/Fairhaven Bridge.

Local detractors dubbed Cox’s new choice the Ark Lane Site, for its proximity to an old lane which ran east from Second Street to the water, so named for the Ark, a derelict whaleship which in the early days of whaling had become a particularly infamous house of ill repute, and was finally burned by the townspeople in 1829. Cox instructed Cutter to draw up an armory plan for this site, which would address all the concerns expressed by Dalton regarding the Mayor’s plan.

The 'Parker's Block' site adjacent the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge

The ‘Parker’s Block’ site adjacent the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge

The bridge site, also known as Parkers Block, consisted of serveral private owners, including the city, where the Water Works Department kept a work shed and pipe stockpile. To make the site a more attractive alternative to the mayor’s site, Cox proposed creating a park along the south side of the armory to serve as verdent entrance to the city at the New Bedford Fairhaven Bridge. Using the Mayor’s strategy, Cox provided the new proposal to the press. The new plan showed the head house facing west on Second Street with the drill shed behind it reaching east to Water Street and a park spanning south to Middle Street.

The new armory plan’s more modern treatment discarded much of the medieval ornament of the mayor’s vision. It also took some inspiration from the Worcester Armory, no doubt to attract the vote of Commissioner General Pickett of that city. But Pickett was less concerned with the myriad details, so long as A. J. Bishop Company of Worcester and Providence was in the running to be the contractor. Bishop built Pickett’s armory in 1895.

Other locations were also being discussed. They included the Brownell & Ashley lot (Acushnet Ave., Spring & Fourth Streets), the McCullough lot (Acushnet Ave., Maxfield & Purchase), the First Street site (First & Spring Streets), and the Eliot Estate lot (between Court and Union).

The Bridge Site was discarded but Bridge Park became a reality

The Bridge Site was discarded but Bridge Park became a reality

Throughout the controversial debate, Mayor Ashley remained steadfast in his advocacy for the Sycamore & Pleasant Street site and was ultimately victorious. The Boston Herald wrote “This will make another attractive public building for New Bedford, and will redound to the credit of Mayor Ashley, who stubbornly fought for the present excellent site, against heavy odds.” (Morning Mercury, March 14, 1904). However, Adjutant General Dalton’s call for less ornamentation was addressed in the final plan for the armory, in which the turrets with their conical roofs were discarded. As for Cox’s many creative suggestions in urban design, Mayor Ashley and his city planners took note. Bridge Park at the western approach to the bridge became and reality as did the building in 1913 of a new high school at the head of William Street.

The Commonwealth began its official occupancy of the armory on Thursday, March 10, 1904; just six weeks after President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Dick Act, which created a truly National Guard. Named for Senator Charles Dick, the legislation replaced the antiquated Militia Act of 1792 and declared the National Guard as the Army’s primary organized reserve.

A grand dedication
The completed building was an object of great civic pride. Built as a defensible battalion armory, it was constructed of the most durable materials. The rusticated exterior was of native granite, some of which (it was reported) was mined from the ledge upon which the armory stands. The elaborate woodwork and wainscoting were of solid cypress, and the staircases were of maple. All of the custom furniture was of quartered oak. The commanders’ offices featured massive hearths, typical of a medieval castle. With an area of 12,876 square feet, the drill hall to this day remains the largest uninterrupted floor space in the city.

The Drill Hall decorated for the Armory Dedication, May 5, 1904.

The Drill Hall decorated for the Armory Dedication, May 5, 1904. With an area of 12,876 sq. ft. it remains the largest uninterrupted floor space in the city.

The May 5th dedication was the social event of 1904. More than 2000 participated in the celebration, which included Governor John Bates and the top-ranking military officers in New England. The Mercury counted “more than 100 officers of high rank, and the gold lace was so plentiful that eyes were dazzled by the brilliancy of the spectacle.” The evening celebration included opening ceremonies, a concert by Clarke’s Providence Band, elaborate refreshments throughout the upstairs rooms and a huge dance, which went on until two o’clock in the morning. At 8: 00 p.m., Governor Bates, who spent some of his boyhood years in the city, arrived amid great fanfare at the drill hall, which was festooned with hundreds of red, white and blue buntings.

