Category Archives: Library

The Lazarus Project and the Wreck of the “Viking”

Re-imaging the Opening of Japan

 Guest post submitted by Gregory Heyworth Director of the Lazarus Project  and Associate Professor of English at the University of Mississippi.

“The past,” as Faulkner said, “is never dead. It isn’t even past.” This past May, a team of imaging scientists and students from the Lazarus Project, an initiative to recover damaged manuscripts using multispectral imaging technology housed at the University of Mississippi, arrived at the New Bedford Whaling Museum to prove Faulkner right.

The object of interest was a damaged logbook from 1862 faded into near illegibility. The method involved photographing the manuscript with a cutting edge 50-megapixel camera and LED light arrays in twelve wavelengths between the ultraviolet and the infrared. With careful image processing, multispectral photography can “see” text that has been washed away, faded and charred.

Lazarus Project

 [Image before and after]

While Drs. Gregory Heyworth and Roger Easton from the Lazarus Team regularly deal with ancient manuscripts, modern manuscripts can be equally challenging and historically important. That is certainly the case with much of the New Bedford collection. The significance of this particular logbook begins two centuries before the shipwreck of the Fairhaven merchant vessel off the coast of Japan.

For two hundred years between 1633 and 1853, while Western Europe was moving from Renaissance to Enlightnment to Industrial Revolution, Japan languished frozen in the past, a Hermit Kingdom cut-off from the rest of the world. Under the policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate known as the sakoku, any foreigner attempting to enter Japan did so upon pain of death, while natives were forbidden from leaving Japan. Aside from limited contact with the Dutch, Japan had no trade dealings with the West whatsoever.

As we all learned in high school history, all that changed in 1852-54 when Admiral Matthew Perry “opened” Japan, establishing a trade relationship and mutual amity. The truth, however, is more complicated. Perry’s “opening” of Japan was really an act of coercion, backed up by outright threats of military annihilation by a modern fleet of steam-driven warships. In practice, the Japanese capitulation was widely resisted by the general populace and the sakoku with its death-sentence for foreigners remained unchallenged.

Alongside the political narrative of the opening of Japan, scholars have been turning to the logbooks of whaling and merchant vessels to establish a more accurate social narrative of the period. The 1832 the shipwreck of Japanese fishermen on the coast of Washington, followed in 1841 by the more famous rescue of Manjiro and another crew of Japanese fisherman by a whaler off the coast of Japan, offer firsthand accounts of crucial early contact and the germs of a fragile detente between cultures without which Perry’s  trade treaties could never have succeeded in practice.

Among these early relations, perhaps none is more historically significant, and yet less studied, that the wreck of the Fairhaven merchant ship the Viking in 1863. With a crew of Americans and 400 Chinese immigrants, the Viking ran aground on the small Japanese island of Mikurajima. Faced by the suddeness of this foreign intrusion, the villagers took steps to execute the crew according to the law of sakoku until the village secretary intervened. In the ensuing months, a genuine friendship, aided by their creation of the first Japanese-English dictionary, grew between the sailors and villagers. In many ways, a truly open, modern Japan began on this small island, and its story is preserved in this unique neglected record of the Viking.

The Lazarus Project hopes to continue the process of recovery by collaborating with the New Bedford Whailing Museum in the creation of a digital archive of 19th century Japanese-American maritime relations held by the museum into a digital archive.

The Heritage of Landscape

By Michael P. Dyer
Librarian and Maritime Historian, New Bedford Whaling Museum
A talk presented to the Congregational Church of South Dartmouth
Upon their bicentennial anniversary
March 17, 2007

My intent this evening is to attempt to convey, less the letter of our local history and more its value to the community, its nature and texture. When I speak of the “Heritage of Landscape” it is to serve as a reminder of the inherent dignity and respect that is owed to this place. As our wars overseas are conceived and enacted with the express purpose of espousing freedom, it will not do to forget the reasons for our settlement in the first place; the sorts of people that are the roots of our local stock and that war once ravaged the very doorsteps of Dartmouth. There is no better way to support our country, no better act of patriotism than to preserve with careful respect the land on which we live, its architecture wherever possible, and at all costs, its history.

We are extremely fortunate that our local history has been a subject of passionate interest, bordering on obsession, by the citizens of this region since the mid-19th century. Great tomes are devoted the subject, many fine paintings interpret it, and several fine institutions and dynamic and aggressive organizations are devoted to its preservation, dissemination and understanding. I beg your indulgence for a few minutes this evening to outline a very few points of this illustrious history and I thank the board of the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust for the opportunity to do so.

