Ship Models, Ship Wrecks and Ship Stories

It is only natural that Manchester-by-the-Sea would have some maritime history. We were home to many seaman who traveled the world as well as skilled craftsmen who helped make vessels and models of vessels. The Manchester Historical Museum has a number of pieces that help tell that maritime story. Below is the text with images from a 2018 exhibit highlighting pieces from our collection curated by John Huss.

This primitive wooden ship model of a cutter with cardboard sails was made as a toy by a local sea captain named Tappan sometime in the late 1800’s. It was a plaything for his daughter, who eventually lived on Friend Street in the 1940’s and 50’s. She in turn gave it to a friend, Joanne Manning Shueth who now lives in Harrison Maine.

Ms. Manning kindly donated it to the Museum in June of 2018. At the time it was in dire need of some “TLC”. Manchester Historical Museum curator, John Huss, sought the assistance of world renowned model builder, Erik Romberg, Adjunct Curator of the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. Erik restored the model and mounted it on a display cradle.

This handsome model of a schooner was built by Charles Lovegreen who was one of the many skilled craftsmen employed by the Dodge Furniture Company here in Manchester. We cannot date when it was built.

The ship is obviously a pleasure yacht, not a fishing schooner like those that sailed out of Gloucester. Note the port holes, indicating staterooms below deck as well as a gilded eagle on her stern. Her owner would have most certainly been a person of wealth.

The story behind this large rigged model of the U.S.S. Constitution – better known as ”Old Ironsides” is a fascinating one indeed. On August 18, 1812, on the high seas not far from Boston Harbor, the “Constitution” engaged the British warship “Guerriere” in one of the most decisive battles in naval history.

Thanks to superb ship handling and the celebrated skill of the Yankee gunners, the battle was short and sweet. Casualties aboard the “Constitution” totaled 14 men; aboard the “Guerriere” 78 British seamen lost their lives. One of those skilled American gunners was Richard A. Dunn. According to one naval historian, once the British had surrendered, Dunn stood at one of the gun ports and led a cheer in celebration. At that very moment, a British gun discharged one last shot which all but killed Dunn, leaving him crippled for life.

He was carried below where the ship’s surgeon cut his wounded leg off below the knee. A shipmate named Moses Smith wrote in his diary, “Dick Dunn bore the amputation with a fortitude I shall always bear in mind. “You are a hard set of butchers” was all he said to the surgeon, as the torn and bleeding limb was severed from his body”.

So great was Dunn held in the esteem of his shipmates , that one of them took a piece of the “Constitution’s” taffrail that had been shot off in battle and crafted a crude model of the ship which he presented to Dunn during his convalesce in a Naval hospital. We are uncertain whether that model was simply the hull, or also had masts and rigging. In any event, before his death, Dunn sold the model to his nephew, Charles M. Curriea of Manchester. At the time, the model consisted of nothing more than the hull.

Mr. Crurriea proceeded to restore the model, adding the masts and rigging, and perhaps the small figures on deck as well. He then had the display case custom made and enlisted an artist friend to paint the backdrop of Boston Harbor. At the request of Curriera descendants, the model as we see today, was presented to the Manchester Historical Society in 1925.

The schooner ”Hannah” was commissioned by General George Washington to be the first armed vessel of the U.S. Navy. Before assuming this role in 1775, she was a fishing schooner owned by John Glover of Marblehead and was named for his daughter Hannah. (This is the same John Glover who commanded the Marblehead mariners who rowed Washington’s army across the Delaware River on December 25, 1776).

Washington’s orders to the first captain of the “Hannah”, Nicholas Broughton, were to “….cruise against such vessels as may be found…bound inward and outward, to and from Boston in the service of the British army and take and seize all such vessels, laden with soldiers, arms or provisions”.
The “Hannah’s” brief career ended a month after being commissioned, when she ran aground off Beverly after being attacked by the British sloop “Nautilus”. After a four hour engagement with a small American fort on shore the “Nautilus” was badly damaged but managed to escape. The “Hannah” suffered minor damage, but was soon decommissioned as Washington found more suitable ships for his new navy.

Following her encounter with the “Nautilus”, the “Hannah” was towed to Lee’s Wharf in Manchester, where seven carpenters over the course of 3 weeks restored her to working condition. She was renamed the “Lynch” and on a voyage to France carrying correspondence for U.S. Ambassador Benjamin Franklin, was captured by a British warship. She was then sold and reverted to her original role as a merchant ship.

Unfortunately, we have no record of how the Museum acquired this fine model or who the craftsman was who built it.

This is a model of the “Half Moon”, the ship sailed by English explorer Henry Hudson on one of his four voyages to the New World. In 1609 Hudson made land-fall in Newfoundland and then proceeded to sail along the Atlantic coast hoping to discover a Northwest Passage across North America. He eventually sailed 150 miles up the river which now bears his name.

This model of the “Half Moon” is very similar in design to the “Arbella”, the flagship of Governor John Winthrop’s fleet which left England in 1630 en route to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. According to local folklore, the “Arbella” anchored off Manchester (then known as Jeffrey’s Creek) in June of 1630 where Governor Winthrop was greeted by the local Chief of the Agawams, Masconomo.

A replica of the “Arbella” played a starting role in Manchester’s 350th Anniversary in 1995 and was sailed from its home port in New York to Manchester for the celebration.

Our model of the “Half Moon” is on loan to the Museum from the Manchester Public Library.

This charming shadow box was built by a Manchester lobsterman named Augustus Ferreira (1870-1955) who once lived on Morse Court. He was captain of his own boat, the “Ambitious.”