The Governor, Mayor Ashley and their wives, led a grand promenade of 320 couples around the periphery of the hall. The following morning, the Mercury reported that the affair was “perhaps the most picturesque dance that has ever been given in the city. It was certainly the largest social event that has been held here, and the capacity of the huge drill hall was taxed… Not for years has the rattle of cab-horse hoofs so disturbed the early morning hours in New Bedford as at 2 a.m. today, when those who aided in making the dedication of the new state armory a success, began turning homeward.” (May 6, 1904).

Epilogue

Tower

The Armory’s main tower overlooks Wamsutta Mills and the full expanse of New Bedford habor (photo: Arthur Motta)

In his 1989 book, America’s Armories, historian Robert Fogelson wrote that these modern-day castles were “supposed to stand as a symbol of authority, of the overwhelming power of the state, of its determination to maintain order and, if need be, its readiness to use force.”

Twenty-four years after its dedication, the armory would play an important role in the state’s display of overwhelming power in the suppression of picketers during the violent textile strikes of 1928, in which the Riot Act was read aloud for the first time in the city by the New Bedford Chief of Police to warrant mass arrests. In his book, “The Strike of 1928” Daniel Georgianna relates how Battery F of the National Guard was not called upon during the July confrontations as many of its members had friends and family among the strikers. (p. 107).

Sally port of the Armory Drill Hall, Purchase Street

Sally port of the Armory Drill Hall, Purchase Street (photo: Arthur Motta)

The close of 2004 marked a poignant anniversary during the Armory’s centenary year.  The Massachusetts National Guard vacated it for more efficient quarters, clearing its rooms of all contents, including artifacts related to New Bedford history. The Commonwealth intended to sell the city landmark to the highest bidder, without restriction and with no public input on its future use or impact on the neighborhood. For many years the National Guard allowed community events to take place in the Drill Hall. Public calls of concern over the loss of the largest indoor public assembly space in the city prompted officials to remove it from auction block. Unfortunately, poor security thereafter invited repeated vandalism, and finally, arson. The head house sustained severe fire and water damage in March 2009. The drill house was unharmed but the site continues to await a restoration and adaptive reuse plan. A city convention hall is one of the proposed uses.

Appendix

Chronology of Battery “E” Regiment, Heavy Artillery, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (formerly the New Bedford City Guards)

1852 – Organized as the New Bedford Guards on July 22nd, 1852, George A. Bourne, Chairman.
1861 – Entered U.S. Service as Co. “L” 3d Mass. Infantry., April 17th, 1861.
1862 – Mustered out, May 28th, 1862. Re-entered U.S. as Co. “E” 3d Mass. Inf., Sept. 18th, 1862.
1863 – Mustered out, June 26th, 1863.
1898 – Re-entered U.S. Service as Battery “E.” 1st Mass. H.A., April 26, 1898. Mustered out, November 14th, 1898. Complimented by Col. Carl A. Woodruff, A.C., U.S.A., commanding officer at Fort Warren, for efficiency and soldierly conduct.

Note – New Bedford ranked with the best companies of the Commonwealth in rifle work & marksmanship: Awarded 14 state and regimental trophies, and 7 silver cups (1852-1904).