The following quotation has absolutely nothing to do with the specificity of tonight’s discussion but everything to do with its inspiration. It is taken from J. R. R. Tolkien’s volume two, The Two Towers of his trilogy The Lord of the Rings, “It seems that you have heard in Rohan of the words that troubled Minas Tirith. They spoke of the Halfling. These hobbits are Halflings.” “Halflings!” laughed the Rider that stood beside Eomer. “Halflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children’s tales out of the North. Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?” “A man may do both,” said Aragorn. “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”

William Allen Wall (1801-1885). Buttonwood Brook, circa 1850s. Oil on canvas. ODHS #1977.55, purchased in memory of Kathleen G. Barney with funds donated by her husband, Lawrence H. Barney, Jr.

William Allen Wall (1801-1885). Buttonwood Brook, circa 1850s. Oil on canvas. ODHS #1977.55, purchased in memory of Kathleen G. Barney with funds donated by her husband, Lawrence H. Barney, Jr.

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Whales seen and taken

Abstracts of whales seen and taken, 1838-1885. KWM# A-128

Abstracts of whales seen and taken, 1838-1885. Open to pages for whales seen by bark John Dawson, A.S. Wicks, master, 1870-1872. KWM# A-128

Yankee whaling was a highly organized affair, not surprising given the high risks involved in such  voyages and the amount of cash invested by the whaling agents and their investors. Agents wanted their ship’s captains to return with a full cargo and employed extensive information gathering as one means to that end. An interesting technique used by whaling agents to give the captains of their vessels as much of an advantage a possible was to collate from voyage logbooks whenever and wherever whales were taken by their best captains. This information was then written down and organized into notebooks by vessel, voyage, date, latitude, longitude, captain’s name and sometimes whale species. These notebooks, often  marked “confidential” or its equivalent, would then be given to the captain of the ship along with his letter of instruction. One such notebook, “Memo of Whaling Grounds for bark Desdemona, Capt. Saml. F. Davis” opened with the following note:

Dear Captain Davis:

This book is given into your charge with the full understanding that all its contents will be kept by you in the strictiest confidence and that you will make it a point of honor not to communicate any of its contents to anyone whatever, directly or indirectly or let anyone get these in any way except the captain’s of our ships – – Aiken & Swift, New Bedford, May 29, 1882.

As one might imagine, the information in the notebook was confined to those oceanic regions to which the master was instructed to cruise. For instance, Samuel F. Davis was instructed to cruise for sperm whales in the Atlantic Ocean. Not surprisingly, the abstracts include a great deal of information not only about where whales were taken in the Atlantic, but about the Indian Ocean as well, but nothing about the Pacific Ocean. Atlantic voyages commonly rounded the Cape of Good Hope in pursuit of right and sperm whales, sometimes going as far to the east as Western Australia, while still being called an Atlantic voyage. Atlantic voyages rarely passed Cape Horn into the Pacific. Unfortunately the logbook for Captain Davis’ cruise in the Desdemona remains lost, however, he returned after three years with almost 1500 barrels of sperm oil and over 200 barrels of whale oil. Similar notebooks exist for other Aiken & Swift vessels. In addition to information gleaned from whaling logbooks, these abstracts also contain direct reports from whaling masters:

“Capt. Green says that when he cruised off the Crozettes he found whales from 30 to 90 miles directly north of Pig Island. He has heard that of late years whales have been found west of that Island… 12 or 15 miles.”

“Capt. Grant of the Horatio says a great place for right whales and where he has always found them in his outward passage in the month of December, Lat. 38.15 S   Long. 27.20 W”

“Mr. Thompson, 2nd Mate of the Nautilus told Captain Howland that in coming home they fell in with right whales in Lat. about 48 South, Lat. 44 West – a very lively ground – plenty of feed and of birds. They saw a large school of very large sperm whales the day before.”

These abstract volumes of “whales seen and taken” are condensed sources highly applicable to research into whale populations and migration dynamics as well as offering primary background on voyages not represented in public collections by formal logbooks or journals.

Moby-Dick and Modern America: A Summer Reading Course

One of the best things about a good book is that it can be read at any time of year, at any time of day, and it will draw you in. Sure, a book like White Fang may have even greater impact if you read it on cold winter nights. You may feel the dusty Alabama setting of To Kill A Mockingbird even more if you read it during a hot, dry summer. Yet, these are compelling stories no matter when you read them. The same can be said for Moby-Dick.

