Monday, November 7, 2011

The ISLANDER, a ferry in Los Angeles Harbor

The ISLANDER making its way across the Main Channel in Los Angeles Harbor, about 1957.

Did you know that 70 years ago, a round-trip ferry boat ride in Southern California was worth just 10 cents? This year, 2011, is the seventieth anniversary of the Los Angeles Municipal Ferry Service. Its ferries carried people and cars from the city of San Pedro to Terminal Island, a piece of land that connects together the maritime industries of Los Angeles and Long Beach along a shared waterfront. The ferry began its cross-channel trips in 1941 and made its last trip in 1963 when a brand-new route opened, The Vincent Thomas Bridge, which spanned the waters of the channel and relegated its ferry service to the historical background. Today, ferries are not well-known in this city, but you can still see and ride ferries in other cities in California, as well as in Oregon and Washington, and other states around the U.S.

"Channel Crossings: Work, School and Play"--a new exhibit on the history of the Los Angeles Municipal Ferry Service.

Los Angeles Maritime Museum Curator Emma Lang in front of panels in the new exhibit.

Emma recounts the social history behind the exhibit:

"When I was hired as the new curator I was given the task of developing an exhibit about our building—the former Municipal Ferry Terminal—and history of the ferries who crossed the Main Channel of LA Harbor prior to the building of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I quickly discovered that other than the building itself we have very few objects in our collection from the ferries or the building’s early days. How could I make an exhibit that was not dominated by images with so few objects to choose from? I went back to my training as a social historian and focused in on the people. Who walked through our doors? Who took the ferry? Where were they going? What were they talking about? What did they carry as they went to work? From those questions I developed the main cases of the exhibit which tell the story of Terminal Island and people who lived and worked there. There are still many images in the exhibit showing the evolution of the ferry service and our building but there is also a yearbook open to a page full of students who took the ferry to school, a pay stub that was carried by a cannery worker home from work on the ferry and a longshoreman’s hook used on the docks on Terminal Island. These objects are as much the story of the ferry services as the life ring from the ferry ISLANDER and the building itself."

Visit the Los Angeles Maritime Museum to see more on the ISLANDER and our ferry service as it once was.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

After Columbus, who seized the treasures?

The History of Pirates. / By Angus Konstam. Published by The Lyons Press, 2002 (c1999). In Association with the Mariners’ Museum, Virginia; Introduction by David Cordingly. 192 pages, color illustrations, index.




After Columbus’s ships besieged the islands of the Caribbean Ocean as early as 1492, North America became the new found conquest and source of gold. It was a time when three European nations fought each other on the seas, on rivers, in bays and inlets, all scrambling for riches they’d carried off from less savvy peoples, natives of foreign lands of North America, Southeast Asia and the Far East.

Piracy, the act of capturing and pillaging merchant ships, was one of the causes of success for the English and French as they vied for lands and treasure in the waters around the New World between 1500 and 1700AD.

Would you like to know more about how the underworld of this embezzlement ran? Konstam has gathered a collection of well-known accounts and illustrations of the pirates, timelines and maps. His book covers, albeit romantically, piratical history from ancient and medieval times to the Barbary Coast on the Mediterranean Sea: the first three chapters of this book are a backdrop to the torrid story of daring, violence and conspiracy that are hallmarks of the trade. And in the chapters from the Barbary Pirates and The Spanish Main forward to the Golden Age of Piracy (1690-1730), author Angus Konstam delivers mini biographical sketches of these most in-famous, terrifying and inscrutable bandits of the seas. See the last four chapters for calamitous misfortunes of maritime merchant traders in the Indian ocean and Asia as well as the effects of privateers on major sea battles.


From the Wikipedia article, “Pirates fight over treasure in a Howard Pyle illustration”.


One of the illustrators featured in The History of Pirates is Howard Pyle, considered to be an excellent illuminator of past times. In his illustration, “Which shall be Captain”, the sword fight determines the one who’ll claim the title “captain” and become leader of the band of marauders then known as pirates, buccaneers, or corsairs or freebooters.


Read more about pirates in books from the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library. If you’re a Museum Member, you can borrow books for up to three weeks. If you’re looking for more information, click here for our online catalog.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ship Modeler's Art on Display

Flying Cloud, 1851 as seen in Wikipedia article on the ship.

See the model of the Flying Cloud, an extreme clipper ship on display at The Los Angeles Maritime Museum, with many other ship models ranging from hand-worked wooden canoes to steel-hulled navy ships. Visit the Museum Research Library and ask for books on building ship models, or go online to our catalog.
Selected from the collection in the Museum Research Library, these books describe model ships and show how to build them:

1. Build This Model of Flying Cloud by Jim Tate
2. Building Plank-On Frame Ship Models by Ron McCarthy
3. A Modeler’s Guide to Hull Construction by A. Richard Mansir
4. The 32-Gun Frigate ESSEX by Portia Takakjian
5. Period Ship Model Handbook by Keith Julier
6. The Art of Ship Modeling by A. Richard Mansir
7. Shipbuilding in Miniature by Donald McNarry
8. Sailing Ship Rigs and Rigging by Harold A. Underhill
9. How to Build Ship Models by Richard Mansir
10. Aspects of the History of Wooden Shipbuilding/Basil Greenhill, editor.
11. Model Shipwright 2010 / Conway Maritime Press, Ltd.

