Tag Archives: New Bedford

New Bedford Gas Explosions – January 18, 1977, forty years ago today

gas_1977_big_flames_2 The tranquility of the predawn hours of that frigid January morning in 1977 was abruptly shattered like the thousands of window panes throughout the downtown. Three massive explosions disintegrated historic buildings fronting on Union Street between Water and Johnny Cake Hill. At the epicenter of the damage, on Johnny Cake Hill, the ground shook so violently that it caused cracks in the brick walls of the Whaling Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater, constructed six years earlier.

gasexplosion1977bournebldgsouthThe explosions were later determined to be caused by prolonged arctic temperatures that had penetrated deep enough below ground to cause a 90-lb. gas main to split at a welded seam and fill the Union street storefronts with gas. At about quarter to five in the morning, O’Malley’s Tavern located at 67 Union blew up in a massive fireball, obliterating the building instantaneously in a fifty-foot wall of flame. From its basement the structure had slowly filled with gas; detonation came from the spark of a thermostat clicking on for heat. Next door, the Macomber-Sylvia Building, newly restored by WHALE also went up in the conflagration and spread to the roof the Sundial Building. On the other side of the hill, the 1872 Eggers Building had its entire façade blown off with the rest of the structure mostly burned. Nearly sixty buildings in the Central Business District sustained some damage due to the blasts (Standard-Times, 3/6/77). Fire crews could not put out the fire until the gas mains were turned off, otherwise there was risk of more explosions as gas continued to fill adjacent gasexplosion1977buildings, including the Whaling Museum.

The initial blast was so powerful that it shattered most of the Museum’s windows, fracturing dozens of sashes and separating window jambs from the brick walls. Shards of glass flew through the Bourne Building, embedding themselves like missiles into the canvas sails of the famous half-scale model of the whaleship Lagoda. As luck would have it, this early window damage may have helped avert total disaster, as the now open-air whaling museum vented any gas that had found its way in.

gas_1977_bethel_south_2Miraculously, New Bedford’s two most important historic landmarks, the Whaling Museum and the Seamen’s Bethel – the veritable heart and soul of the city’s celebrated maritime past – stood together atop their hill and remained relatively unscathed as fire raged round about them.

gas_1977_nbwm_west_Today, almost no trace remains of the catastrophe, due to the unremitting efforts of a generation of caring individuals, groups and organizations, who dedicated themselves to a thousand untold works of historic preservation, new construction, beatification and enhancements, side by side and with the support ofgas_1977_crowells_2 municipal, state and federal leaders.

As the sun rose that frigid morning, no one who surveyed the gut-wrenching scene of utter destruction could have imagined that these smothering ruins would be transformed into a national park in just two decades’ time.

New Bedford’s response to the 1977 Gas Explosions is an exemplar of its fortitude and resilience.  No historic preservation project today comes close to matching the seeming impossibility of 1977 challenge. Restoration and adaptive reuse for city landmarks such as the Armory, Fort Taber, the Orpheum Theater, First Baptist Church and others must be assessed by the 1977 litmus test.

Sundial Bldg., 1977

Sundial Bldg., 1977

The question is not whether we can do it, but whether we have the will to do it.  As Rochefoucauld famously said, “We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible.”

History of seafood marketing in the Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts

Arthur P.  Motta, Jr.
Curator, New Bedford & Old Dartmouth History.HaddockFilletWrapSeal

In August 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law aimed at creating a “coordinated program to market seafood landed in the commonwealth and to take other actions to increase consumer demand and preference for local seafood products, to support the commonwealth’s fishing and seafood industry and the residents and communities that benefit from these activities.” More than seven years in the making, the promotional effort officially kicked off on August 7 at the 2016 Boston Seafood Festival with the launch of the Seafood Marketing Steering Committee. This is welcome news for the state’s seafood industry. As the state’s efforts gear up, it may be useful to review briefly a few of the public/private seafood marketing initiatives of the past, which were developed to address specific consumer preferences.

John_Linehan_by Paul Swain_2010090

John F. Linehan (1922-2016) photo: Paul Swain

Promotional efforts in the Port of New Bedford have periodically been undertaken over the years to position the city’s various seafood products for greater consumption in existing markets and to stimulate growth of new markets. These initiatives have variously been tried by municipal officials and their harbor agencies, industry groups and regional business organizations. These initiatives were enthusiastic but limited by the financial resources available, which restricted market penetration beyond the immediate region. Only the multiyear effort during the late1950s and ‘60s to increase the retail market for scallops had a transformative effect, which continues to sustain New Bedford’s working waterfront to the present day. It was conducted in part by the late John F. Linehan (1922-2016), a trailblazer in seafood marketing. Due in part to his early efforts and others that followed him, New Bedford ranks as the top commercial fishing port for the 15th consecutive year with a dollar value of $329 million for the landed catch (Standard-Times 10/29/15).

New_Bedford_#1_bumper_Sticker_2001

City of New Bedford bumper sticker, 2004.

Although the scallop fishery was known to exist in New Bedford as early as 1883, its localized consumer base was limited by product life and seasonality due to weather conditions, which affect harvest. With the introduction of refrigerated trucking in the early twentieth century, new markets began to develop in New York and New England. However, seafood consumers who were more accustomed to buying cod, haddock and other ground species as well as traditional shellfish such as lobster and clams, were reluctant to try scallop “meats,” due in part due to their shape, which looked to some like a strange byproduct of the catch. A 1939 article in a New York newspaper noted “Even those who have eaten scallop with a smacking realization of their goodness have harbored a vague belief that the small, soft round scallop, which bears no outward likeness to crab or oyster, fish, lobster, shrimp or clam, was punched in a faintly deceptive dodge out of some fish or other with a circular metal device.”

Renowned marine biologist and ocean conservationist Rachel Carson took the issue of scallop underutilization further in her 1942 seminal report titled Food From the Sea: Fish and Shellfish of New England for the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Bulletin. She noted “Only the large muscle that controls the shell movements is eaten. This muscle (called the “eye”) comprises only a small proportion of the total weight of the meat. The remainder is discarded or used as bait or fertilizer, although it is good, edible meat. In Europe the entire scallop is eaten, and there seems to be no good reason why it should be wasted here.”