Many of you know that we choose to hold our Moby-Dick Marathon in January because it was January of 1841 when Herman Melville sailed out of New Bedford harbor on the whaleship Acushnet. However, there are Moby-Dick reading marathons in other cities that happen throughout the year. It’s a great book, to many, the greatest novel ever. The season in which you read it isn’t particularly important.

In that vein, former NBWM curatorial intern Evander Price, now a doctoral student in Harvard’s American Studies program, is looking to connect high school students to Moby-Dick after their school year is over.  This summer, he is teaching a high school course on Moby-Dick through MIT’s intensive summer program, Junction, which aims to provide intense, college-level academic courses for high school students.  He invites any brave green whalers who might be interested aboard his literary ship.  Applications are due April 10th, though late applications will be accepted up until May (precise date TBD).  See course description below, and on Junction’s website.

MOBYDICK14

Title: Moby-Dick and Modern America

Description:

“I have written a wicked book, and feel as spotless as a lamb.”

–Melville in a Letter to Hawthorne, July 1851

This class is an introduction to Herman Melville’s famous epic, Moby-Dick; we will read the book in its entirety.  This course explores a wide range of subjects, such as: philosophy, metaphysics, ontology, World/American/Scientific/Maritime history, art, mythology (Greek and otherwise), cetology, geography, popular art/ culture, justice, poetry, environmentalism, etymology, civilization, savagery, Shakespeare, heroism, war, nothingness, evil, darkness, hell, the abyss, god, death, race, religion, monstrousness, genius, madness, wisdom, ethics, eschatology and some slice of the complexity of existence within the human condition.

We will embark on this literary ship of the past as it winds its way from the world’s beginning to the present day, beginning at page one with Ishmael, a young man who, contemplating suicide, instead decides to commit himself to sea.  You can expect to finish this class with no answers, but rather, a firm grasp of the magnitude of the questions.  You can expect to improve enormously as a reader, to be mind-blown, blubber-brained, and equipped with a whole new set of philosophical and analytical tools to approach any daunting work of great literature you may read in the future.  Have no fear: we will work together as a crew to harpoon this evil epic.  Join me on a whaling voyage around the world!

Introduction to the Art of the American Whale Hunt

After the swinging blankets of dripping blubber were minced and boiled, and the smashed boats were hoisted back on shipboard, with the jagged tooth of Ball’s Pyramid towering three hundred feet out of the far-off Tasman Sea, or the hump of Massafuero Island sitting on the horizon of the South Pacific like an enormous meatloaf, the American whaleman, an inveterate artist, sat down to draw a picture of what he had experienced on the job that day.

Whaleman George A. Gould drew this sperm whaling scene in the journal that he kept while sailing onboard the ship Columbia of Nantucket between 1841 and 1845. It is an exemplary example of whalemen’s artwork showing that most desirable of events; the successful hunting of these valuable animals as shown by the bloody water and spouts. KWM #213, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Whaleman George A. Gould drew this sperm whaling scene in the journal that he kept while sailing onboard the ship Columbia of Nantucket between 1841 and 1845. It is an exemplary example of whalemen’s artwork showing that most desirable of events; the successful hunting of these valuable animals as shown by the bloody water and spouts. KWM #213, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The Yankee whaleman plied his trade on a richly colored blue-water world of sea foam, often rose-tinted through his own making by the bloody spouts of the mortally injured animals it was his employment to pursue. As the whale’s slate-black beetling flukes flailed briefly and frantically through the air, silhouetted against white clouds, he caught it all permanently in his mind’s eye, and put it all down on paper, or in the case of scrimshaw, ivory, or bone. These same colors,the white of the clouds, the deep blue water and pale blue sky, the red of the blood; these same colors he had conveniently at hand, in his kit of watercolor paints, to color his nation’s flag in the background snapping red, white and blue from the mast of his floating home. The whaleman was often a patriot, proud of carrying his nations’ flag onboard his nations’ shipping to the far-flung beaches, bays and harbors of the world’s insulae. His dramas were far from pacific, albeit so often played out across the whaling grounds of Melville’s “mysterious, divine” Pacific Ocean; “Off Shore,” or “On the Line,” or “On Japan,” with his stabbing iron harpoons and lances on the one hand, and the sperm whale’s snapping, toothy jaw, or the sweeping flukes of the right whale on the other; impressive action, no doubt, and worthy of a picture or two.