See the text of newspaper articles from 1851 on the Flying Cloud here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Icons, Ship Models and the Art


Attempting to capture the essence of a model-builder’s work, this illustration captures the ideal model builder’s situation. See the leaflet, “Build This Model of Flying Cloud Donald McKay’s Most Famous Clipper Ship of the Year 1851” by James Tate; reprinted through Courtesy of Popular Mechanics (date unknown). It's here in our catalog.

Iconic attention-grabbers, finished models are entertaining, too. People like you identify with the concepts that a miniature conjures up, imagining themselves to be part of the scene before them: it's reality brought down to size. Model makers are artists who like the process of model-building. It’s a way to be busy but productive, while daydreaming about some historical ship’s times---be it 20th century sea battles or the first sea-going adventures or circumnavigation.



The Model Ship Her Role in History. / Norman Napier Boyd. This book inspired me to learn more about the ship modeler's art.
It is a curious fact, that all historic ship models were not created equally. In fact, although we think of ship models as the domain of hobbyists with loads of talent and time on their hands, models have traditionally served a wide array of needs, from devotional to opportunistic.

Why build a model?

Models, representing full-sized objects in miniature scale, conveyed ideas about how a vessel should look once constructed. As far back in history as Egyptian times (to 5000 B.C.), models were made to represent the powerful, the dreams and intent of the entombed person. As history unfolds, we see that before rulers and shipwrights built ships, models were made first, to help envisage the sizes and shapes 3-dimensionally. This convention persisted to the twentieth century in contracts between client and shipyard.

Then, too, ship models were made by sailors and prisoners to replicate existing naval and merchant ships. These models represented memory and culture and typically they resembled ships on which they had sailed and thus had significant experience. And those model-makers closely following their religious beliefs constructed models as votives or offerings, pleas for escape from calamity at sea.

Models encompass the world of recreation and entertainment. With the technologies of the twentieth century such as radio control and filmmaking, movie-goers were delighted and awed by the illusion of shipwreck, battles at sea, mutiny, etc., all told with ships that were a fraction of life-size---the model.

In the Foreword to Boyd’s book, Dr. Alan Scarth is quoted as saying that ship models play an important part in the knowledge base that is gained by a visit to a Maritime Museum. A ship model, due to its 3-dimensional quality is symbolic, holding the attention of its admirer while an inspection of every detail is matched to their imagination and personal questions.

You can read or peruse model shipbuilding books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library. This Library display can be seen in the Navy Hall at the Museum, along with books and models,and all around the Museum.






Thursday, July 14, 2011

Painter of Maritime Scenes


The Two-Masted Schooner

The basic example is this popular fore-and-aft rig on the order of the J.B. LEEDS, featured in this issue. Superior to the square rig for working to windward and undeniably handy, they were hard on sails and gear in light weather and calms due to lack of control over the attendant slatting and banging.

As vessel sizes increased, so did the number of masts. The practical limit apparently was six and only one had seven, the ponderous and outsized THOMAS W. LAWSON.

------ from The Compass Rose, Winter 1983-84

Paintings and drawings, besides imparting beauty and providing cultural expression, used to be required as the visual documentation of news articles and events---there were no cameras in wide-spread use yet in the mid-1800s! Beside the written word enjoyed in newspapers, journals and magazines, illustrations provided a secondary means of communication, and today can be relied upon for details and evidence not given otherwise. The following article confers homage to a painter of maritime subjects who did not entirely avoid the human aspect in his images of ships. Be sure to see the section below “Explanation of Terms Used”, especially for the Mechanics Institutes, a 200+ year-old school for unemployed men in San Francisco after the Gold Rush.



Joseph Lee, Marine Artist

Hanging on the south wall of the Sailing Ship Deck and offering a fine introduction to it and the west coast sailing ships of the 1860’s-1870’s is the splendid portrait of the two-mast schooner, J.B. LEEDS by Joseph Lee.

The J.B. LEEDS is depicted sailing in the stiff chop of an ebb tide through the Golden Gate with Marin County shoreline and Point Bonita Lighthouse in the background. Several schooners run ahead and astern of her, one of which appears to be a pilot schooner. Built in 1876 by Hiram Doncaster, Umpqua, Oregon, the J.B. LEEDS was 229.16 tons, 123 feet in length, 33.4 feet in breadth and 9.3 feet in depth. She had one deck. Her principal owner was Joseph Knowland and her home port, San Francisco. The J.B. LEEDS was sailed for 29 years as a lumber carrier before foundering off Luzon, Philippine Islands, March 5, 1905.

This painting of Joseph Lee, a marine and landscape artist, speaks to us through its charm, meticulous detail, and accuracy. Old-timers along the San Francisco waterfront used to say, “You could rig a ship from one of Lee’s pictures.” (“Joseph Lee, Painter” Alice Erskine Putnam, Antiques, June, 1969). The J.B. LEEDS is no exception. There is a great amount of finely painted detail on this schooner seen to port. She is in full sail on the choppy, grey-green waters of the Bay. Her shrouds, ratlines, deadeyes, blocks and pulleys can all be clearly seen, as can the sheets of job, foresail and mainsail. One can study and admire the sail makers’ art in the carefully painted sail seams. A feeling for the structure of the ship can be seen in a portion of the bulwark on the starboard side. The beautiful, intricate gold scroll design on the bow stands out against the black of the hull.