Pearl_of_the_Atlantic_ad_1963In the early 1960’s an advertising campaign funded in part by the New Bedford Seafood Co-Op included the production of a film documentary titled “The Pearl of the Atlantic” which introduced markets beyond New England to the scallop with comparisons to meat, extolling it as “an excellent buy because there is no fat or bone to be weighed and paid for. High in protein and minerals; low in fat, low in calories and sodium. They’re a fine nutritious food for a balanced diet.” The Seafood Co-Op with the New Bedford Exchange Club launched in 1958 the New Bedford Scallop Festival as a major promotional vehicle for the fishery. Large tents were erected at Marine Park on Pope’s Island for the annual August event, due to the island’s high visibility to motorists and vacationers via US Route 6, the major interstate artery to Cape Cod and the Islands. The marketing included a cartoon mascot, Sammy Scallop, who boasted a top hat and pearl tiepin. Festival publicity subcommittee co-chairs, Charles E. Sharek and Otavio A. Modesto along with John F. Linehan – general manager of the New Bedford Seafood Producers Association – worked with a Hartford, Connecticut Sammy_the_Scallop_Says_1963advertising executive Tom McFarlane to develop the Sammy mascot, which was joined by Susie Scallop. Festival expenses were underwritten in part through the advance sale of certificates, “shares purchased by festival boosters,” which could be purchased in denominations of $5, $10, $25, $50 and available at multiple banks and businesses throughout the city. Mathias Bendiksen and Robert Selig comprised the Festival Certificates subcommittee, promoting them as a community minded effort to “help defray costs of putting on the effort.” The names of businesses and individuals who purchased certificates were published in the newspaper and on festival programs.

Sharek, a city pharmacist and active Exchange Club member, advanced the idea of jointly “holding a seafood fiesta to salute the fishing industry” with the New Bedford Seafood Producers Association. Sharek noted to the press, “After approval from the club aims committee we met with John Linehan… and we agreed adoption of the general theme, “Scallop Festival,” would be the most appropriate and have the best promotional potential.” He added that scallops were the chosen focus because “At that time, the Seafood Council was devoting most if its energy promoting this particular commodity.

New Bedford Scallop Festival at Marine Park, Pope's Island, New Bedford, c.1960

New Bedford Scallop Festival at Marine Park, Pope’s Island, New Bedford, c.1960

By 1963, the 22-member committee was headed by John Carew, vice-president of the Goodhue Lumber Company and a past president of the Exchange Clubs of Massachusetts. Roy F. Mason and Patrick L. Sweeney were vice-chairs. Melvin E. Fryer was site director and Omer E. Raymond was festival adviser. The large group included business leaders from almost every sector of the community. Subcommittees included Finance, Food Procurement, Equipment Procurement, Supplies, Utilities, Tents, Tickets, Certificates, Publicity, Beauty Pageant, Entertainment, Boat Rides, and Dismantling & Storage.

As John Linehan explained in a recent interview for this article, “In 1957, the New Bedford Seafood Council and the then New Bedford Seafood Co-op were off-shoots of the Seafood Producers Association, which was comprised primarily of the boat owners. The business of seafood was multilayered – with a company operating multiple subsidiary companies, which, due to the tax advantages realized, handled the buying, processing, and selling of seafood separately.”

Until the Scallop Festival, little in the way of cooperative promotional campaigns to stimulate overall sales or grow new markets for the port as a whole was undertaken. In many instances the various fish processors and producers of seafood were fierce competitors. An early attempt to simply brand all port products with a byline was initiated by the New Bedford Seafood Council. “Sea Harvest of the Great New Bedford Fleet” was a slogan, which the Council invited all local processers to include on their packaging and promotional materials. This effort was not widely adopted.

New Bedford Fillet Co. wax wrapper, c. 1955-60 (collection Arthur Motta)

New Bedford Fillet Co. wax wrapper, c. 1955-60 (collection Arthur Motta)

Many New Bedford seafood companies pursued individual branding. The New Bedford Fillet Co. dispensed their product in printed wax paper wrappers while extolling the convenience of ready to cook fillets. The 1950s was a decade of rapid growth for the New Bedford scallop fishery and several promotional activities were orchestrated to promote scallops through the New Bedford Seafood Association, according to John Linehan. “The first year there was $12,000 for advertising and we had to prove that it would work, but the budget was not enough to enter the New York City market, so it was launched in Hartford, instead. There we saw a 500% increase in sales. The next year they had $40,000, which allowed them to break into the New York market. Promotional activities included direct outreach to food editors via luncheons in Manhattan. French chef André Surmain was hired as a consultant and with James Beard arranged the gourmet scallop dishes for these parties. After that, scallops really took off,” Linehan said.

The other major challenge was price stability, Linehan explained. “We tried to establish a flat market rate of around 45¢ because scallops were about 30¢ a pound in the summer and 60¢ in the winter.”

New Bedford Seafood Council branding sticker, c. 1975-80. Designer: Clement E. Daley.

New Bedford Seafood Council branding sticker, c. 1975-80. Designer: Clement E. Daley.

In the 1980s a new branding campaign was initiated by the New Bedford Seafood Council with the slogan “The New Bedford Fisherman – He brings out the best in seafood.” The effort included print advertising and collateral such as decals, labels, bumper stickers and billboard graphics, created by artist Clement E. Daley. In a boarder way, the 1980s also saw a statewide campaign touting the value of Massachusetts products coupled with community pride messaging under the umbrella slogan “Make it in Massachusetts.” Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Commerce during the Governor Edward J. King Administration, the campaign included 30 and 15-second TV commercials featuring large Massachusetts-based corporations such as Polaroid, John Hancock Insurance and State Street Bank with voiceovers proclaiming they were “Making it in Massachusetts” and accompanied by a jingle soundtrack. TheMake_It_In_Mass_LOGO spots also included aerial footage of communities with large urban renewal projects underway, such as Fall River’s Battleship Cove district. While these efforts did not rise to the level of branding, they set a precedent for state-funded promotional activities for products and services.