“December 16th, 1854. At daylight saw a shoal of sperm whales. Lowered all three boats and struck 4 and killed 3.”The above quotation is from the journal of Perry G. Wing of Westport, Massachusetts. He drew the above picture and recorded the successful whaling event in his journal kept onboard the bark Dunbarton of New Bedford, Mass., in 1854.  ODHS #967, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

“December 16th, 1854. At daylight saw a shoal of sperm whales. Lowered all three boats and struck 4 and killed 3.”The above quotation is from the journal of Perry G. Wing of Westport, Massachusetts. He drew the above picture and recorded the successful whaling event in his journal kept onboard the bark Dunbarton of New Bedford, Mass., in 1854. ODHS #967, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Not all whalemen drew pictures of what they had seen but enough did to record, better than words can describe, what it meant to hunt these great marine mammals in the decades between 1820 and 1880 when fleet upon fleet of American ships roamed the oceans of the world killing whales for profit. Whaleman Francis Allyn Olmsted (1819-1844) in the preface to his published whaling narrative Incidents of a Whaling Voyage allowed that: “embellishments of this kind are often as essential in forming a correct idea of a scene, as the printed page itself… for a single glance gives a far more vivid idea… than the most elaborate description.” In their vessel’s logbooks and their own personal journals whalemen drew many pictures and after the hunt, engraved even more on the teeth and skeletal bones won of vanquished sperm whales, and upon the limber baleen plates of the equally hard-fought right and bowhead whales and on the snowy tusks of walruses. He occasionally went so far as to paint in oils or pastels, a more peaceable employment once ashore, and one, Robert Walter Weir, even became a professional magazine illustrator after his time in the whale fishery. Others, including Benjamin Russell of New Bedford went on to continue their careers as painters of whaling scenes for the larger public. Russell became famous as the creator of a traveling whaling panorama, a ship portraitist and a printmaker.

“May Friday 8, ’59. At 8 ½ A.M. Joe Kirby raised a school of sperm whales. Run down to them and hauled aback. 1st and 2nd Mate lowered down. The whales perceived us. The Captain lowered away and struck one. The whale stove him. The Mate got the Captain and killed the whale.” The above descriptive text is taken from Charles P. Dewey’s journal kept onboard the bark John Dawson of New Bedford, 1855-1859. It relates to an event that may also have been witnessed by Robert W. Weir (1836-1905), whaleman and professional magazine illustrator who was sailing in the same waters around Madagascar onboard the bark Clara Bell of Mattapoisett at the time and later drew the picture in Dewey’s journal. ODHS 590, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling

“May Friday 8, ’59. At 8 ½ A.M. Joe Kirby raised a school of sperm whales. Run down to them and hauled aback. 1st and 2nd Mate lowered down. The whales perceived us. The Captain lowered away and struck one. The whale stove him. The Mate got the Captain and killed the whale.” The above descriptive text is taken from Charles P. Dewey’s journal kept onboard the bark John Dawson of New Bedford, 1855-1859. It relates to an event that may also have been witnessed by Robert W. Weir (1836-1905), whaleman and professional magazine illustrator who was sailing in the same waters around Madagascar onboard the bark Clara Bell of Mattapoisett at the time and later drew the picture in Dewey’s journal. ODHS 590, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling

No matter the medium, however, when it comes to his artworks there is more to the picture than meets the eye. There was a real story alive behind every piece of whaleman’s art, but those specific stories have seldom been re-told in words or if they ever were, are lost to time. This is due in part to the nature of the pieces. Scrimshaw whaling scenes, vibrantly alive at the time of their making, found their life through the tales of their creators. They were the relics of his experience, gifts perhaps to his shipmates, family or friends, or worthless things made out of necessity to while away the inevitable tedium endemic to the profession, and kept for their private significance maybe only to their maker. As the creators disappeared, often so did their stories, but these engraved objects, with lost intents remain alluring, mostly disassociated from their makers and whatever it was he was trying to convey, and remarkably evocative.

This detailed whaling scene is engraved on a piece of panbone, that is, the skeletal jawbone of a sperm whale. Like many pieces of scrimshaw it is anonymous and in this particular case is possibly British. It shows successful sperm whaling around Ball’s Pyramid, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. NBW #2001.100.1226, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

This detailed whaling scene is engraved on a piece of panbone, that is, the skeletal jawbone of a sperm whale. Like many pieces of scrimshaw it is anonymous and in this particular case is possibly British. It shows successful sperm whaling around Ball’s Pyramid, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. NBW #2001.100.1226, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

When the artist drew his pictures in a logbook or journal, however, then those stories have the potential for re-creation. Associated text can sometimes provide clues as to why a particular scene or vessel was permanently recorded. Though the mediums of engraved scrimshaw and paper drawings are radically different, the latter can inform the former, because, for all intents and purposes they are the same – one simply has associated text. Except in rare cases where the stories of the pieces can be glimpsed through sometimes rewarding but almost always extensive and time-consuming research, scrimshaw whaling scenes are mute if powerful testaments to the whaler’s life.

