Tag Archives: Maritime History

Pirates & Pirate Nests in the British Atlantic World


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ben_franklins_worldPirates are alive and well in our popular culture. Thanks to movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and television shows like Black Sails, we see pirates as peg-legged, eye-patch wearing, rum-drinking men.

But are these representations accurate? What do we really know about pirates?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Mark Hanna, an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego, and author of the award-winning book Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740, (UNC Press, 2015) helps us fill in the gaps in our knowledge to better understand who pirates were and why they lived the pirate’s life. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/099

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New Book: FDR On His Houseboat


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fdr on his houseboat book coverIn the midst of the Jazz Age, while Americans were making merry, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken by polio and withdrew from public life. From 1924 to 1926, believing that warm water and warm air would help him walk again, he spent the winter months on his new houseboat, the Larooco, sailing the Florida Keys, fishing, swimming, playing Parcheesi, entertaining guests, and tending to engine mishaps.

During his time on the boat, he kept a nautical log describing each day’s events, including rare visits by his wife, Eleanor, who was busy carving out her own place in the world. Missy LeHand, his personal assistant, served as hostess aboard the Larooco. Continue reading

NYC Lecture Series Begins With ‘East River’ Thursday


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east river mapThe Roosevelt Island Historical Society begins its Fall Lecture Series with a presentation on the commercial and cultural significance of the river and channel that surround Roosevelt Island and separate Manhattan and Queens.

Bob Singleton, Executive Director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, will cover the East River from Governors Island to Fort Totten in a lecture at the New York Public Library Branch on Roosevelt Island, on Thursday, September 8, 2016, at 6:30 pm. Continue reading

Matton Shipyard Receives Historic Preservation Grant


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Matton Shipyard main buildingErie Canalway National Heritage Corridor was awarded a $5,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from the John E. Streb Fund for New York. These grant funds will be used to conduct a feasibility and master planning study of Matton Shipyard, a threatened early 20th century facility important to the story of New York’s Erie Canal. The project will result in plans for re-purposed structures, interpretation, and community space open to the public. Continue reading

Knickerbocker Commodore: Life and Times of John Drake Sloat


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knickerbocker commodoreBruce Castleman’s new book, Knickerbocker Commodore: The Life and Times of John Drake Sloat 1781-1867 (SUNY Press, 2016) chronicles the life of Rear Admiral John Drake Sloat, an important but understudied naval figure in US history.

Born and raised by a slave-owning gentry family in New York’s Hudson Valley, Sloat moved to New York City at age nineteen.

Castleman explores Sloat’s forty-five-year career in the Navy, from his initial appointment as midshipman in the conflicts with revolutionary France to his service as commodore during the country’s war with Mexico. Continue reading

New Exhibit of Maritime Art Open at Museum Ship Lilac


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Raincoat, metal, ink, thread, paper, strappingNow on view at the museum ship Lilac at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 in New York City is “Adam Payne: Full Steam Ahead,” an exhibit of maritime art in mixed media.  The exhibit continues through the end of September.

The works are inspired by Adam Payne’s love of history combined with an appreciation for everyday materials. The exhibit includes a series of life jackets begun in 2014 and sewn from old rain slickers, creating a symmetry between materials and form. These grew out of Payne’s longtime interest in nautical explorations and how places are changed by such maritime interventions. Each life jacket incorporates the name of a different “failed” explorer in a nod to this history. Continue reading

New Biography of Playboy, Yachtsman Gordon Bennett


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gordon bennett book coverAfter a drunken evening in New York’s lavish Union Club, three of the richest men in America made a bet that would change the course of yachting history. Six men died in the brutal first race across the Atlantic, turning the perception of yachting from gentleman’s pursuit to rugged adventure. The $90,000 prize (about $15 million today) helped to herald the “gilded age” of America.

Sam Jefferson’s new book Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic (Bloomsbury, 2016) tells the tale of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the playboy son of the New York Herald multi-millionaire. Continue reading

The Heroic Age of Diving: America’s Underwater Pioneers


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the heroic age of diving book coverIn The Heroic Age of Diving: America’s Underwater Pioneers and the Great Wrecks of Lake Erie (SUNY Press Excelsior Editions, 2016),  Jerry Kuntz shares the fascinating stories of the pioneers of underwater invention and the brave divers who employed the new technologies as they raced with – and against – marine engineers to salvage the tragic wrecks of Lake Erie.

Beginning in 1837, some of the most brilliant engineers of America’s Industrial Revolution turned their attention to undersea technology. Inventors developed practical hard-helmet diving suits, as well as new designs of submarines, diving bells, floating cranes, and undersea explosives. These innovations were used to clear shipping lanes, harvest pearls, mine gold, and wage war. Continue reading