Developing new consumers for currently underutilized species as a sustainable growth strategy harkens back to Rachel Carson’s concerns more than 70 years ago, and points to a comprehensive marketing approach with all the producing ports of the Commonwealth.

In 2009, the Standard-Times reported a “proposal, put forth by Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, would create a 13-member panel that would be tasked with investigating the feasibility of a statewide coordinated seafood marketing program… The commission, he said, would be made up entirely of volunteers and would require no state funding.” Near the end of 2013, it again reported: “The bill calls for a seafood marketing program to be set up within the state Division of Marine Fisheries. The lawmakers say the goal is a coordinated approach that will increase demand for seafood and consumer preference for products from the state’s own commercial fishing and seafood industry…. The legislation reflects the recommendations made by the Special Commission on Seafood Marketing in its July 2013 report.” (Dec. 27, 2013)

In the 188th Massachusetts General Court (2013-2014), the bill (S.1979) sponsored by Massachusetts Sen. Bruce Tarr, Rep. Antonio F. D. Cabral and others called for the program to “be established within the division of marine fisheries (DMF) a coordinated program to market seafood landed in the commonwealth and to take other actions to increase consumer demand and preference for the said local seafood products and support for the commonwealth’s fishing and seafood industry and the residents and communities that benefit from these activities.” A new draft of the bill was substituted (S.2422) on December 31, 2014. According to Rep. Cabral’s office, “Language to create the Seafood Marketing Program was included in an Economic Development Bill passed by the Legislature… Chapter 287 of the Acts of 2014.” The work of the state’s new seafood marketing initiative should ensure that New Bedford is a primary beneficiary.

New Bedford Harbor. (Photo: Arthur Motta)

New Bedford Harbor. (Photo: Arthur Motta)

New Bedford Harbor Small Craft Illustrated in Purrington & Russell’s Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World.

Albert Van Beest painted this view of shipping in New Bedford Harbor in the mid-1850s. This boat, a lapstrake open boat with stayed masts and a jibboom appears to be of the dogbody type with a square transom. The foresail appears to be of the loose-footed type without a boom, as the mainsail boom is prominently shown. Typical of Van Beest's work, the boat is an element of the larger scene and while it may be reliably interpreted as a boat type, it's activities are ambiguous. This detail is from "View of Shipping in New Bedford Harbor," 1975.17.

Albert Van Beest painted this view of shipping in New Bedford Harbor in the mid-1850s. This type of boat, or one very similar to it, appears in the Panorama a number of times and in other paintings of New Bedford waters in the 1850s as well. This boat, a lapstrake open boat with stayed masts and a jibboom appears to be of the “dogbody” type with a square transom. The foresail appears to be of the loose-footed type without a boom, as the mainsail boom is prominently shown. Typical of Van Beest’s work, the boat is an element of the larger scene and while it may be reliably interpreted as a boat type, it’s activities are ambiguous. This detail is from “View of Shipping in New Bedford Harbor,” 1975.17.

Purrington & Russel painted several versions of this type of craft. This particular one has two unstayed masts with a boom on the mainsail, a loose-footed foresail, a jibboom and head sail, a square transom and is mostly decked over. Its use is ambiguous although it appears to be ferrying people. 1918.27.1

Purrington & Russel painted several versions of this type of craft. Unlike Van Beest’s painting above, this particular one has two unstayed masts with a boom on the mainsail, a loose-footed foresail, a jibboom and head sail, a square transom and is mostly decked over. Its use is ambiguous although it appears to be ferrying people. 1918.27.1

The boat shown in this detail from William Bradford's 1854 portrait of the ship Twilight of New Bedford appears to an almost perfect example of a Block Island Cowhorn. The two men are obviously fishing and the scene is in Buzzards Bay off Dumplin Rocks lighthouse. Note the double-ended "pinky" style of hull, the open deck, unstayed masts and lack of a jibboom. 1980.43

The boat shown in this detail from William Bradford’s 1854 portrait of the ship Twilight of New Bedford appears to an almost perfect example of a Block Island Cowhorn. The two men are obviously fishing and the scene is in Buzzards Bay off Dumplin Rocks lighthouse. Note the double-ended “pinky” style of hull, the open deck, unstayed masts and lack of a jibboom. 1980.43

While much has been written of New Bedford whalers, the famous ships, barks and schooners that sailed the world round, little has been written of the small working craft of the harbor. These boats were employed all up and down the East Coast in a variety of styles and sizes, from the large double-ended “pinky” schooner to the smaller pinky “Chebacco Boat,” dogbody Hampton Boat and  little working skiff. Perhaps it’s because at first glance there seems little to say about them. As they appear in prints and paintings, they all look sort-of similar and are engaged in some activity, but seldom can one tell what that activity actually is. Obviously small boats were used for a host of purposes including everything from fishing to freighting to ferrying people. Not appearing in either the official enrollments of American vessels in the coastwise American trade or the registers of ships engaged in foreign trade, these boats are often merely adjunct details to larger art works or photographs. Yet for all of their ubiquity, these boats suggest a fundamental element of a maritime culture. People worked on the water and used various sorts of boats to do it. These boats would, most likely, have been of local manufacture and designed for the waters they would ply.

Purrington and Russell commonly drew these boats with decks. This example shows a boat around 20 feet long, with unstayed masts, a jibboom and a loosefooted foresail.

Purrington and Russell commonly drew these boats with decks. This example shows a boat around 20 feet long, with unstayed masts, a jibboom and a loosefooted foresail.

This detail of a small New Bedford boat is part of a larger painting by New Bedford painter William Allen Wall. Wall clearly indicates that these boats were rowed as well as sailed. It is a very small version of this boat but the jibboom is clearly shown and the masts appeared unstayed. 2012.26

This detail of a small New Bedford boat is part of a larger painting by New Bedford painter William Allen Wall. Wall clearly indicates that these boats were rowed as well as sailed. It is a very small version of this boat but the jibboom is clearly shown and the masts appeared unstayed. 2012.26

If the boats are challenging to identify, their users are even more so. “Boatmen” appear occasionally in the New Bedford City Directories and these people made their livelihood either renting or working onboard small craft about the harbor. As larger shipping was anchored in the stream, boatmen would move people and goods from the shore to the ship.