As any hunter will tell you, preparation for the moment of action is vital to the success of the hunt. Hunters get themselves into position and then they wait. Similarly, the whaleman’s business as a hunter upon the high seas of animals that spend much of their time submerged, was of a nature that left him a great deal of excess time. As he cruised the whaling grounds, back and forth, day after day, or while making a passage from hunting ground to hunting ground, he often employed himself in recording in his journal the animals that he encountered, the scenes of the hunt, the picturesque sailing ships in the immediate vicinity and the careful outlining of the silhouettes of the often exotic, faraway islands and landfalls that only a world-faring seaman would encounter. As many of these places had seldom been seen by any Westerners at all his observations served the two-fold purpose of satisfying his own curiosity and creating a reference for future navigation. As a mariner in a culture that took commercial navigation very seriously indeed, he was often trained in and lived with a tradition of manuscript illustration. Manuscript maps and recognition drawings of landfalls, carefully and accurately rendered could literally mean life or death, the success or failure of the voyage, and the enabling of the navigation through the trackless oceans of the world.

John Martin of Wilmington, Delaware drew this recognition drawing showing the silhouette of one of the Samoan Island group in the South Pacific. Such drawings allowed mariners to positively identify landfalls at sea. Martin’s illustrated journal kept onboard the ship Lucy Ann  of Wilmington, 1841-1844 is one of the great illustrated American whaling journals. KWM #434, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

John Martin of Wilmington, Delaware drew this recognition drawing showing the silhouette of one of the Samoan Island group in the South Pacific. Such drawings allowed mariners to positively identify landfalls at sea. Martin’s illustrated journal kept onboard the ship Lucy Ann of Wilmington, 1841-1844 is one of the great illustrated American whaling journals. KWM #434, Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The combination of these variables came to serve as deep wells of creativity. That creativity in turn served as an outlet for his feelings of patriotism, his eye-witness to tragedy, his obvious sense of wonder, his esprit de corps and frequently, the specificities of navigation questions. These are the roots of some of the stories told by the art of the American whaleman but there is more to the stories even than this. These are stories of his personal world exploration; they are of the ships that were his home on the deep and the violence that was his calling, considerable bloodshed and incredible natural phenomena. They are tales of loneliness, industry and, doubtless, more than a little bit of romance. Killing a sixty-foot animal with a twelve-foot spear from a thirty-foot boat with a team of five other guys in the midst of the fabled Galapagos Islands, admittedly, has a certain romance.

Pictures drawn by whalemen come from within a rich context and it is their similarities as well as their differences that speak most powerfully to their documentary nature as historical sources. Much can be learned from the comparative study of these illustrations and it is because that, so many of the these pictures, do, in fact, look alike, that historians, teachers and museum interpreters can ascribe some veracity to that which is being pictured. Sperm whales, for instance are often drawn seemingly exaggerated in size. Obviously this is because they are generally very large animals but what is even more telling is that the very largest animals are often drawn or noted. In one case the whaleman captioned his picture of a whaleboat going onto an enormous sperm whale “One of the whales you read of.” Such a statement implies that very large sperm whales were noteworthy and can give clues to modern researchers as to certain aspects of sperm whale biology from an earlier period of first-hand observation. It could also serve to underscore the whaleman’s very real desire to make as much oil as possible, fill their ship, go home and get paid, and additionally it can serve as evidence of some of the more social aspects of a whaleman’s life. When it comes to the study of maritime affairs, where so much of the action takes place far away the experience of most people, the art of the mariner becomes an indispensable interpretive tool and a joy to the enthusiast of vernacular art forms.

New Bedford Area Chamber donates archive

Michael Dyer, maritime curator, surveys archival records donated by the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce recently donated its early records archive to the Museum’s Research Library. The collection includes bound correspondence of the Chamber’s predecessor organization, the New Bedford Board of Trade, dating as early as 1915. However, much of the collection documents the period from the 1960s to the 1980s covering a range of topics including urban renewal, waste management, economic development, tourism, parking and other Chamber affairs. Earlier materials include the original organizational by-laws and a large volume of correspondence from the early 20th century.

