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American Civil War

31 March 2011 by Sarah

Image of a seafarers discharge certificate from ship Alabama

Certificate of Discharge from the CSS Alabama, Confederate States Navy for George Freemantle, DX/1841.

The Merseyside Maritime Museum is commemorating Liverpool’s involvement in the American Civil War, which took place 150 years ago, 1861-1865.  There are various text panels and a trail leaflet that allows you to find related exhibits throughout the building, including in the International Slavery Museum.  My task has been to put together a display of items from the archive collections for our showcases outside the Maritime Archives & Library on the second floor.  We’ve got a lot of relevant stuff, so we’re going to have changing displays until 2015.  Read more…

Fur coats

23 March 2011 by Sarah

Newspaper advert of woman in fur coat and stuffed bear

Illustrated London News advert, reference DX/287.

For this blog post I am going to have to confess to being unable to come up with any maritime or current affairs link, I just found an image that was too good (or bad) not to share.  Archivists are not keen on accepting newspapers within collections because they are usually available in a well managed and coherent way in newspaper libraries.  I especially hate bundles of undated clippings from unidentified newspapers – ‘if you’re going to cut them out and keep them, at least include the date and source’, I mutter to long dead depositors.  Anyway, when a newspaper does pass our ruthless selection criteria the adverts and other stories are often more interesting than the reason the depositor carefully saved it.  This is especially true of our editions of the Illustrated London News. While I find maritime disasters as interesting as the next person (and in the Maritime Archives & Library, that means very interesting indeed), I couldn’t take my eyes off this fantastically awful advert for a furriers.  I’m not sure who looks more uncomfortable, but the woman, while being incredibly constricted by corsets, has the advantage of not being stuffed and mounted. Read more…

Disasters at sea and elsewhere

25 February 2011 by Sarah

Bound volume of newspaper reports September 1934

Lloyd’s Weekly Casuality Reports, September 1934

Lorna, Assistant Librarian at the Maritime Archives & Library, has been cataloguing our collection of Lloyd’s Weekly Casualty Reports, which are useful sources of information for shipwrecks and other maritime mishaps.  We can tell something is up because she keeps laughing and reading bits out.  While the early Casualty Reports, ours start in 1890, are a fairly straightforward list of ships that have been wrecked, burnt or otherwise damaged, in later years they become more widespread in their tales of woe including, in September 1977, entries regarding a fire in a glove factory in Aberdeen and the kidnapping of a stamp collectors’ daughter in Italy.  The editors appears to have become rather ghoulish.  However, the thing to remember when using Lloyd’s records, which include many of the great sources for maritime research, is that it’s all about insurance, not about collecting information for ship enthusiasts or family historians. If you had just been asked to underwrite a glove makers you would need to know that there had been a serious fire in no less than the ‘largest manufacturers of knitted gloves in the western hemisphere’ and if you’re setting rates for life insurance, kidnappings are important. All that being said, I do have a suspicion that their correspondents were having a competition to see which is the daftest thing they can get published – for example a reported ‘near riot’ on 4th September 1977 at a music festival in West Germany caused by the ‘absence of some well-known groups’.  1970s German rock music, I think I’d have rioted. Read more…

A new life overseas

17 February 2011 by Sarah

Drawing of people outside emigration office 1850

Emigration Office, Illustrated London News, 6th July 1850 (DX/287/62/5)

There has been a recent change to the regulations regarding the number of non-EU immigrants that can work in the UK.  In 1850 emigration from the UK was seen as a good way for the unemployed to seek new opportunities.  Government supported emigration required more regulation.  This image from the Illustrated London News shows the Medical Inspectors Office.  Destination countries obviously wanted healthy new arrivals and the spread of disease on a crowded emigrant ship could cause many deaths.  I hope that dog isn’t being left behind. Read more…

Just a quick note

28 January 2011 by Sarah

Jamaican bank note

Jamaican 10 shilling note from the consignment shipped on board the Politician. (DX/2515)

The Maritime Archives & Library has a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions in the 3 showcases outside our door on the second floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.  Our current exhibition, in conjunction with our colleagues from the UK Border Agency National Museum, is on the Harrison Line vessel Politician, which ran aground off the island of Eriskay, Scotland.  The fact that the vessel was carrying a lot of whisky is well known, highlighted by the novel and film Whisky Galore, but there was a lot of other interesting cargo onboard, not least 290,000 Jamaican bank notes.  The recent publicity for the opening of the exhibition caught the eye of a man interested in the story of the ship.  He has kindly donated one of the very bank notes to us and we’ve added it to the exhibition. Read more…