In this view from the Panorama, two sloop-rigged work boats transfer the crew of a whaler and their sea chests onboard a vessel anchored in the stream. 1917.27.1

In this view from the Panorama, two sloop-rigged work boats transfer the crew of a whaler and their sea chests onboard a vessel anchored in the stream. 1917.27.1

Work boats alongside the ship William Hamilton, outfitting in New Bedford Harbor in June of 1848. Note the black seaman onboard and the sea chest coming over the side of the ship. 1917.27.1

Work boats alongside the ship William Hamilton, outfitting in New Bedford Harbor in June of 1848. Note the black seaman onboard and the sea chest coming over the side of the ship. 1917.27.1

A gaff-rigged sloop approaches the ship William Hamilton in New Bedford Harbor, June of 1848. Onboard are crew members ready to join the ship. 1916.27.1

A gaff-rigged sloop approaches the ship William Hamilton in New Bedford Harbor, June of 1848. Onboard are crew members ready to join the ship. 1916.27.1

Whether or not the people can be positively identified and discussed, the boats appear often enough that one can glean much information about them. When Purrington and Russell painted New Bedford harbor in 1848-1849 they included a large number of these small working craft. Unlike the formal oil paintings by prominent marine painters, the boats in the Panorama are not adjuncts, they are integral to the interpretation of a busy seaport. The Panorama was intended for audiences nationwide, and by showing the full array of busyness, the artists created an effective interpretive sequence. Among the more easily recognized are the larger two-masted schooners and single-masted sloops. These often appear as pilot boats in marine paintings. The larger ones were undoubtedly coasters as well trading domestic goods coastwise.

Here a large topsail schooner is shown standing down New Bedford harbor before a following breeze. 1918.27.1

Here a large topsail schooner is shown standing down New Bedford harbor before a following breeze. 1918.27.1

Purrington & Russell painted this view of three men in a long skiff jigging for squid or mackerel in New Bedford harbor opposite Palmer's Island. They are probably jigging for squid to use for bait. 1916.27.1

Purrington & Russell painted this view of three men in a long skiff jigging for squid or mackerel in New Bedford harbor opposite Palmer’s Island. They are probably jigging for squid to use for bait. 1916.27.1

In this curious detail, Purrington & Russell show two men in a rowboat towing a raft of logs up New Bedford Harbor. 1918.27.1

In this curious detail, Purrington & Russell show two men in a rowboat towing a raft of logs up New Bedford Harbor. 1918.27.1

The smaller boat close-by the larger is among the more common aspects of ship portraiture. But who was sailing these pilot boats? Who were the pilots? Where were the boats built and by whom? Why did they look the way they did? These questions are difficult, if not impossible to answer because these small craft are seldom the subject of the painting. The pilots were listed in the New Bedford City Directories and thirty-five appear in 1852 along with five named pilot boats. As these boats are seldom identified by either flag or by name their actual appearance is merely circumstantial.  The artists seem to include them as necessary decoration; evidence of the full range of complexity involved in an active seaport, but small craft often only appear as elements in the arrangement and structure of the composition.

William Bradford painted this scene of a merchant ship hove-to for a pilot off Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard in 1850. Note the small craft in the foreground and the pilot boat, a schooner, off the stern of the ship. 2005.20

William Bradford painted this scene of a merchant ship hove-to for a pilot off Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard in 1850. Note the small craft in the foreground and the pilot boat, a schooner, off the stern of the ship. 2005.20

Detail from William Bradford, "Hove-to for a Pilot," 1850. This boat has a pinky hull, two stayed masts and a jibboom. It is obviously a fishing boat with two men engaged in fishing in the waters between Cuttyhunk Island and Martha's Vineyard. The cliffs of Gay Head are in the background. 2005.20

Detail from William Bradford, “Hove-to for a Pilot,” 1850. This boat has a pinky hull, two stayed masts and a jibboom. It is obviously a fishing boat with two men engaged in fishing in the waters between Cuttyhunk Island and Martha’s Vineyard. The cliffs of Gay Head are in the background. 2005.20

Likewise, another small craft commonly seen, especially in New Bedford scenes, is a two-masted work boat with a small jibboom, the hull of which is either double-ended (a pinky) or with a square transom (a dogbody). These boats seem to have evolved from the much earlier 17th century European “shallop,” often around 25 feet long, two-masted, fore and aft rigged, simple to sail and very weatherly, used for fishing and other work. On these New Bedford boats, the main sail is rigged with a boom and the fore sail is loose-footed. The short jibboom may have been removable. (See John Gardner,  “The Elusive Hampton Boats,” The Small Boat Journal (November, 1979). Sometimes the boats are ¾’s decked over with a passenger cockpit aft. Sometimes the masts are stayed and sometimes un-stayed. They appear in a variety of lengths.

William Bradford drew this pencil sketch of a Block Island Boat in the 1850s. The lines are a perfect Cowhorn but it is unclear if there is a removable jibboom. There is certainly an anchor on the starboard bow and tit has an after deck. 1960.7.9

William Bradford drew this pencil sketch of a Block Island Boat in the 1850s. The lines are a perfect Cowhorn but it is unclear if there is a removable jibboom. There is certainly an anchor on the starboard bow and it has an after deck. 1960.7.9

This craft is commonly shown with two men on board, and whether they are fishing, or doing something else is often ambiguous. The context of their appearance, especially in the formal marine paintings of artists like William Bradford and Albert Van Beest suggests that these are fishing boats. Boats of this type were built in a variety of sizes all along the New England coast. On Block Island a similar craft was called a “cowhorn.” In Gloucester there was the Chebacco boat, on the coast of Maine and New Hampshire there was a similar craft called a Hampton Boat. The New Bedford boats appear to be a kind of Hampton or Hambden Boat (see Chappelle, The National Watercraft Collection, Washington, 1960, pp. 254-257). Chapelle reports that these “two-man” boats were common as fishing and lobster boats on the coast of Maine in the late 19th century but the frequency with which they appear in New Bedford paintings suggests a much broader geography of use. In 1845, there was at least one lobsterman in New Bedford, Joseph Crapo, (City Directory, 1845, p. 80) and while no individuals are listed as fishermen in the Directory the Bartlett family operated a fish market at the Ferry Boat Wharf, so presumably someone must have been providing them with fish.