Lee has painted a number of people on board, seven in all, including the helmsman, a gentleman with spyglass in hand facing the stern, and a man facing the viewer waving his hat in the air. Across the deck a gentleman leans against the bulwark. One wonders if perchance any of the figures might have been the painter. Lee has clothed his individual in bright colors and presented the cut of their clothing in detail. The short jackets, white shirts, black ties and broad-brimmed hats, reveal some of the fashion of the period.

The clarity of this painting is in direct contrast to the facts of Lee’s life, most of which remain shrouded in obscurity. Born in England it is not known just when he arrived in the San Francisco Bay area. Also unknown is his background in art, whether he had teachers or whether he was self-taught.

Lee began his career as a sign and ornamental painter, certainly a not uncommon way for an artist of that period to begin, considering the artistry in the signs of that day. He apparently worked in this capacity for a number of years, becoming an active member of the Mechanics Institute, where his work was exhibited at different times. In 1858, Lee exhibited a tin sign at the Pavilion of the Institute, for which he received his first public notice, and for which he was awarded a diploma and a bronze medal, according to Alice Erskine Putnam.

... Lee’s most productive period was in the later 1860’s and 1870’s during which time he was one of the foremost marine artists of the Pacific Coast. He painted both portraits of sailing ships and steamships, as well as a number of landscapes.

Joseph Lee died in San Francisco in 1880, leaving us a wonderful legacy of art and a fine record of the ships and places of the San Francisco Bay area.

---- Norma Munger.


This week's post features Norma Munger's article (Norma was at the time an editor of the Compass Rose) and her appreciation of a maritime painting donated to the Museum. Paintings in the Museum's collections can be viewed between 10 am and 5 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, see our web site here.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library or online at New books and pamphlet this month!


Explanation of terms used: to expand your enjoyment of the article above, word meanings are taken, sometimes verbatim, from the International Maritime Dictionary, by Andre de Kerchove, 1961, or The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, by I.C.B. Dear and Peter Kemp, 2005.

Slatting: sails that flap violently in the wind.
Gold Rush: occurring between 1848 and 1852 in California, the Gold Rush was a time of exploration and development in the history of the West Coast. People from all over traveled to the state in search of a new life and to build their fortunes from the gold mines.
Ebb tide: refers to tidal movement from high to low tide.
Shrouds: strong wires or hemp ropes that support a mast.
Ratlines: small lines that cross the shrouds and form rope runs like rungs on a ladder.
Deadeyes: a stout disk of hard wood… used as blocks to connect shrouds, etc.
Blocks and pulleys: used for changing the direction of a rope or chain passing through pulleys.
Sheets: a rope or chain fastened to the lower corners of a sail… to help expand the sail.
Bulwark: the raised woodwork … running along each side of the vessel above the weather deck… keeping the deck dry and serving as a fence against losing deck cargo or men overboard. (de Kerchove)
Starboard side: the right-hand side of a vessel
Hull: the body of a vessel
Helmsman: also called steersman, wheelman.
Spyglass: a lens for magnifying the view of far-away objects.
Stern: the after part of a ship or boat.
Broad-brimmed hats: stylish in the mid to late 1800s, often woven from natural material.
Mechanics Institutes a nationally recognized school for men, it began in the mid-1800s.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Thrill of Ocean Travel


The WHITE SHIPS 1927-1978 : A Tribute to Matson’s Luxury Liners. / Duncan O’Brien. Published by Pier 10 Media, 2008. 283 p. Illustrations: black and white and color. ISBN 9780968673416.

Book Review By Paul Nitchman

The WHITE SHIPS is a tribute to the 125 years of operation of Matson Navigation Company.

The White Ships, MALOLO, MARIPOSA, MONTEREY LURLINE and MATSONIA are only memories, but in their day, pre-World War II, they were some of the finest luxury liners afloat. Back in the day one could sail from the West Coast to Hawaii in 4 ½ days in The “Grand Manor”.

On “Boat Day”, thousands would jam the Honolulu piers to give visitors to the islands a big ALOHA as they arrived aboard one of those grand ships. Visitors would then disembark and be taken to the Matson owned “Pink Palace”, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, to enjoy the Spirit of Aloha. Those were the days before the airlines became transport of choice for most travelers to Hawaii.

The book is filled with many pictures, ads, posters, dining room menus from the Matson archives along with personal reminiscences of the Matson staff. It is a great book for the nostalgia buff of Hawaiiana, as well as one who has interest in the great liners of the past.

Presently, Matson’s fleet of container ships provides a vital lifeline to the economies of Hawaii and Micronesia. See Matson company online for a closer look.

This week's post features Paul Nitchman’s article and his references to ships of the Matson line. More on the Matson company can be seen at Wikipedia’s article “Matson Navigation Company”.


Paul Nitchman, Museum Volunteer on the tug Angel’s Gate during a haul-out.

Explanation of terms:
haul-out: to haul, quoted from Rene De Kerchove's International Maritime Dictionary, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1961, p. 360, “1. to move a vessel in a harbor from one pier to another…”. In the photograph above the tug boat is underway in the channel at Los Angeles Harbor.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at New books and pamphlet this month!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hollywood at Sea, Part 2


The Hollywood Navy (Part Two)
First printed as the cover story in the Compass Rose, Vol. 6 No. 2 Spring 1987


The Museum’s “Hollywood Navy” falls into two categories: miniatures constructed by studio craftsmen especially for a particular motion picture; and models built by hobbyists representing famous ships that have appeared on the screen.