Sailing to Australia

13 January 2011 by Sarah

plan of accommodation on an emigrant ship

While Australia is currently suffering terrible hardships brought about by flooding, for many it was and remains a land of promise and opportunity.  This image is taken from a newspaper article from 1852 explaining the Government funded emigration system that provided assisted passage for those wanting to start a new life in the Colonies. The drawing was highlighting the space available on an emigrant vessel and the physical separation between single men and single women, located safely away from each other at either end of the ship.  Unfortunately the ship in question, the Bourneuf, did not have a successful voyage and by the time it arrived in Australia after leaving Liverpool in May 1852, 88 of the 830 passengers had died, mainly from diseases caused by poor sanitation. The ensuing enquiry banned the vessel from carrying emigrants until improvements were made, but the vessel was wrecked anyway on its next voyage from Melbourne to Bombay on the Great Detached Reef just off the Northern Australian coast. The enquiry report also stated that although the unmarried female passengers had been protected from the unmarried male passengers, they had not be able to prevent contact and fraternisation with the crew.  So, all in all, not the most successful vessel that has sailed on the high seas. Read more…

Christmas dinner at sea

22 December 2010 by Sarah

Christmas Day menu 1895

Luncheon menu, White Star Line ship Gothic, 25th December 1895 (ref SAS/29/18/22)

At lunchtime on the 25th December I will be tucking into roast turkey and all the trimmings, especially cranberry sauce, the culinary highlight of the Christmas season.  If you were a first class passenger on the White Star Line ship Gothic on 25th December 1895 you would be enjoying the fare on this menu, part of the collections at the Maritime Archives & Library.  It’s a rather meat heavy menu, with a lot of mutton, but would have been considerably more varied than the food provided for the third class passengers. The Gothic was on a voyage from Plymouth to New Zealand and had left Table Bay, South Africa on the 20th December, so there would have been fresh food on board. Read more…

Big Freeze

7 December 2010 by Sarah

Dock with ice on water

Canning Half Tide Dock

Apparently the big freeze will be over by the end of the week.  We were lucky this time in Liverpool, just slippery pavements rather than feet of snow.  This is how the Canning Half Tide dock looked this morning, partially frozen with a few confused seagulls picking their way across the ice. 

I should really include something maritime related rather than just a nice view out of the window of the Maritime Archives & Library, so I shall mention a few points from the entry on ‘ice’ in the very useful Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, part of our library collections.  Sea water freezes at about -1.9 degrees centigrade rather than the normal 0 degrees because of the dissolved salts in the water.  When sea water freezes the salts are left in solution making the unfrozen water saltier.  Frozen sea water forms pack ice which can last for 5 years in the Arctic, whereas icebergs are broken off from glaciers or ice shelves, so we’re unlikely to see one of those in the dock. Read more…

Sending brimstone to Ireland

30 November 2010 by Sarah

List of Irish ports and goods 1819

Myers’ Mercantile Advertiser, 1819

The Irish economy and its close links with the British economy has been in the news recently, so here is some evidence of the situation in 1819.  This extract is from Myers’ Mercantile Advertiser, Monday 8th February 1819 and shows some of the goods shipped from Liverpool to various ports in Ireland in the previous few weeks.  As most of the commodities would not have been produced in Liverpool it demonstrates the importance of the port as a trading hub.  The abbreviation ‘c’ stands for hundredweight, which confusingly was normally 112lbs (or about 50kgs), so the quantity of goods is quite large. Read more…

Catalan visit

22 November 2010 by Sarah

people looking at document

Last week the Maritime Archives & Library had a visit from staff from a number of maritime museums in Catalonia.  The Barcelona Maritime Museum, which, it pains me to say, is in an historic building even more impressive than ours, is thinking of setting up an archive facility with public access and so came to look at our stores and public searchroom.  Needless to say they arrived on a classic Albert Dock day of driving rain and grey skies, but we wouldn’t want the British obsession with the weather to be undermined with a nice sunny day.