In the below list there are doubtless a number of builders who specialized in whaleboats. This was a major manufacturing sector of New Bedford’s whaling industry. Most, if not all of the below list of boat builders could and probably did build other sorts of working craft but the full extent of that production remains to be researched.

List of New Bedford boat builders from the 1845 City Directory
Alexander Wall, boat builder, 1845 Ray Street
Joseph Warren, boat builder, 1845, Ray Street
Daniel Wardsworth, boat builder, 1845, rear, 32 South Water Street
Lawrence Wardsworth, boat builder, 1845, rear, 32 South Water Street
Robert C. Topham, boat builder, 1845, Foot of Griffin
William H. Smith, boat builder, 1845, rear 98 South Water St.
Sprowell Pease, boat builder, 1845, 133 Ray St.
Calvin D. Macomber, boat builder, 1845, no address
George C. Lewis, boat builder, 1845, 214 Ray Street
Ebenezer Leonard, boat builder, 1845 works for D. Wardsworth (possibly whaleboats)
Joseph Irish, boat builder, 1845, no working address
John D. Hillman, boat builder, 1845, 214 Purchase St.
Alvin Hinckley, boat builder, 1845, no working address
George Hart, boat builder, 1845, rear 94 South Water St.
Samuel E. Gabriel, apprentice to Robert C. Topham, 1845
Samuel A. Enholm, boat builder, 1845, works for R. C. Topham.
James M. Cranston, boat builder, 1845, 133 Ray St.
Joseph W. Cornell, boat builder, 1845, 133 Ray St.
Edmund B. Coffin, boat builder, 1845, no working address
Shubael C. Coffin & Co. (Edward F. Slocum), boat builders, 1845, Rotch’s South Wharf.
Henry Butler, boat builder, 1845, no working address.
Frederick F. Bunker, boat builder, 1845, works for T.N. Allen, lives on Ray Street.
Charles Bosworth, boat builder, 1845, house and shop 61 South Water St.
James Beetle, boat builder, 1845, 214 Purchase St.
John G. Bailey, boat builder, 1845, 20 Elm St.
Rhodes G. Arnold, boat builder, 1845, South Water St.
Thomas N. Allen, boat builder, 1845, 94 North Water St.

Interning at the Research Library

UMASS Amherst Emily Esten has just completed her internship in the Research Library. Below are her reflections on the experience:

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has always been a fascinating place inside – you’ve got the Lagoda, the forecastle, and the whale skeletons hanging over you. The exhibits detail answers to every question about whales and whaling that could ever be asked. But there is so much research and materials that the Museum can’t possibly display and discuss them all – for those stories, you have to visit the library.

I interned in the Research Library over the summer, looking for an experience that would allow me to further my interests in New Bedford whaling as well as teach me some new skills, like library management. I enjoyed my experience, and I certainly learned a lot in just a few months.

  • Organization: My tasks primarily focused on organizing Manuscript (Mss) collections. These collections can have all sorts of items – correspondence was common, but there could also be business records, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, pictures, or various mementos. Many of these collections had been accessioned by the Museum (purchased or donated) but not processed (organized with a complete finding aid). This is where I came in – to process the collections. First, I would take a thorough inventory of what was initially in the boxes, taking notes on the content I came across. Next, I’d review my notes and attempt to think of a series arrangement in which to sort the content – whether that was by type of content, time period, or individual associated with the materials. Once running my organizational ideas by Mark, I’d typically start arranging the materials and folders in chronological order. When all the folders were organized, I’d have to officially process them, writing descriptions on each folder. Finally, I’d write the finding aid, have it checked by Mark, and code it for the website. It wasn’t always easy to do, especially as the collections became larger and less organized. It required attention to detail, focus, and great organizational skills – all of which I was able to perfect.
  • New Bedford (Whaling): Working with unprocessed manuscripts was like a crash course in Old Dartmouth history, jumping from century to subject in a matter of pages. And unlike most history courses, which provide overviews of a topic or period, I was able to use primary sources of a particular individual or family to begin to understand what life might have been like. In regards to the whaling industry, the Mss collections covered more than just the experience at sea. I read about whalers writing home to their wives and children explaining day-to-day activities on board; I analyzed records of businessmen managing their vessels and crew; I saw the cards and drawings from children and wives detailing their lives as they waited for fathers and husbands to return. These primary sources served as guides to the stories of whaling I already knew. Through the Delano Family Papers (Mss 134), I saw the beginnings of whaling as various young businessmen traded ships amongst themselves. I saw a wife in the Eliza Russell Papers (Mss 136) writing to her husband on voyage in the North Pacific. I saw as the Matthew Howland family triumphed in the business and then failed disastrously in the Arctic disasters of the 1870s in Mss 135.
  • New Bedford (Outside of Whaling): I also got to view New Bedford as a city of its own – sometimes in its heyday, sometimes long after. Within the Akin Family Papers (Mss 140), I saw the success of industrial businesses, such as the Howland Mills or F.T. Akin & Company, come into power. And from a social perspective, I was able to some of the work of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society through the papers of Charles Gardner Akin, Jr., as well as the sales and exhibitions of Winfred W. Bennett and his Old Colonial Antiques Shop (Mss 138). I even read things entirely different from whaling, like Walter Teller’s research of Joshua Slocum (Mss 131) and Walter Rounsevell’s quest for gold in California (Mss 126). In general, though, I learned a lot about the people that made New Bedford and the surrounding community important.
  • The Library: Other than New Bedford history, I discovered what it takes to work in a library. It’s nowhere near as impersonal as people make it out be – with all the activity, every day was a different experience. While I’d often be in my own little corner working on the project of the week, I’d see all sorts of people looking at all sorts of materials and for all sorts of reasons. Unlike the way people portray or talk about libraries, it’s not this still or stationary place. A library is a haven and a home, ever-growing and shaped by the needs of the researchers. A librarian or an archivist has to be able to think about information differently – not necessarily on linear terms, but in a form that allows you to link ideas and people together. You have to know where to find things off the top of your head, and how to help people find exactly what they are looking for. It’s not an easy job, but it certainly seems like an interesting one.