Roster of the first company of Battery E to occupy the New Bedford Armory
Capt. Joseph L. Gibbs, 1st Lieut. John C. De Wolf, 2d Lieut. Ernest L. Snell, 1st Sergt. Ernest L. Soule, Q. M. Sergt. Edward K. McIntyre, Sergeants: Wm. Nelson, Harry C. Ellis, Frederick Perry, Wm. Stitt. Corporals: John J. Miller, Alfred Fredette, Richard E. Noyer, Burton G. Davoll, Thomas A. Loftus. Cook: Charles E. Duchesney. Bugler: William J. Moore. Privates: David Adams, Alexander J. Aiken, Eugene Barneby, Arthur H. Benoit, Max F. Boehler, James A. Brown, Henry Butts, Henry C. Campbell, Geo. F. Chadwick, Sam Cooper, Napoleon Desjardins, Edward E. Devoll, James Dodds, James Doran, Wm. F. Farrell, Joseph A. Fernandes, Hector S. Floret, Frank Francis, Bartholomew P. Fury, Joseph R. Girard, William Gray, James Harrison, Solomon C. Haskell, Patrick M. Haugey, Ernest Hegele, Harry A. Jameson, Sr., John F. Johnson,  Dennis Kelley, Thomas J. Kelley, Wm. F. McClure, Luc Moquin, E. Lloyd Munroe, Guy L. Murdock, Wm. T. Meagher, Lewis S. Moore, Nelson  Paradise, John B. Perry, Phillip A. Powers, Albert  Reeves, Edward J. Rourk, Herbert L. Rush, Wm. E. Russell, Freeman S. Ryonson , Gilbert G. Southworth, William Southworth, John A. Stitt, James F. Vera.

Armory head house entrance, Sycamore Street (photo: Arthur Motta, 2004)

Armory head house entrance, Sycamore Street (photo: Arthur Motta, 2004)

Sources
Bermanauctions.com
Boston Globe, “Armory Site Becoming a Political Issue”, February 16, 1902.
Boston Globe, “State to eye armories for a care crisis,” December 30, 2005.
Boston Herald, “Controversy over site for New Bedford’s new armory”, March 6, 1902.
Massachusetts Division of Capital Assets Management
Fogelson, Robert M., “America’s Armories; Architecture, Society and Public Order”, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Georgianna, Daniel. “The Strike of 1928″,New Bedford, Mass.: Spinner Publications, 1993.
Massachusetts Army National Guard Facilities Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan (ICRMP) Statewide, Massachusetts, 2001-2002.
MassDevelopment Annual Report FY2008
Mayor Chas. S. Ashley scrapbooks collection, New Bedford Free Public Library
New Bedford Economic Development Council Annual Report 2013
New Bedford Evening Standard – microfiche
New Bedford Mercury – microfiche
New Bedford Standard-Times – microfiche

Colonial Chocolate Night is Feb. 13

Layout 1Colonial Chocolate Night, will be held on AHA, Thursday, February 13 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The event features authentic colonial chocolate beverage recipes, products and free samplings. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

The program is sponsored by American Heritage Chocolate® – part of the historic division of Mars, Incorporated – which manufactures chocolate products using authentic colonial recipes made only from ingredients available during the 18th century, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, chili pepper, orange and vanilla. Products will be available for sale.

Chocolate became a highly regarded addition to ship’s fare on whaling and merchant vessels according to “Chocolate: History Culture and Heritage,” a definitive 1000-page reference on chocolate’s development as a global trade. The book is available for sale.

Moby-Dick Marathon celebrates education, Jan. 3-5

Herman Melville struggles with the opening line of Moby-Dick, as imagined by artist, Dave Blanchette

Herman Melville struggles with the opening line of Moby-Dick, as imagined by artist, Dave Blanchette

The 18th annual Moby-Dick Marathon January 3-5 celebrates education during a weekend of activities surrounding the non-stop reading of Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Pia Durkin, Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools will lead the marathon on Saturday at noon. “We are pleased to welcome Superintendent Durkin as she reads from America’s most famous novel, written by one of its greatest authors. The museum stresses the importance of writing in our high school apprentice program; it is a life skill which is critical for success in every field of endeavor,” said James Russell, museum President and CEO.

Sponsored in part by Rockland Trust and Empire Loan Charitable Foundation, admission is free to marathon programs. Freewill donations supporting museum programs are gratefully accepted. Continue reading

The New Bedford Whaling Museum at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair

The annual fall gathering for booklovers, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, will return to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s beautiful Back Bay, November 15-17, 2013. The offerings are wide and diverse from over 120 dealers from the United States, England, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and The Netherlands who will exhibit and sell rare, collectible and antiquarian books, illuminated manuscripts, autographs, maps, atlases, modern first editions, photographs, and fine and decorative prints.