The most impressive studio “miniature” is the POSEIDON. Using the QUEEN MARY’s specifications, it took ten studio craftsman three months to construct the 22’ model, complete with four working propellers, interior lighting and smoking funnels. In the picture, “The Poseidon Adventure”, 20th-Century Fox sank her in less than an hour but it took five museum hobbyists one year to restore her, including the official “Cunard red” paint on her stacks.

Other studio models come in assorted sizes. In the 5’-10’ class are an old lumber schooner that served as a floating prop for “Slave Ship” while a Chinese junk appeared in “Sand Pebbles”. One miniature that delights the younger visitors in the PENGUIN SUBMARINE featured several years ago in the “Batman” T.V. series.
...

"BOUNTY replica built on schooner LILY hull for MGM's classic "Mutiny on the Bounty", starring Charles Laughton.


Nearby on the Main Deck, a neat replica of HMAV BOUNTY serves as a reminder of the three motion picture versions of the mutiny. When the 1984 replica of the full-scale ship was berthed adjacent to the Museum, large crowds turned out to see her. Even the venerable USS CONSTITUTION claims a Hollywood connection via her nickname OLD IRONSIDES, the title of a 1920’s swashbuckler.

In a similar way the CHARLES W. MORGAN and WANDERER are representative of early whalers in the silent movie, “Down to the Sea in Ships”, while the BLUE NOSE II and William E Fay Sr’s dramatic HELEN MARGARET depict the type of topsail fishing schooners used in “Captain’s Courageous”. The widescreen production of “Windjammer” starred the CHRISTIAN RADICH, the Norwegian training ship moored at the museum in November 1979. Craig Smith’s splendid watercolor of her hangs on the Promenade Deck.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum itself has served as location for several TV programs. Episodes of “Misfits of Science” and “Murder She Wrote” shot interior scenes on the Main Deck. The 15’ model of the brig, TRADITION, was used in a “MacGyver” segment. The adjacent waterfront has been used over a number of years. One of the neighboring Wilmington Transportation Company’s fleet of tugs was featured in an early TV series, “Waterfront”, starring Preston Foster. Docked next to the Gun Deck is an ex-minesweeper, the WILD GOOSE, John Wayne’s former yacht, which continues to be a hit with the public although it is not part of the museum.



The HOLLYWOOD underway as a training ship, date and photographer unknown.


On the 20th Century Deck, the model of the freighter, SS HOLLYWOOD, comes in for its share of attention. Thinking the obvious, visitors are chagrined to learn that it was named for David Hollywood, the manager of the local shipyard where it was built (now Southwest Marine, across the channel from Ports O’Call), rather than the glamour capital. Meanwhile, TVs enduring “Love Boat”, the PACIFIC PRINCESS, continues to glide majestically down the channel past the museum leading the parade of cruise ships out to sea.
--- Marian Skidmore

"The Hollywood Navy", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Marian Skidmore was presented on the front cover of the Spring 1987 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996. Note that the original article was printed 24 years ago, reflecting the historic nature of dates, names of movies stars and motion pictures of the day.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:

A term used in navigation, it refers to … see prior blog post, “Jack London in Southern California” for explanation.

The first entry for brig from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 67 is quoted as, “a two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both masts…”.

The entry for Chinese junk from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 1976, p. 435 is quoted as, “a native sailing vessel common to Far Eastern Seas, especially used by the Chinese and Javanese. It is a flat-bottomed, high-sterned vessel with square bows, with two or three masts carrying lugsails often made of matting stiffened with horizontal battens…”.

The entry for schooner from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 495 is quoted as, “schooner, possibly deriving from the Scottish verb ‘to scon’ or ‘scoon’, to skip over the water like a flat stone… A typical schooner has a “fore-and-aft rig on two or more masts…”.

In the Royal Navy of Great Britain, HMS stands for His Majesty’s Ship. The description of HMAV BOUNTY in Wikipedia shows the acronym HMAV referring to His Majesty’s Armed Vessel.

This week's post features Marian Skidmore’s article and her references to ships in the Los Angeles Harbor and ship models donated to the Museum.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hollywood at Sea

The Hollywood Navy (Part One)
First printed as the cover story in the Compass Rose, Vol. 6 No. 2 Spring 1987. The complete story will be posted in two parts.

When the motion picture industry moved its theater of operations from New York to Hollywood early in this century, the studios almost immediately enlisted this harbor as a permanent prop, as well as venerable sailing vessels, the Bark ALDEN BESSE and Barkentine FREMONT, by 1908. These veterans are followed in later years by an assortment of square-riggers and schooners, purchased outright or chartered for countless epics involving the sea. Among these numerous sailing fleet are recalled: INDIANA, MELROSE, BOHEMIA, IRENE, LLEWELLYN J. MORSE, PALMYRA, LILY, WILLIAM H. HARRIMAN, W.F. JEWETT, SAMAR, S.N. CASTLE. LOTTIE CARSON, METHA NELSON, not to mention numerous smaller craft and occasional steamers, engaged for a single picture.

Some ships were altered in appearance for the sake of authenticity and others brought from far afield, such as the Gloucester fishing schooner ORETHA F. SPINNEY from the East Coast for filing the Academy Award winner “Captain’s Courageous”, one of the truly classic examples of sea films.