“We’re pleased to donate these archival records of the Chamber’s early years to the whaling museum’s research library; we know they will be cared for properly and will be made available to students and the public for generations to come,” said Roy Nascimento, president and CEO of the Chamber.

Michael Dyer, the museum’s maritime curator notes that the Board of Trade was first organized in 1884, with many founding members being whaling agents whose business interests had expanded. “Men like Jonathan Bourne, Jr., Jireh Swift and William R. Wing had all made their fortunes in whaling but maintained important investments in other businesses,” Dyer said.

The research library’s other recent manuscript acquisitions include the papers of the local law firm of Crapo, Clifford and Clifford, the George C. Perkins collection and the Merchants Bank collection. Taken together they offer new research opportunities into the history of the city and its transition from a whaling port and textile center to a diverse manufacturing, retail and arts hub in the region.

Francis Davis Millet, a Titanic loss for New Bedford

The City of New Bedford lost what would have been an important work of art when RMS Titanic sailed into history 100 years ago today.

Aboard the doomed ship was Mattapoisett native son, Francis Davis Millet. Like other local artists – Albert Bierstadt and William Bradford before him – Millet rose to prominence in the international art world. He was particularly involved in the conceptual design of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1892 in Chicago and he won numerous international awards for his work.

Millet went down with the ship and purportedly with him, went plans for a panoramic mural of New Bedford history, which he agreed to create for the walls of the newly expanded New Bedford Free Public Library, which only recently had reopened in 1912 in the fully rebuilt “Old City Hall” that had sustained extensive fire damage in 1906.

The Millet mural was to encompass the ornate concave cove connecting the walls and ceiling above the internal oculus of the third floor. The mural was to depict Gosnold’s 1602 discovery of the harbor, the Whaling Era and the thriving textile industry of 1912.

Millet’s 1903 mural for the Call Room of Baltimore’s Custom-House provides a hint of what the New Bedford Mural might have looked like. A photo of Millet and his assistants at work on the Baltimore mural survives and reveals that he included a whale ship in that scene.

A synopsis of Millet’s many accomplishments are well noted in Artists of New Bedford; A Biographical Dictionary, by Mary Jean Blasdale, published at the New Bedford Whaling Museum by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1990.

In the 61st Annual Report of the Library in 1912, Librarian George H. Tripp lamented “Mr. Millet’s death, before the beginning of the mural decorations which were to adorn the library walls and at the same time commemorate allegorically certain features of New Bedford past, was a serious misfortune to New Bedford. The artist, in his letters to New Bedford people, previous to his death, had indicated that he was about ready to be begin the series of paintings which he had thought out as appropriate. While the decorations of the walls will, in all probability, be treated somewhat after the original plan at some time in the future, the trustees feel that Mr. Millet was the one man for the work, because of his reputation for fine attainment, and because of his familiarity with the traditions of the calling which it was understood he would illustrate.”

The Trustees voted in 1912 to purchase “the well-known picture, “The Black Sheep,” from the heirs of Francis D. Millet.” It still hangs in the library today. Millet rests in Central Cemetery, East Bridgewater – his boyhood home after Mattapoisett.

Tripp was correct in his assessments but for the assumption that a mural similar to Millet’s conception would be accomplished. It was not to be.

A little more than a decade ago, while the Library’s final restoration phase was underway, there was some interest in seeing a mural realized in the style of Millet. However, it did not happen, due to funding – and perhaps more importantly – because Millet’s grand design dissolved in the deep on that cold April night. The Library cove remains a blank canvas; silent testament of what could have been, but for the hand of fate.

Paul Cuffe to be honored in four programs, Sept. 23-24

A silhouette of Captain Paul Cuffe (c.1812) and his compass (c.1800) will be part of a new exhibit at the Museum recognizing his life and accomplishments, opening Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m. A new park will be dedicated in his honor on Saturday, Sept. 24. Lectures on Cuffe are also part of a two-day free public program, "Old Dartmouth Roots, a Genealogy & Local History Symposium, Sept 23-24.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum and its partners proudly present four free public programs over two days recognizing the life and accomplishments of Captain Paul Cuffe at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, September 23-24, culminating with the dedication of a park in his honor.

Paul Cuffe (1759-1817) was the free-born son of an African father and a Native American mother. A skillful mariner, he was also a successful merchant, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights advocate and abolitionist. In 1780 he petitioned for the right to vote as a landowner and taxpayer. He established the first integrated school in America and became an advisor to President James Madison.