I’d like to thank the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the opportunity to work in the Research Library, especially Mark Procknik as my supervisor, and Michael Dyer and Michael Lapides for support.

A Visit from a Marine Science ‘Ambassador’

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Among the many international guests and patrons that visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum, there have been few as unique as Abby. Abby is visiting us from South Africa and will be leaving shortly to visit the New Bedford Ocean Explorium. Abby is the creation of Heidi de Maine, an aquarist and author from Cape Town, in South Africa. After publishing her children’s book, Abby’s Aquarium Adventures (in 2011), which gives an overview of the life of an aquarist, she wanted to do a bit more to show young people in South Africa about the breadth of careers in field of marine sciences. To quote Heidi, “Through the series of books, marine-related craft kits, Facebook, articles in magazines, talks that I give and her blog (www.abby.co.za), I hope to make Abby a well-known marine ambassador.”  So, she created a doll to look like the main character in her book. The hope was that this doll could travel the world, be hosted by facilities that are marine science and education focused, be photographed in those locations, and have her visit and those professions explained by facility staff.

To that end, Heidi posted a note in September 2011, via the marine educators’ listserve, Scuttlebutt, explaining her project and asking for volunteers to host Abby and then send her along to the next location on the list. I think that the response surprised her.  Facilities in 16 U.S. states and in 16 countries have all said that they would host Abby and use this as an opportunity to promote marine careers. Her visit to New Bedford comes after visiting Alaska, Oregon, California, Mexico, Florida and Georgia. After leaving the City, she will be sent to Gloucester.

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If there’s anything marine educators have learned in their careers, it’s that the general public typically thinks that being a marine biologist means working with dolphins. Any opportunity to expand the public’s understanding of the variety of careers that are connected to the ocean is welcomed.  Maritime history, maritime commerce, whaling history, cetacean biology, artifact conservation in a museum like ours, preservation of nautical charts, exhibit design and skeletal articulation all require an understanding of the marine environment.  We use our skeletons and whale related facts and artifacts to teach food webs, biology, classification, geography and mathematics to both students and teachers.

Thus, we photographed Abby with fourth graders from Rochester Memorial School and in various locations around the Museum. We hope that by featuring some of our artifacts, including the world’s largest ship model and largest exhibition of scrimshaw, we might spark an interest in a museum career in some of the students who read Heidi and Abby’s blog. More importantly we hope that their visits to this blog site as Abby travels from place to place will foster a better understanding of our global ocean and will encourage them to be stewards of this resource.

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Centennial of a New Bedford landmark

St. Anthony of Padua Church (photo: Arthur Motta)

On November 28, 1912, the Roman Catholic parish of Saint Anthony of Padua (SA) celebrated the completion of its massive edifice with a High Mass on Thanksgiving Day. The parish of French-Canadian mill operatives was established in 1895, the 700th anniversary of the birth of Anthony in Lisbon.

French-Canadians came to New Bedford in great numbers between 1860 and 1930 to work in the booming textile mills. Fiercely proud of their religious and cultural traditions, these “working people of St. Antoine” made sure the spire of their new church would be taller than any factory smokestack under which they toiled. SA was at once a dramatic statement to the community at-large that the French-Canadians had taken their place in the city.

The first pastor, Rev. Hormisdas Deslauriers (1861-1916), envisioned a grand church for the parish which then occupied a wood frame building on a former Ricketson estate. His father was a builder of churches in Québec.

Montreal architect, Joseph Venne completed his plans for a cathedral-like church in 1902. Venne was instrumental in defining the look of Montréal, designing over 100 buildings from 1880 to 1925. He was also responsible for drafting Montreal’s first Building Code and pioneering the construction of fire-resistant buildings.

The chronology of the Fall River Diocese suggests there was hope in 1902 among the French-Canadian community that New Bedford might become the seat of a new Diocese and so SA’s grand architectural plan included many hallmarks of a cathedral. However, Fall River’s designation and the laying of SA’s cornerstone came within three months of each other in 1904.

The dimensions of the church edifice are colossal. The steeple rises 256 feet and can be seen miles out to sea by homebound fishing boats, its main spire aligning with the open gates of New Bedford’s Hurricane Barrier. Within, the nave is 80 ft. wide; it is 65 ft. high. The transept measures 135 ft. across. Above the nave, the triforium – a projecting walkway formed by an elaborate colonnade – forms the upper periphery between the nave and the clerestory.

The nave seats 1400; the balcony: 300, the choir loft, 40; the Sanctuary Chancel, 100; total capacity: 1,840. The exterior is constructed of Springfield red sandstone quarried at Springfield/Longmeadow, MA. It has been blackened by decades of soot spewed from city textile mills where most of the parishioners once worked.

Built in the traditional Romanesque Cruciform style, its nave is barrel-vaulted, with the windows and doors rounded at their tops. The Tympanum above the main doors carries a Latin inscription, which translates: “The working people of Saint Anthony hath built this temple to the Lord.”

Chief designer and artist of the interior, Giovanni Castagnoli (1863-1914) was born in Borgo Taro, Italy, near Parma and studied art in Florence. Angels figure prominently in his design. There are 32 large angels mounted in the nave and sanctuary; six are 10 ½ feet tall, and 26 are 8 ½ feet tall.

Angels also flank Castagnoli’s massive Stations of the Cross, said to be some of the largest Stations in the world. His crowning achievement, however, is the “Vision of Saint Anthony,” a massive statuary group sculpted in full-round, rising 60 ft. above the main altar.

The interior marble surfaces were created by a technique called scagliola by Joseph Martinelli Studios of New York. The process involved inculcating the final plaster surfaces with marble dust and special pigments, skillfully applied to imitate marble. Martinelli created similar effects at some of the pavilions of the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. It was at the Exposition that electric lights made a sensation, used by the thousands to decorate its ornate buildings (the Electric Tower still stands in Buffalo, NY).