With the advent of TV more than thirty years ago, Hollywood invaded the American home on a nightly basis. Nor does the public love affair with the film capital’s aura end there, judging by the number of visitor inquiries regarding the Los Angeles Maritime Museum’s “Hollywood Navy” collection.

In general, men seem intrigued by the different types of ships but most women and youngsters readily identify with any model bearing movie credentials. “Hollywood Navy” originally was the title of a photographic exhibit that Ed Hauck, our founding creator, had at one time aboard the old ferryboat, SIERRA NEVADA, at Ports O’Call. It featured photos of some of the motion picture industry’s top stars and directors of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s at leisure aboard their yachts…
Depicted herewith are a few of the many vessels employed in one or more motion picture productions in Southern California waters. Most of these were moored in San Pedro or Long beach between pictures. The first vessels secured for this work were the venerable Barkentine FREMONT (1) and Bark ALDEN BESSE (2) circa 1905-1910. Subsequently the three-masted schooner LOTTIE CARSON (3). The first HMAV BOUNTY replica (4) was created from two-masted schooner LILY. CHERYLANN (5) Preston Foster’s tug in WATERFRONT was a unit of the Wilmington Transportation Co. fleet. The Gloucester fishing schooner ORETHA SPINNEY (6) was brought out here to become the WE’RE HERE in the first film adaptation of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS. The mini “steam schooner” VAQUERO (7), a motor vessel built to carry cattle to and from Santa Rosa Island often earned extra movie money. The 4 masted schooner IRENE (8) was one of several such employed off and on. Some were destroyed for the finale, others became fishing barges.

"The Hollywood Navy", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Marian Skidmore was presented on the front cover of the Spring 1987 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996. Note that the original article was printed 24 years ago, reflecting the historic nature of dates, names of movies stars and motion pictures of the day.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:
A term used in navigation, it refers to … see prior blog post, “Jack London in Southern California” for explanation.

theater of operations
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1966, p. 1470 is quoted here: "part of the theater of war, including a combat zone and a communications zone, that is engaged in military operations and their support."

square-riggers:
The Oxford Dictionary of Ships and the Sea, 2005 (OUP), p. 553, is quoted: "square rig, a term that refers to the use of square-cornered sails, usually rectangular, set from horizontl spars or yards, balanced across the mast."

schooners:
The International Maritime Dictionary by Rene de Kerchove, 1961 (Litton), p 687 is quoted here: "schooner. A fore-and-aft rigged vessel with 2 to 6 masts, common in the coasting and fishing trades."

MELROSE:
a four-masted schooner is shown in this photograph from the Papers of William Olesen.

Hollywood Navy:
This week's post features Marian Skidmore’s article and her references to ships in the Los Angeles Harbor and ship models donated to the Museum. More on the movie Captain's Courageous can be seen at Wikipedia’s entry, “Captain's Courageous”.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Model forklifted into Museum



Model ship S.S. Poseidon in transport on June 26, 1984 from the studios of 20th Century Fox to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.




S.S. Poseidon
First printed as the cover story in the Compass Rose, Vol. 3 No. 4 Autumn 1984

Many of our ship models enter the Museum in the arms of their owners, or in a case which usually can be carried by two persons. However, our recent acquisition, the 21 ½ foot model of the S.S. POSEIDON, required the services of a king-forklift…

This POSEIDON starred in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, produced by 20th Century Fox Film Corporation in 1972, which was an outstanding film of that year.

Mr. Herman David, Studio Manager and Director of Studio service, who contacted us initially about donating this model to the Museum, has since furnished some interesting data.

Actually, what we have is a quarter-inch scale model built from original plans of the QUEEN MARY, or one forty-eighth of full size. The hull is made of fiberglass and finished with detailed hull plating, while wood and sheet metal were employed in the superstructure.

It represents the efforts of some 15 craftsmen over a period of three months and cost approximately $30,000. To duplicate the model today a price tag of $150,000 is estimated. Deck fittings are correct in detail and the whole assembly far more durable than a museum piece in order to withstand hard usage in filming.

Propulsion was by two golf cart motors driving the four propellers. A perforated pipe along the keel provided bubbles. A series of light bulbs inside the hull realistically lit up two rows of port holes and deckhouse windows for night scenes.

Much of the shooting was done in a 32 foot tank but for sea scenes a tank 300 by 360 feet was used. With blue sky backing and a tank edge over which water barely flowed a very realistic horizon was created.

Toward the end of the picture a series of explosions and a capsizing inflicted considerable damage which was, of course, repaired. Weight of the model was slightly over one ton with batteries and motors, now no longer in the hull.

Many scenes were filmed aboard the QUEEN MARY. Full-sized sets of staterooms, a radio room and dining room salon were, however, built in the studio. The dining room was built upside down with furniture bolted to the ceiling. The radio room was built full size on a slanting rail track into a tank to simulate the sinking motion and illustrates the lengths to which motion picture people will go in the pursuit of realism.

POSEIDON will be far and away the largest item in our maritime movie display when completed. The Harbor area and adjacent waters have been favorite props for countless sea pictures dating back to the days when the industry had barely begun to roll.