This year, the Museum will be contributing to the Fair in more ways than one. Stuart Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus, will be delivering a talk titled “Intro to Scrimshaw & Collecting Scrimshaw Books” on Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 2:00pm. Additionally, the Museum has been invited to set up a booth as part of the Fair’s Cultural Row Exhibit. As part of Cultural Row, the Museum will be selling several of its publications, including Ingenious Contrivances and Arctic Regions.

OPENING HOURS, TICKET PRICES & CONTACT INFORMATION
Friday, November 15 5:00-9:00pm Tickets: $15.00 – Opening Night
(tickets valid throughout the weekend)
Saturday, November 16 12:00-7:00pm Tickets: $8.00
Sunday, November 17 12:00-5:00pm Tickets: $8.00; free with a valid student I.D.

Hynes Convention Center
900 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
http://www.mccahome.com

18th Moby-Dick Marathon

Attention all potential readers! The day to call or email to let us know that you would like to read on either Saturday, January 4 or Sunday, January 5 is coming up. As Monday, November 11 becomes Tuesday, November 12, just after midnight, you may call (508) 717-6851 or email mdmarathon@whalingmuseum.org and submit your name. Let us know your preferred reading time, a backup reading time, and perhaps your affiliation. Otherwise, we’ll list you as ‘Melville Aficionado’. If you call, please be sure to spell out your name for us. We will be able to start responding in mid-December to let you know your reading time. Those of you who have been put on the waiting list in the past year or two will get preference.

Event info will follow in subsequent posts. You can also go to the http://www.whalingmuseum.org/programs page on our website.

Enjoy the weekend.

The Haunted Whale Ship, Oct. 26

David Brownell and Lucy Bly appear as Capt. Ahab and Hetty Green at "The Haunted Whale Ship," Saturday, Oct. 26.

David Brownell and Lucy Bly appear as Capt. Ahab and Hetty Green at “The Haunted Whale Ship,” Saturday, Oct. 26.

Set sail on The Haunted Whale Ship, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s family-friendly Halloween event, geared for children 12 and under and their parents on Saturday, October 26, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. See the century-old museum in a new (dim) light and meet ghosts from New Bedford’s seafaring past. The not-too scary fun includes a costume contest, haunted scavenger hunt, arts & crafts activities, spooky stories & tours, refreshments, and more.

In partnership with members of the New Bedford Preservation Society, a few notable spirits of Old Dartmouth and New Bedford will roam museum galleries and greet visitors with tales of long-ago. Reenactors will also include museum docents, staff and high school apprentices with special apparitions of Hetty Green – “The Witch of Wall Street” – played by Lucy Bly, and of Deborah Doubleday – innkeeper during the 1778 burning of Bedford Village – played Judy Roderiques. David Brownell rises as Captain Ahab.

Tickets are required in advance: $3 for children 12 and under; $5 for all others. Call (508) 997-0046, ext. 100 or email: frontdesk@whalingmuseum.org. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Whaling History Symposium, Oct. 19-20

"Bark Stafford, Outward Bound" painted by Clifford W. Ashley in 1926 recalls the heyday of the New Bedford Port District, the focus of the 37th Whaling History Symposium, October 19-20 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. (New Bedford Whaling Museum collection)

“Bark Stafford, Outward Bound” painted by Clifford W. Ashley in 1926 recalls the heyday of the New Bedford Port District, the focus of the 37th Whaling History Symposium, October 19-20 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. (New Bedford Whaling Museum collection)

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is pleased to announce the program for its 37th Whaling History Symposium, to be held at the Museum on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20, 2013.