On Friday, September 23, a genealogy presentation titled “The Cuffes and the Wainers,” will be offered by George Wortham, a Cuffe/Wainer descendant, at 1:45 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

At 5:30 p.m., the museum will open a new exhibit, the “Cuffe Kitchen Gallery.” The multi-media exhibit will highlight the gallery, which recreates an 18th century kitchen, the wooden panels of which came from Cuffe’s home in Westport. Funded in part by Mass Humanities, the exhibit will provide an opportunity to ponder the social and racial issues faced by Cuffe. A reception will follow in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

The evening will conclude with a keynote lecture, “Paul Cuffe, His Life and Times,” presented by award-winning Cuffe biographer, Lamont D. Thomas at 6:30 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

On Saturday, September 24, dedication ceremonies for Captain Paul Cuffe Park will begin at noon at Union Street and Johnny Cake Hill. Located on Whaling Museum property, the park is adjacent to the site where Cuffe operated his store, Cuffe & Howards.

The park’s designer, Nan Sinton, is a nationally recognized landscape designer, horticulturist and former director of public programs for Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. The president and co-founder of Sinton & Michener Associates, Inc., Sinton has designed gardens throughout North America and Europe.

The new park incorporates a large compass rose within an elaborate terrace of brick, bluestone, granite and Belgian paving blocks that recall Cuffe’s own ship’s compass – part of the museum collection. Plantings include boxwood; bayberry and sea roses donated by Sylvan Nursery, Inc., Westport, Mass. Construction and plantings were executed by G. Bourne Knowles & Company, Inc., Fairhaven. The park will include new interpretative wayside panels on Cuffe’s life, produced by New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. The Cuffe commemorative plaque and new lighting were funded in part by a grant from the City Works Community Improvement Program, administered by the City of New Bedford Community Development Block Grant Program.

The park site previously included 20th century whaling equipment including a 1936 harpoon cannon now on exhibit in the museum plaza, and a small garden given by the Garden Club of Buzzards Bay in 2003. Club members will continue to oversee the new planting.

All events are free to the public and will be held at the Whaling Museum as part of “Old Dartmouth Roots: A Genealogy & Local History Symposium,” which is funded through a grant from the Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO), administered by the United States Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Old Dartmouth Roots, Sept. 22-24

Old Dartmouth Roots, the region’s first free public genealogy and local history symposium will be offered by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society/New Bedford Whaling Museum, September 22-24, 2011. This three-day event will include presentations on local genealogical resources and collections, a primer on how to do a genealogy search, a guide to regional cemeteries, walking tours, an exhibit opening, a park dedication, and more.

Old Dartmouth (modern-day Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, New Bedford and Westport) is a region steeped in history. Family histories – some recorded and many yet untold – each represent a unique thread in this region’s rich narrative. Come and learn how to explore your family’s past and discover its role in the growth of our region and the nation. Be prepared for new insights and surprises. As Helen Keller wrote, “There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.” Old Dartmouth Roots will reveal the intersection of history, destiny and opportunity in Old Dartmouth, which has produced countless inspirational stories.

Partners in Old Dartmouth Roots include the New Bedford Free Public Library (NBFPL), New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, New Bedford Preservation Society, New Bedford Historical Society, and other local community organizations.

Old Dartmouth Roots will feature presentations from several expert genealogists and historians. Keynote speakers include Judith Lucey, Maureen Taylor and Lamont D. Thomas.

Judith Lucey is Assistant Archivist, New England Historic Genealogical Association (NEHGS), Boston. She joined the staff of NEHGS in 2003, after receiving a B.S. in Education from Northeastern University and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. In addition to her expertise on how to begin personal genealogy research, she specializes in Irish genealogy, Newfoundland, 19th and 20th century genealogy, Italian genealogy, and the history of Cambridge and Somerville, Mass.

Maureen Taylor is an internationally recognized photo identification and family history expert. The author of a number of books and magazine articles, she offers a range of dynamic, interactive seminars on photographs, genealogy, and history. Maureen has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Hallmark Television, “The View,” Better Homes & Gardens, the Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, MSNBC, PBS Ancestors, and more. The Wall Street Journal called her “the nation’s foremost historical photo detective.” Ms. Taylor will also be available for private consultations during the day for a fee.

Lamont D. Thomas is a Pulitzer Prize Nominee author and a retired university professor. He is a leading authority on the life and times of Captain Paul Cuffe. Thomas holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Trinity College. He is the author of “Paul Cuffe: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist” and “Rise to be a People: A Biography of Paul Cuffe,” both published by University of Illinois Press.