According to his grand-daughter, Jean Morgan, Augustus made models like this for his daughter and as wedding gifts for friends. Jean inherited this model from her mother Cecilia Amatucci Ferreira and kindly donated it to the Manchester Historical Museum in 2018.

The original “St. Petersburg” was built at the Waterman & Ewell yard in Medford, MA in 1839. Weighing 840 tons, she was at the time the largest merchant vessel ever built in Massachusetts. It was commissioned by the Boston firm of Enoch Train & Company. A part owner was the skipper of the ship, Captain Richard Trask of Manchester, MA, whose share of the cost was $15,000. This is a reproduction of a watercolor of the ship under sail.
She was named the “St. Petersburg” because most of her voyages were to Russian where Captain Trask developed a close friendship with members of the royal family including Czar Nicholas the 1st. In fact, the figurehead on the bow depicted the Czar himself. This was copied from a small plaster figure of Nicholas which Captain Trask brought back from Russia. Trask’s granddaughter, Mary G. Trask, recalls, “The figure stood on the mahogany console table in our grandmother’s parlor.”

The “St. Petersburg” was a grand ship, beautifully appointed. Whenever she reached port, crowds would gather to come aboard and marvel at the fine furnishings in the captain’s cabin, the mahogany railings and Russian cut glass dinnerware. She was, however, an ill-fated ship. On January 17, 1843, she was dismasted in a fierce storm off Liverpool, England. No lives were lost, but it took months and $35,000 for her to be repaired and sailed back to Boston. Her last voyage under the command of Captain Trask was in 1845, when she carried several hundred refugees from Ireland escaping the potato famine.

Enoch Train & Company eventually sold the “St. Petersburg” and her bad luck continued. In 1856, while returning to the States from Bombay, India, she began to sink and was abandoned at sea.

Happily for the Manchester Historical Museum, the story does not end there. In 2013,while visiting the Museum, Steve Parson of Hamilton, a history buff, sailor and skilled builder of half models was so taken with the story of the “St. Petersburg” that he offered to build this half-model for our permanent collection. It was a most generous offer we were quick to accept.

This diorama was supposedly brought back from Surinam by a Manchester merchant sea captain around 1837 and depicts a native plantation.
Merchant ships from Cape Ann would carry a cargo of salt fish to the West Indies and exchange it for a cargo of molasses, sugar and cotton. The fish was often a poor quality, destined to feed the plantation slaves. The molasses was a necessary ingredient the lucrative rum business.

We are reasonably sure this diorama was made by a Dutch artist living in Surinam named Gerit Schouten. The backs of this display case are covered with Dutch bills of sale and newspapers. Similar dioramas by Schouten are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The “USS New Hampshire” was built in 1817 as a 74-gun ship of the line for the U.S. Navy. The “New Hampshire” never saw any actual action, serving primarily as a training vessel for young sailors. In 1904 her name was changed to “Granite State” so a new “New Hampshire” could join the fleet. In 1921, while lying in at New York City, she caught fire and sank. She was sold as she lay for salvage to a company in Maine.

The charred hulk was eventually floated and began a final voyage to Eastport, Maine, towed by several tugs. On (or about) July 27, 1923, she again caught fire, this time off the coast of Manchester. Despite every effort to save her, she had to be cut free and drifted ashore, where she grounded and sank on the south side of Grave’s Island off Dana’s Beach.

Almost immediately scores of scavengers descended on the wreck, picking her clean of copper spikes, metal fittings and other artifacts. Local artist, Charles Hopkinson, was enjoying his summer residence overlooking the beach and was quick to capture the scene in a hasty yet dramatic water color sketch. A large timber from the wreck with copper spikes imbedded can be seen against the stone wall along the walkway of the Museum.

Another wreck occurred off Manchester on January 8, 1923, when the four-masted schooner “Alice E. Colburn” washed ashore on Egg Rock off Singing Beach. Among those on the scene was local resident Herman W. Calnek, who salvaged some timber from the wreck to make a wooden box now in the museum’s collection. His pencil drawings of the ship are on both the lid and front of the box. Mr. Calnek also salvaged leg irons and hand cuffs from the wreck. We do not know why these were part of the ship’s cargo or really anything else about her.

The log of Captain Thomas Leach of Manchester (on display on the dining room of the Trask House) provides a day to day account of his voyages from 1856-1861. Leach first went to sea at the age of nine, as the cabin boy for his father, also Thomas Leach. By the age of 25, he was qualified to command his own ship and eventually completed 20 voyages to Russia, three to China and many more to India and other ports around the world. In 1874, at the age of 67, Leach moved ashore to become the Warden of the Port of Boston, a most prestigious position.

Tracing an awe-inspiring route from Boston around Cape Horn to the California coast, “Two Years Before the Mast” is both a riveting story of adventure and a most eloquent account of life at sea in the 19th century. The author, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., at the age of 19, abandoned the patrician world of Boston and Harvard for an arduous voyage among real sailors and genuine danger.

He also abandoned, at least temporarily, the good life as a summer visitor to Manchester. His father, Richard Henry Dana, Sr. was a highly regarded literary figure in Boston. In 1845, Senior became the first of his circle to build a summer cottage here in Manchester, overlooking what became known as Dana’s Beach. Soon, his Boston friends began to build cottages of their own, thus establishing the summer colony that made Manchester-by-the-Sea world famous during the “Gilded Age.” (Image shows Sr to the left, Jr to the right and R H Dana III standing in between.)