This year’s theme is the interdependence and integration of various communities and commercial interests in the New Bedford Port District and their relation to the whaling industry that was the main economic focus of the region. Michael P. Dyer, Senior Maritime Historian, will open the session with an overview history of the District and its “Outports,” the galaxy of seacoast towns lying between Cape Cod and Rhode Island that shared with New Bedford and Fairhaven the risks and prosperity of the whaling industry, and suffered together in its decline. Next up, Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., one of America’s most celebrated ship modelers and a former curator at the Whaling Museum, will present “Whaleship Models: Research and Reconstruction,” describing the unique features of whaleship models and the challenges of building them, and will provide a systematic examination of their value as historical documents, sublime aesthetic byproducts of local seafaring, and relics that pay homage to a unique maritime heritage. Mr. Ronnberg will be followed by Judith N. Lund, also a former curator of the Museum, to introduce the current exhibition “The Art of the Ship Model,” which she co-curated with J. Michael Wall.

Following a break for lunch, New Bedford historian and publicist Arthur P. Motta will speak about “Lighthouses of New Bedford” and their integration into the fabric of The Life and Times of the Whaling Capital, one of the nation’s greatest seaports. Arthur has long been involved in the preservation of New Bedford’s three extant lighthouses. This will be expanded upon by Dr. Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus, with “Beacons and Blubber: The Amos Baker Family and four generations of whaling, lighthouses, journals, watercolors, scrimshaw, and artifact collecting,” a pictorial extravaganza that delves deep into museum collections to explore the unusual history of this exemplary family of lighthouse keepers and whaling captains.  Capping the all-day plenary sessions will be Dr. Alfred H. Saulniers, economist and noted local historian, addressing “Franco Americans in the New Bedford Whale Fishery, 1790-1910,” a little-known but crucial component community of participants in the city’s great Age of Sail.  To close out the day, Dr. Frank will introduce another current exhibition, “Harbor Views,” which focuses on visions of the estuary, waterfronts, and waterborne traffic by some of the most proficient and expressive local artists, from William Bradford and Albert Van Beest to L.D. Eldred and Clifford Ashley.

 Scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 a.m. is an optional field excursion: a harbor tour and special close-up narrated cruise around the port’s three historic lighthouses. Tour seating is limited.

 The Whaling History Symposium, first established in 1975, brings scholars, collectors, armchair historians, and interested nautical enthusiasts to New Bedford from all over the country and abroad, to share interests in maritime history, nautical lore, and the many intriguing facets of whaling heritage worldwide. This year’s Symposium focuses on the home port, whose name was “known in every seaport on the globe.”

 Registration: $50 for members and $65 for non-members (includes lunch and admission to all museum galleries) by October 17. Optional Lighthouse Harbor Tour, $25 additional. To register, call the Admissions Desk: (508) 997-0046, ext. 100 or email: frontdesk@whalingmuseum.org

 The Whaling History Symposium is sponsored in part by the Samuel D. Rusitzky Fund.

SCHEDULE

 All Saturday Symposium events, including registration, plenary sessions, coffee break, and lunch, take place in the Jacobs Family Gallery and Cook Memorial Theater. The Sunday component is a boat trip on the Acushnet River, reserved in advance. Museum galleries are open daily to all registrants. A Symposium discount room rate is available at the New Bedford Fairfield Inn and Suites.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19

 

9:00 a.m. – Registration & coffee

 10:00 a.m. – Welcome & Opening Remarks

 10:15 a.m. – “The entire business of the place is the whale fishery”: Specialization and Management in the New Bedford Port District, 1789-1884. – presented by Michael P. Dyer, Senior Maritime Historian, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

 11:15 a.m. – “Whaleship Models: Research and Reconstruction” – presented by Erik A. R. Ronnberg, Jr., ship model artist and historian; former Associate Curator of Maritime History at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

 12:15 p.m. – Introducing “The Art of the Ship Model” Exhibition – presented by Judith Navas Lund, Curator Emerita, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

 12:30 a.m. – Luncheon, Jacobs Family Gallery.

 2:00 p.m. – Lighthouses of New Bedford. – presented by Arthur P. Motta, Director, Marketing & Communications, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

 3:00 p.m. – “Beacons and Blubber: The Baker Family and four generations of whaling, light­houses, journals, watercolors, scrimshaw, and artifact collecting, 1825-1940” –  presented by Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D., Senior Curator Emeritus, New Bedford Whaling Museum.