---- Bill Olesen


"S.S. POSEIDON", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Bill Olesen was presented on the front cover of the Autumn 1984 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996. Note that the original article was printed 27 years ago, reflecting the historic nature of dates, costs and personal and corporate names.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:

A term used in navigation, it refers to prior blog post, “Jack London in Southern California” for explanation.

POSEIDON
The first entry for Poseidon from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 439 is quoted as “The Greek god of the sea, known to the Romans as Neptune. In Greek mythology he was lord and ruler of the sea...”. This week's post features Bill Olesen's article after a model of the S.S. POSEIDON was donated to the Museum after use in the film The POSEIDON ADVENTURE by 20th Century Fox Studios. More on the movie can be seen at Wikipedia’s entry, “Poseidon, fictional ship”.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
new books and pamphlet this month!


A Line of Credit, p. 3
… The 21 ½ foot model of the S.S. POSEIDON arrived in the Museum on June 26, 1984. Delivery of a model this size involved some operations bordering on the dramatic, which were duly recorded in the San Pedro NEWS PILOT with a front page story and picture. RANDY MUDRICK and TOM COULTER teamed up to do the photo and text, respectively, which pleased us greatly.


LARANETA TRUCKING CO. brought the model down from 20th CENTURY FOX STUDIOS in West Los Angeles, but then the problem of unloading became the next hurdle. First to the rescue was TOM AMALFITANO with his fork lift from San Pedro Fish Market. Unfortunately, the reach was too great. A frantic canvas of potentials brought no results until Cdr. TOM GOODALL zeroed in on CHUCK SLOCOMBE, who relayed our S.O.S. to METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. who brought over a monster forklift which dissolved our dilemma instantly. Obviously, there is no substitute for good friends and neighbors who have helped us all the way since January 1980.

---- Norma S. Munger

Thursday, March 31, 2011

El Pueblo La Reina de los Angeles


Los Angeles A-Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County. / Leonard Pitt and Dale Pitt. University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0520-20530-7. 605 p. illustrations, maps, bibliography, tables, appendices pages 573-598.

What would a great city like L.A. do without adoring fans? If Facebook shows any indication, the city’s page there boasts over 4 hundred thousand “likes”… How many of those virtual visitors can claim to know that the area, according to the authors, has a 10,000-plus-year history? It’s the details found in the book’s almost 2000 entries that give visitors an edge when it comes to fascinating facts.

Los Angeles today reveals a history of commerce and industry. Looking closely at its neighborhoods you’ll get a sense of what mattered most to the people who’ve structured the physical place, the architecture, freeways, towns and municipalities. And from its multi-layered culture, see who influenced realistic and romantic notions of this western city.

In Los Angeles A-Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County, the authors organized and compiled data alphabetically around general topics, specific topics and biographies. The book offers brief and concise treatment of subject matter for both the city and the county named Los Angeles. Summaries, though dense with specificity and proper names, give an introduction and the terms as seed for more research, either online or in printed publications.

One way to benefit from the alphabetical format of the book is to look for general topics: see “adobe”, “Africans”, “aerospace industry”, and “archives” for instance. Entries for “ethnic groups” show specific detail such as populations in cities around Los Angeles, its demographics and U.S. Census data, previously published data from the Los Angeles Times and other publications. Even the word “growth” is included as an entry, after “grocery industry” and before “Gruen, Victor…” (architect). The encyclopedia is populated with biographies of authors, bandits, builders, mayors, publishers and many more who’ve affected popular impressions of the city. It indexes topics that have been the subject of newspaper articles for several decades in the later 20th century. Most entries are names of places, persons, animals, plants, objects, land forms, concepts and terms indicative specifically of this city. Referencing a general topic like “architecture” does not produce a list of styles but is attenuated to a chronological architecture in sections, significant of political change. These began around the time of the city’s incorporation and continue to the present: from 1781 until 1848, from 1848 to 1900, from 1900 to 1945, and since 1945. Something I didn’t know is that “Dingbat style” is a term coined by an architect while a professor at UCLA to describe a typical, although abbreviated, apartment architectural style.

The authors’ choice of illustrations, photographs, maps and tables accompany some of the entries so that most pages provide visual information. To that end thematically there is a preponderance of portraits from the late 19th to the middle of the 20th century. This lends a historical, perhaps even romantic quality to the encyclopedia, befitting to the popularly held sense of the place that began as a Spanish pueblo, became “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula”, (see Wikipedia) and now known simply as L. A.

Los Angeles may be quantified in tables and characterized in illustrations, but the synthesis of data and factual information available in this encyclopedia provides a uniquely detailed view. The Appendix features a chronology almost yearly from 1781 to 1996, incorporation dates for cites and unincorporated areas of the County, and 1990 census data for each named city or area in Los Angeles County. Although the data is now 20 years old, general trends are apparent from the information. In the ensuing passage of time between the book’s publication date and now, changes have occurred especially for associations and organizations that have expanded, or no longer exist. The authors’ choice of entries might also be appended should a second edition be published. Otherwise, the book remains one reference point of access to the City of Angels.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sea Wolf Navigates Print, Film


Jack London, published by L C Page and Company Boston 1903; available at wikipedia.org.

Jack London's SNARK, and the filming of his story, The Sea Wolf, were featured in The Compass Rose article by Bill Olesen.




Jack London and Southern California
The Sea Wolf

The termination in Australia of a proposed world cruise aboard the SNARK seems to have ended Jack’s ocean yachting ambitions. At the same time, the need for recouping health and fortunes probably filled the vacancy created by that disappointment.