Old Dartmouth Roots Schedule

Thursday, September 22, 2011

9:00 a.m.: Registration and Coffee – Jacobs Family Gallery, NBWM.

10:00 -10:15 a.m.: Welcome – James Russell, President NBWM.

10:15 -11:00 a.m.: “How to Get Started on a Genealogy Search,” presented by Judith Lucey, Assistant Archivist, New England Historical Genealogy Assoc. (NEHGS), Boston.

11:15 am-12:30 p.m.: “Panel on Local Resources in Various Libraries and Centers,” presented by Paul Cyr, NBFPL; Judy Farrar, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Michael P. Dyer, NBWM.

12:30 -1:30 p.m.: Luncheon – courtesy of the NBWM.

1:30-2:45 p.m.: Concurrent Sessions – Common Threads: (a) “Introduction to Portuguese and Cape Verdean Genealogy,” presented by Judith Downey, NBFPL, and James J. Lopes, NBWM; (b) “History of Jewish New Bedford,” presented by Judy Farrar.

3:00-3:15 p.m.: Coffee and Refreshments.

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Concurrent Sessions: (a) “Quaker Roots: the Rodmans, Russells and the Rotches,” presented by Judith Downey; (b) “The French Canadians,” presented by Paul Cyr.

6:30 p.m.: “Sitting in New Bedford with the Photo Detective,” presented by Maureen Taylor, photo analyst and family history expert. Cook Memorial Theater, NBWM. This lecture is made possible by the Samuel D. Rusitzky Fund.

Friday, September 23, 2011

8:30 a.m.: Coffee and refreshments – Jacobs Family Gallery.

9:00-10:15 a.m.: Concurrent Sessions – Unlikely Connections: (a) “The Grinnells and the Howlands; the Jacobses and the Knoxes,” presented by James Grinnell and Katherine Culkin; (b) “Cemeteries of the Old Dartmouth Region – Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, New Bedford, and Westport,” presented: Joan Barney, NBFPL, Betty Slade, and Judith Navas Lund, former Curator, NBWM.

12:30 -1:30 p.m.: Luncheon – courtesy of the NBWM.

1:45-3:00 p.m.: Concurrent Sessions – Family Ties: (a) “The Cuffes and the Wainers,” presented by George Wortham; (b) “The Irish,” presented by Andrew Pierce.

3:00-3:15 p.m.: Coffee and Refreshments.

3:30-4:45 p.m.: Concurrent Sessions: (a) “Wampanoag Genealogy,” presented by Andrew Pierce; (b) “Decoding the History of Logbooks and Crew Lists,” presented by Michael P. Dyer and Judith Navas Lund.

5:30 p.m.: Opening of the Cuffe Kitchen Gallery, NBWM.

6:30 p.m.: Reception and lecture titled “Paul Cuffe, His Life and Times” presented by award-winning Cuffe biographer, Lamont D. Thomas. Jacobs Family Gallery and Cook Memorial Theater, NBWM.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

12:00 Noon: Dedication of Captain Paul Cuffe Park, northeast corner of Union Street and Johnny Cake Hill. In the event of inclement weather, the dedication will be conducted in the Cook Memorial Theater.

Also: Walking tours of the National Park, shuttles to Rural Cemetery will begin from the Museum plaza.

Old Dartmouth Roots is free and open to the public, however, pre-registration is preferred. To register, CLICK HERE or call Museum Admissions: (508) 997-0046, ext. 100.

All events are planned to be held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum or adjacent venues unless otherwise noted. All events are free except as noted. Admission to the Museum Galleries is subject to daily pricing schedules.

The Whaling Museum nominated for national honor

The New Bedford Whaling Museum had been nominated to receive the National Medal for Museum Service. Presented annually by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), the prestigious award is given to “honor outstanding American museums and libraries that have made extraordinary contributions to their communities.”

The nomination was made by Congressman Barney Frank. “The New Bedford Whaling Museum serves as an invaluable and unique resource that has been of great benefit for both scholars and the general public. In recognition of its extraordinary service to the community, I am pleased to nominate the Whaling Museum for an Institute of Museum and Library Sciences National Medal,” Congressman Frank said.

In noting the recognition, James Russell, Museum president and CEO said, “We are extremely grateful to Congressman Frank for his nomination as the Whaling Museum continues to evolve and tell the story of the region in new and inspiring ways which will be forever linked to the sea.”

Headquartered in Washington, DC, the mission of the IMLS is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.

The IMLS National Medal is awarded to “selected institutions which demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and inclusiveness, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach, and may also include libraries and museums advancing global cultural understanding.”