 4:00 p.m – “Franco Americans in the New Bedford Whale Fishery, 1790-1910” – presented by Alfred H. Saulniers, Ph.D., Economist and Historian, New Bedford.

5:00 p.m. – Introducing the “Harbor Views” Exhibition. – presented by Stuart M. Frank.

 SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20

Optional Field Trip – narrated by Arthur P. Motta: a tour of New Bedford harbor (weather/seas permitting), with a sail past Palmer Island Light (1849), Butler Flats Light Station (1898), and Clark’s Point Light (1869). Morning departure at 10:30 a.m. aboard the harbor tour boat, Acushnet, from Fisherman’s Wharf, returning in time for lunch on your own on shore. Seating is limited.

Iceland Whaling Company Using Whale Oil for Fuel

Illustration of fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), by Uko Gorter.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Illustration by Uko Gorter.

This morning we posted a Guardian (UK) story on our Facebook page about Iceland’s lone whaling company combining oil extracted from endangered fin whales with marine oil to power their fleet. Another publication, Wildlife Extra News has picked up on this story as well.

Hvalur is the only whaling company in Iceland. Their CEO, Kristjan Loftsson, is a veteran of the whaling industry, having started as an observer on his father’s whale ships in 1956. In a June 2010 story, published by Google News and AFP (and posted on our Bulletin Board that month), he made his attitude towards whales quite clear while in attendance at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Morocco. “Whales are just another fish for me, an abundant marine resource, nothing else…If they are so intelligent why don’t they stay outside of Iceland’s territorial waters?”

Iceland has increased their quota this year for fin whales, the second largest species of whale and historically the most hunted of the great whales. In compiling the data from the IWC database, and recent reports by researcher Yulia Ivashchenko of corrected Soviet whaling harvest totals, I estimate that approximately 900,000 fin whales were killed globally via factory whaling methods between 1900-2000.  Unlike Japan, which does its harvesting under the heading of Scientific Whaling, Iceland makes no such claims. Their hunt is strictly commercial, with their sales going mainly to Japan and to tourists who visit Iceland. Iceland and Norway both hunt commercially in defiance of the voluntary moratorium agreed to by IWC members in 1983 and enacted in full in 1986.

Mr. Loftsson’s claim that this new fuel mix should be considered a green biofuel is ludicrous. Utilizing an endangered species to cut down on use of fossil fuels to then hunt more of that same species serves no benefit to the marine environment.  Chris Butler-Stroud, the Executive Director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), summarized the duplicitous nature of this strategy, “This is a completely absurd, perverse and unethical move by an industry that is already steeped in the blood of whales, and which is now prepared to use the remains of dead whales to keep its own vessels afloat.”

Maya textiles exhibit and local weaving demo, March 2

Maya_WeaverWeaving Stories, Weaving Lives: Maya Textiles from Guatemala and New Bedford will be on exhibit from February 18 through April 7 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in partnership with the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University.

Maya weaving tells stories. It is rooted in tradition, and alive today. The exhibit features historic garments from Guatemala, and garments being made today in New Bedford by Maya weavers using their traditional back-strap loom. Join in this celebration of a new chapter in New Bedford’s long tradition of textile manufacturing. Now through April admission to the Whaling Museum is free to those who live in New Bedford, made possible by a grant from BayCoast Bank.

On Saturday March 2nd at 2:00 p.m. see local Maya weavers use the back-strap loom to create beautiful textiles of personal expression. During school vacation week (February 19-22), bring your family to enjoy Maya textile related crafts and other activities offered at no cost from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Tweet the exhibit at #weavinglives.

Maya textiles from the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Brown University) and the weaving collective Oxib’B’atz (New Bedford) celebrate the artistry of Maya weaving, a storytelling practice rooted in tradition that remains an essential form of expression to this day. Anthropologist Margot Blum Schevill recently donated her extensive textile collection, gathered during the 1970s, to the Haffenreffer Museum. Locally, Oxib’B’atz continues weaving using the traditional back-strap loom.

Co-curated by Anna Ghublikian and María D. Quintero, the exhibit looks at historic and contemporary garments, which reflect a new understanding about the role of textile manufacturing in the history of New Bedford and those who have made it their home.