A professed socialist who appeared to believe that money was designed to circulate freely, London was often pressed for cash even during those years of his greatest affluence. Consequently, having spent much of his literary earnings on philanthropy and the expensive projects of building the SNARK and his Wolf House at Glen Ellen, the possibility of a new and hitherto untapped source of revenue had definite appeal.

In 1902, The Electric Theater was the first motion picture house to be opened in Los Angeles. No doubt the same happened in other cities at that time, but for Los Angeles it could be called prophetic. The first “movies” were produced on Long Island, N.Y., but the climatic advantages for outdoor filming in southern California soon became apparent, and the industry began to move in.

Two old sailing vessels, the barkentine FREMONT (1850) and the barque ALDEN BESSE (1871), lying in San Pedro, were the original seagoing props for movie-making when needed. Studios sprang up wherever a warehouse or similar structure of sufficient size could be found, apparently anywhere between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

The motion picture industry gained momentum rapidly, and by 1911 production companies were actively seeking the film rights to published works which were usited to their needs. Overtures to Jack London for such rights apparently were initiated in 1911 by Sydney Ayres, representing various principals at various times. Tentative agreements and assorted proposals along with failure to meet the deadline on production dates resulted in cancellation of contracts, and consumed much time. Consequently, it was not until July of 1913 that Jack and Charmian arrived in Los Angeles by train with the object of formalizing a firm contract.

Due to the previous negotiations referred to herein, it was inevitable that litigation would ensue, and not exactly to the advantage of London. At this stage, Frank A. Garbutt, a wealthy and successful Los Angeles businessman, elected to enter the motion picture field and swiftly concluded a deal with London to produce The Sea Wolf.

Garbutt proceeded to negotiate a settlement with the litigants and promptly hired Hobart Bosworth to produce the film. Bosworth displayed unusual ability by managing the entire operation, including direction and starring as Capt. Wolf Larson of the schooner GHOST.

The film, which ran to seven reels and a record for those days, was made for a production cost of $9,000. Released by the Bosworth Co., the thunder was stolen somewhat by the simultaneous release of a half-length version made by the original contractor, but the superiority of the Bosworth film overcame this disappointing incident. The result was a successful, super-colossal epic for the silver-screen, and the firm establishment of another irrefutable link between Jack London and Southern California.
-- Bill Olesen
"Jack London and Southern California", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Bill Olesen was presented on the front cover of the Autumn 1991 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:


A term used in navigation, it refers to “1… a circle divided into 32 points or 360 degrees numbered clockwise from true or magnetic north, printed on a chart… as a means of determining the course of a vessel or aircraft. 2. a similar design, often ornamented, used on maps to indicate the points of a compass” … from p. 300 of the 1966 edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language.

SNARK
Writer Jack London's yacht, SNARK, was a schooner, a "vessel rigged with fore and aft sails on two or more masts" (from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 495. Though SNARK did not return to California following a voyage to Australia in 1907, it remained the object of romantic inquiry in literary and maritime history for many years. This week's post features a selection from Bill Olesen's article.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Friday, February 11, 2011

In transit


The Docks. / Bill Sharpsteen. Published by University of California Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-520-26193-8. 310 p. Photographs by the author.

“The intention … is to introduce readers to the world at the Port of Los Angeles through my eyes as much as possible... p. xi.

A good writer is fascinated by the detail in real-life situations, can absorb and render it from a widely cast perspective. The Docks by Bill Sharpsteen tells a multi-faceted story of the Port of Los Angeles in vibrant and captivating terms. From our vantage point, a commercial port so large appears to be at rest, its scale so huge that we cannot discern either activity or drama. However, through Sharpsteen’s words we view the energy and daily work of the Port of Los Angeles in accounts of the people who pilot ships down the channel into berths, run political opposition to diesel fuel and become activists for clean air, the unions, dockworkers, security, importers, buyers, land-based cargo movers, workers in ships’ holds, women’s struggles for jobs on the docks and more. Every chapter is based on personal interviews between the author and an array of personnel driving the transfer of goods from container-ship over land to retailers’ shelves.

“His style reminds me of McPhee, in “Looking for a Ship” – where the author actually accompanies his subjects on container ships. That being said, the downturn in the economy has altered the “Lord of the Docks” persona – many of the casuals and longshoremen found they were not being offered the amount of hours they had in the past. This may be picking up lately, but it was certainly true in 2010.”
--- Marifrances Trivelli, Los Angeles Maritime Museum Director.

Shaarpsteen connects the landscape of the port, the part on land that we see being lots of containers and cranes, with the progression of human activity and the technology moving the goods. Seen from the keenly observant eyes of a photographer, the book inspects the objects and tools of the trades, the social and political aspects that create history and keep the narrative alive every day. You are there in the unfolding story, and you can read it again for discreet facts, names of people and organizations, and still again for that aspect of social commentary that the workings of a port have on our culture and the heartbeat of commerce. The References section, p. 279-303, lists by chapter, resources for persons, organizations, news articles and documents referred to in the text. An Index follows, giving the location of names, etc. that do not have printed references.