The installation of thousands of electric lights throughout SA’s ceilings and arches was meant to inspire. In an era when electric light was still a relatively new phenomenon, its impact doubtless created wonderment. Electricians from Montreal and local crews, installed 5,500 lights into the decorative plaster. Recently, many were replaced with custom LEDs by Imtra, a leading manufacturer of marine lighting, located in New Bedford.

The 1903 black slate 400A switchboard built by the Trumbull Electric Co. controls the lighting. The switchboard consists of 26 knife switches. Chief Inspector of Wires, Hugh Murray, saved the glass-enclosed switchboard in 1984, declaring it a rare example of the finest early electrical work.

In 1952, Rev. Albert Berube commissioned Guido Nincheri (1885-1973) to further enhance Castagnoli’s interior with 117 stained glass windows. The work required 9,000 pieces of glass and 2,670 hours of work, which was executed in Nincheri’s Montreal atelier. Nincheri also created the murals  for the ceilings and upper niches of the Cerestory.

Born in Prato in Tuscany, Nincheri immigrated to Montréal in 1914. Considered to be one of the masters of stained glass in Canada, he earned many titles, including Knight-Commander of the Order of Saint Sylvester, by Pope Pius XI, who lauded him as one of the great artists of the Church. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. It was there that the master Adolfo De Carolis taught him the technique of fresco.

Nincheri devoted most of his career to the making religious art and there are few known examples of his secular work: the interior decoration of the Chateau Dufresne and the interior decoration of the Roger Williams Park Natural History Museum, in Providence Rhode Island, where Nincheri lived toward the end of his life.

Nincheri’s design for SA also called for a new marble pulpit cut from white Carrara marble, which was executed by Del Bono del Arte, a prestigious atelier in Marno, Italy. It weighs 15,000 lbs. and requiring special supports in the church basement . Installed in 1953, its façade features six niches in sienna marble, each with a statue of a saint carved in full, these being Doctors of the Church: St. John Chrysostom (Asia); St. Augustine (Africa); St. Anthony (Portugal/Italy); St. Albert the Great (Germany); St. Thomas Aquinas (Italy); St. Bernard (France).

The great Casavent Organ (opus 489) is massive: 4 manuals of 61 notes each; 56 stops; 30 couplers. Built by Casavant-Freres in 1912, the instrument has undergone extensive restoration, funded through a concerts series which has attracts some of the world’s most accomplished organists.

Today, though fewer of the congregation is of French-Canadian heritage, SA continues its role as a spiritual and cultural center of the North End of the city. Its food pantry feeds thousands annually.

Sources:

Standard-Times Archives

Bishop James Cassidy, History of the Diocese of Fall River, Fall River, Mass. 1931.

Doris C. Quinton and Jean Weaver Swiszcz, History of St. Anthony of Padua Church, A Parish History, New Bedford: Spinner Publications, Inc., 1996.

Notice Historique; Saint Antoine de New Bedford, Mass., Montreal, Canada: Imprimerie du Messager, 1913.

Ellis, Leonard B. History of New Bedford and Its Vicinity, Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason and Co., 1892.

Da Silva exhibit celebrates Day of Portugal

Palavras e Pinturas: Historias de Portugal (Words and Paintings: Histories of Portugal), a free public exhibition of works by Karen E. da Silva, Ph.D. will be on view June 7-10 in the Jacobs Family Gallery, part of Day of Portugal weekend celebrations.

An author and artist, Dr. da Silva is American born. She is an educator and lives in Shelton, Connecticut with her husband, Augusto, who was born in central Portugal. In their frequent travels to Portugal, Karen was deeply inspired by the beauty, way of life, traditions, and culture of the country. She captured it in her daily journals in words and pictures, recorded the stories that Augusto told about growing up there, and painted from sketches and photographs in her home studio. The exhibition includes these stories in words and pictures as well as the nine picture books that she has written.

Of the exhibition, the artist noted, “My goal in this work is to honor the beauty and spirit of Portugal, its culture and traditions, and to let children and adults see how words and pictures work together to tell stories, to celebrate memories of childhood, and to inspire others to tell their stories. A good story becomes everyone’s story.”

The exhibition is sponsored by the Consulate of Portugal, New Bedford; Committee for the Day of Portugal; Portuguese United for Education; Azorean Maritime Heritage Society; and WJFD.

Help Us Welcome Our Apprentices

New Bedford Whaling Museum welcomes new apprentices, Oct. 25 at 4:30 p.m.

(NEW BEDFORD, Mass.)  —  The New Bedford Whaling Museum will introduce its new class of High School Apprentices during a brief ceremony on Tuesday, October 25, at 4:30 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery. The public is cordially invited to attend.

The twelve juniors and seniors attend high school in New Bedford and include seven new apprentices who were chosen from a pool of 52 applicants. Five returning apprentices will work directly with museum staff in a department of their choosing. All will be working after school, Tuesday through Friday until the end of May 2012 and will return in the summer for a six-hour workday. Museum president James Russell, museum vice president for education and programming, Jim Lopes, trustee and chair of the education committee, Dawn Blake-Souza, and Robert Rocha – who directs the apprentice program – will address the gathering. Apprentices will also introduce themselves to the audience during the event. Refreshments will be served.

Overseen by the museum’s education department, the apprentice program provides a unique opportunity for local youth to learn a variety of museum skills and expand their scholastic horizons. The program is funded through the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the Howard Bayne Fund, the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the United Way of Greater New Bedford, the City of New Bedford Community Development Block Grant Program, the Island Foundation, and the Thomas Anthony Pappas Charitable Foundation.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world’s most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales, whaling and the cultural history of the region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city’s historic downtown and is open daily. For a complete calendar of events, visit the Whaling Museum online at www.whalingmuseum.org.