Exhibición de textiles maya presenta una tradicion artistica con una demostración del tejido el 2 de marzo

Tejiendo historias, Tejiendo Vidas: Textiles Maya de Guatemala y New Bedford estará expuesto de 18 de febrero hasta el 7 de abril en el New Bedford Whaling Museum en asociación con el Museo Haffenreffer de Antropología en Brown University.

El tejido Maya comparte historias. Está arraigado en tradición, y continua vivo hoy. Vea vestuarios históricos de Guatemala, y textiles hechos hoy en New Bedford por tejedores Maya que mantienen sus prácticas culturales. Venga a celebrar este nuevo capítulo en la tradición larga de la fabricación de textil en New Bedford. Desde hoy hasta el fin de Abril el New Bedford Whaling Museum es gratis para los que viven en New Bedford, hecho posible por un subsidio de BayCoast Bank.

El sábado 2 de marzo a las 2:00 de la tarde vengan a ver tejedores locales maya tejer en la foma tradicional para crear hermosos textiles de expresión personal. Durante la semana de vacaiones escolares (Febrero19-22), traiga a su familia para disfrutar de actividades relacionados a los tejidos maya de las 10:00 de la mañana a 12:00 de la tarde in costo alguno.

Los tejidos maya del Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Brown University) y tejidos del collectivo Oxib’B’atz (New Bedford) celebrarán la creatividad artistica del tejido maya, una práctica narrativa arraigada en tradición que persiste como una forma esencial de expresión hasta este día. Recientemente, antropóloga Margot Blum Schevill donó los tejidos que colecto extensivamante desde los 1970s a el Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Localmente, Oxib’B’atz continua la práctica cultural del tejido maya,

Ésta exhibición, desarrollada por Anna Ghublikian y María D. Quintero, presenta vestuarios históricos y contemporáneos para reflejar una nueva comprensión de la fabricación de textil en la historia de New Bedford y la gente que lo habita.

Mundialmente, el New Bedford Whaling Museum es el mayor de los museos completamente dedicados a la historia global de ballenas, la pesca de ballenas y la historia cultural de la región. Como la piedra angular del New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, el Museo se encuentra en 18 Johnny Cake Hill en el corazón del centro histórico de la ciudad. Para un calendario completo de acontecimientos, visite el sito de web del museo: http://www.whalingmuseum.org.

El New Bedford Whaling Museum estará abierto de martes a sábados de 9am a 4pm y los domingos de 11am a 4pm.

Ambassador of Portugal visits Feb. 16

DabneyCoverFace2The Ambassador of Portugal, Nuno Brito, is scheduled to speak at a presentation celebrating the American publication of a major anthology on the diplomatic history between Portugal and the United States, on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater, New Bedford Whaling Museum. The public is invited to attend.

Titled, The Dabneys: A Bostonian Family in the Azores 1806-1871, the anthology deals with the historic American Consulate of the Dabney family at Horta, Faial – Açores. For most of the 19th century, the family made the island of Faial their home. Merchants with elite social connections, three generations of Dabneys were United States Consuls. Their impact on the growth of trade and their humanitarian activities earned them admiration throughout Portugal and America.

Ambassador Brito will be joined by local elected officials and community leaders at the event, which is sponsored by the New Bedford Whaling Museum and UMASS Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture.

Originally compiled by Roxana Lewis Dabney (1827-1913) from decades of letters and journals and privately printed for the family in 1899 as The Dabney Annals, the new 250-page American edition is illustrated with dozens of photographs from the era.

The February 16 program will include historian Maria Filomena Mónica, editor of the unabridged Portuguese edition of The Dabney Annals, which was published in 2009; she is also editor of the American edition, with annotation and selections by Paulo Silveira e Sousa.

“For the American reader, this book sheds new light on a re­markable but little known chapter in the history of United States foreign relations,” said James Russell, museum president and CEO.

A partnership of the Luso-American Development Foundation and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the book is available for purchase following the program or online at: www.whalingmuseumstore.org.