These quotations may lend an idea of the depth encountered in Sharpsteen’s The Docks:

Chapter 9: the Shipper

“As for goods going out of the country, food products account for more than half of all U.S. exports… Four of the top U.S. exporters sell paper, mostly to China.” p.161

Chapter 10: Los Troqueros

“… owner-operator truckers… people who work in dryage (picking up cargo and short-hauling it to a near-by location) …”

Chapter 11: The Hold Men --- Interview with Art Almeida
“… soldiers… gladiators, the sweaty, muscled foundation of shipping…” “… working in the hold of ships to unload everything from cotton bales to lumber to heavy oil barrels to poisonous cyanide in drums and DDT insecticide in leaky sacks.”

Chapter 12: the Women

“She was the first woman casual clerk, in 1974, and as such the direct catalyst for women now working on the docks.”
--- of Gretchen Williams


Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book The Docks / by Bill Sharpsteen in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Medieval Fighting Ships of Korea and Japan


Fighting Ships of the Far East (2) : Japan and Korea A.D. 612-1639. / by Stephen Turnbull, Wayne Reynolds, illustrator. Published by Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 978-1-84176-386-6. Transferred to digital print on demand 2009.

Author Stephen Turnbull again relays the saga of fighting ships of the Far East designed for combat between the countries of Japan and Korea, with battles engaging China and Thailand. A distinction between this book and the prior publication, Fighting Ships of the Far East (1) : China and Southeast Asia 202 B.C.-A.D. 1419, is that the time period covered in this book is actually 800 years later for Japan and Korea, and shows details of ship design and construction that were not possible for the much earlier ships in China’s history. Japanese pirates, called “waku” defended Japan against invasion by the Mongols via the Korean Strait in the late 1200s. The Koreans reacted with a revised “spear ship” that had “… a dragon’s head from whose mouth we could fire our cannons, and with iron spikes on its back to pierce the enemies’ feet when they tried to board.” p. 18. While Japanese invasions took place on land and aboard ships, Korean navies preferred to naval battles from their own turf, and images of their sea battles featured ships' canons.

The Color Plate section of the text features battle scenes and details of the types of ships favored by the Japanese samurai and by Japan and Korea. Naval architecture as an expression of force and strength was remarkably diverse, from the Korean style “turtle ship” (seen on this book's cover) to the Japanese floating castle ship known as the NIHON MARU. Both Japan and Korea had a type of tower ship, illustrated as a barge or junk style hull with one or two decks and a tower or castle built on the topmost deck. Korea’s p’anokson is a particularly striking example of the warship that conceals its oarsmen on the lower deck, while above them an open deck provided space for battles to take place at sea.




For more detail:
See the Naval History of Korea and the
Naval History of Japan
at these Wikipedia sites which display a number of illustrations from each country's art.



Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Fighting Ships of the Far East (2) : Japan and Korea A.D. 612-1639. / by Stephen Turnbull in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Medieval and Ancient Asian Fighting Ships


Fighting Ships of the Far East (1) : China and Southeast Asia 202 B.C. - A.D. 1419. / by Stephen Turnbull, Wayne Reynolds, illustrator. Published by Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 978-1-84176-386-6. Transferred to digital print on demand 2010.

Author Turnbull’s collection of facts connects naval warfare and shipbuilding technology to the history of China. The beginning of the story features rafts that were used for transport as early as 2850 B.C. (p. 10). These vessels developed into fighting ships with multiple levels, or canoes with joints that could be disengaged or fireships---unmanned and set afloat burning with rush.

This eminently readable little book in a series called New Vanguard by Osprey Publishing delivers evidence of sophisticated inland and ocean-going vessels and the seafaring exploits of China and Southeast Asia. Advancements of the Chinese naval arts are easy to discover within the book’s 48 pages. The color plates section offers eight full color renderings of Chinese fighting ships by illustrator Wayne Reynolds. Battle fleets and enemy fireboats, war junks, war barges, paddle-wheel ships and even minelayers are portrayed. In each scene clearly detailed ships, armaments and battles from the text are interpreted in color and situation.

The sections of this story are as follows. “Fighting ships and Naval Warfare in the Ancient and Medieval Far East” begins with early battles on rivers depicted in tomb paintings of 150 A.D. and progresses through 1350 with ocean-going junk ships. “Techniques and Types of Chinese Ships and Shipbuilding” gives more detail about sampans, junks, oars and sails; “The Chinese Fighting Ship” explains the typology of Chinese warships from a treatise written published in 1044, and describes a particular type of paddle wheel ship described in 400 A.D. and also in 780 A.D. which propelled the vessel without sails. “The Chinese Fighting Ship in Action” shows inventions of iron-cladding and striking arms. “A Case Study of Chinese Fighting Ships” details a battle that took place in on a freshwater lake in 1363 between the Mongols and their successors, the Ming Dynasty. “Southeast Asian fighting Ships” hints at the vast difference between the powers, China and Cambodia with Vietnam. The Southeast Asian countries fought on rivers and preferred dugout canoes or war barges featuring an army of oarsmen in long narrow ships with fiercely carved figureheads, in strong contrast with the Chinese shipbuilding and naval arts. These are followed by Suggestions for Further Reading and Colour Plate Commentary with its diagrams and illustrations.

For more detail: See the Naval History of China at this Wikipedia site which also displays a number of illustrations from Chinese art.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Fighting Ships of the Far East (1) : China and Southeast Asia 202 B.C. –A.D. 1419. / by Stephen Turnbull in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!