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For more information, contact:

Robert Rocha

Science Director

(508) 717-6849

rrocha@whalingmuseum.org

Inupiat Whaling

Point Barrow, Alaska, watercolor painting by Sophie E. Porter, 1895-1896, from the NBWM's Kendall Collection

New Bedford’s renewed relationship with Barrow, AK, fostered both through the National Park Service and through the ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations) program, brought their traditional whale hunts back into our local consciousness. An article in the New York Times from Monday, features a video and a reference to New Bedford whaling tools still being used in Barrow.

The story is also a reminder that effects of climate change are more quickly and easily seen in the planet’s polar regions. Shrinking polar ice caps are changing the way the hunt is conducted. What is not mentioned is that a shorter ice season leads to longer periods of open water that can be pushed by the wind to increase coastal erosion, another issue facing Barrow residents.

Scrimshaw Weekend expands with nautical antiques auction, May 13-15

This English watercolor of the ship Iona in its original frame is one of many consigned and donated nautical antiques in the Scrimshaw Weekend's Benefit Auction on May 14 at 8pm, proceeds to benefit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. None of the items are from the Museum's collections. (Photo by Richard Donnelly)

Scrimshaw experts, collectors and fans from around the world have another reason to look forward to the 22nd Annual Scrimshaw Weekend at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, May 13-15. It features three days of new presentations and activities, including a first-ever public auction of consigned nautical antiques on Saturday, May 14 at 8:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

The world’s only forum dedicated to the indigenous shipboard art of whalemen, Scrimshaw Weekend attracts enthusiasts from four continents to share the enjoyment of collecting and researching this remarkable artwork at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of scrimshaw.

The weekend kicks off at noon on Friday, May 13 with a Marine Antiques Show and Swap Meet, expanded by popular demand. On Friday evening, the keynote address titled “‘Built’ Scrimshaw: Types, Tools, and Construction Methods” is presented by James Vaccarino, J.D., and Sanford Moss, Ph.D. at 8:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater. A full day of special programs devoted to scrimshaw on Saturday will wrap up with a cocktail reception at 5:00 p.m. and gala banquet at 6:00 p.m. The banquet will be followed by a public auction of consigned and donated nautical antiques at 8:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater, with proceeds to benefit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Special exhibitions and an optional fieldtrip on Sunday are also planned.

Marine Antiques Show and Swap Meet

On Friday, May 13, from noon to 5:00 p.m., the second annual Marine Antiques and Swap Meet will feature for sale high quality marine antiques including scrimshaw, nautical instruments and tools, whaling logbooks, ship models, photos, paintings, prints, New Bedford memorabilia, and more in the Jacobs Family Gallery. Entry fee for the Antiques Show and Swap Meet only is $5, or free with museum admission or membership.

Scrimshaw Plenary Sessions

On Saturday, May 14, plenary sessions from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. will include, “Care and Feeding: Taking Care of Your Scrimshaw – Expanded,” with Conservator and Curatorial Intern, D. Jordan Berson, M.A., M.L.S.; Scrimshaw Preservation and Conservation Q&A Session; “Pictorial Sources of Scrimshaw in Institutional and Private Collections” with Jack H. T. Chang, M.D.; “Pictorial Sources of Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum,” with Stuart Frank, Ph.D., Senior Curator, NBWM; “Scrimshaw in the McDowell Collection”; “Pirates and Female Pirates on Scrimshaw,” and more.

Sessions will also include a Scrimshaw Market Report and Q&A with marine antiques dealer, Andrew Jacobson; an update on “A Comprehensive Catalogue of Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum,” with James Russell, Museum president; Richard Donnelly, book photographer, and Sara Eisenman, designer; Nautical Antiques Auction overview with Richard Donnelly, and a Collectors’ Show-and-Tell.

Public Auction of Consigned Nautical Antiques

On Saturday, May 14 at 8:00 p.m., guest auctioneer Ron Bourgeault of Northeast Auctions, LLC, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will preside over the public auction of a wide array of consigned nautical antiques including scrimshaw and whale craft, marine paintings, engravings and lithographs, log books, charts, antique photos, nautical instruments and more in the Cook Memorial Theater. A featured expert on the popular PBS series, Antiques Roadshow, Ron’s career in the antiques business spans four decades. He established Northeast Auctions in 1987, now ranked among the largest auction houses in the United States.

The public auction will consist of consignment and donated items only, with proceeds to benefit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. No items are from the Museum’s collections.

Approximately 150 lots will include many fine examples of scrimshaw, including whales’ teeth, whale bone busks engraved with various subjects, whale bone fids, a whale ivory pie crimper, fine inlaid sewing box from the Nye family, five canes including lady’s leg and fist examples, cribbage board, carved whale’s tooth amulet, lady’s leg pipe tamper, hand & cuff bodkin, whale bone clothes pin, large whale bone carved spoon and more. Auction listings and photos are online at www.auctionzip.com.

Preview of auction items in the Resource Center begins Friday, May 13 from noon to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday, May 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend the preview and auction at no charge. Left bids will be accepted. No phone or online bidding. Payment: cash, check and major credit cards accepted. There is a 15% buyer’s premium and Massachusetts sales tax is applicable to buyers without a valid resale certificate.

The fee for Scrimshaw Weekend, including admission to the Museum, all open galleries, Scrimshaw & Marine Antiques Show, scheduled meals, all plenary sessions and refreshments: $335 (Museum members $295) before May 1. After May 1 the fee is $370 (Museum members $330). Tickets to Saturday’s banquet only: $75 each.

On Sunday, May 15, an optional all-day fieldtrip will head to Nantucket Island and its Whaling Museum for a “behind the scenes” tour of its outstanding scrimshaw collection, including the museum’s off-campus storage facility. A special visit to an extraordinary private whaling collection will include a reception hosted by the owners. The bus will leave at 7:30 a.m. from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, returning by 8:00 p.m. The price is $235 and includes luncheon at the famed Jared Coffin House, all motor coach and ferry transportation.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Northeast Auctions, LLC of Portsmouth, NH, and the Maine Antique Digest, who have helped make Scrimshaw Weekend possible year after year.

To register, contact: Visitor Services, (508) 997-0046, ext. 100, or frontdesk@whalingmuseum.org