Seaports of the World
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° Bangor ° Bar Harbor ° Bath ° Camden ° Popham ° Portland ° Searsport
As in all coastal communities, life in Maine was connected to the sea; five hundred years before Columbus "discovered" America, Leif Ericson and a crew of 30 Viking sailors are believed to have explored the Maine coast and may have landed and tried to establish a settlement here.
After the discovery of the mainland of the "New World," England, France, Spain and Holland became rivals for the establishment of title to the land. They set up coastal explorations and planted crosses at prominent points to establish dominion. In 1605, English noblemen fitted out the ship Archangel of sixty tons under the command of George Waymouth, the most notable navigator of that day. He sailed directly from Bristol, England to Maine, and explored the Kennebec and Sasanoa River areas.
As Maine became settled, shipbuilding thrived; Maine ships and sea captains sailed to all part of the world delivering wood. Schooners carried cargoes from Maine up and down the East Coast and to exotic ports such as those in Indonesia or China. Sometimes their families would accompany them; for most sea captain's wives on board their husband's ships, the isolation of time at sea was balanced by freedom from the everyday chores that filled a woman's day at home. On board ship, a cook prepared meals, and cleaning and laundry was done by a steward.
Few know the maritime history of the Northeast any better than Jeremy D'Entremont, and with Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast (Maritime) he begins a series of histories about the shipwrecks, lighthouses, and sea heroes of New England. The book begins with the hurricane of 1635, one of the worst recorded hurricanes in regional history, and the ship Angel Gabriel, which sank at anchor off of Pemaquid during the hurricane. Other accounts include a 1710 wreck at Boon Island which, in its day, was as sensational as "Mutiny on the Bounty." Four men were killed and the remaining two dozen had to resort to extraordinary measures to survive. Also here are the Penobscot Expedition, America''s worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor; a famous circus ship that foundered off Vinalhaven in 1836; and the mysterious explosion of a motorboat in 1941, which killed all 34 people on board. D''Entremont''s authoritative history and skillful storytelling are illustrated by archival black-and-white photographs and etchings.
European ships briefly visited the area, some of them putting ashore to make repairs and process fish catches.
Bangor was once one of the world's great lumber ports. In this picture, taken in 1895, an English steamer and a four-masted Scottish bark are loading birch spoolwood (for spools or bobbins) from Maine forests.
A three-masted schooner, deep with coal to fuel the Maine Central locomotives, lies outboard of the bark, while across the river a four-master dries her topsails while waiting to load ice. Further up the river, two small Italian barks are loading fruit-box "shook"-bundles of box ends and sides used to make boxes.
Italian ships brought cargoes of salt from Italy to Maine, discharging them at fishing ports for use salting fish, before going up the river to get a cargo of lumber to take home. Other ships left with cargoes of ice, bricks, hay, slate, and lumber. Few jobs were harder than loading vessels with long lumber from rafts. Longshoremen, called "mudlarks," were often wet all day long and thought nothing of manhandling a four-inch-thick plank, sixteen to thirty feet long.
Lumber was often loaded through bow ports, openings cut in the hull to make loading easier. The bow ports were closed when the loading was done, caulked tight around the edges, and reinforced, before the vessel sailed away.
Lydia Bodman Vandebergh, Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.
Bar Harbor has many historic buildings. The area was once a shipbuilding and farming hamlet that became a Gilded Age resort of the highest order-until a fire in 1947 destroyed many of its buildings. This pictorial history takes Bar Harbor from its origins to the fire. It also offers intriguing curiosities, including insights on the upstairs-downstairs aspects of resort life.
Bath is identified with early settlements of the Lower Kennebec.
Shipbuilding in bath began in 1792 when an Englishman, Jonathan Hyde, settled there and added shipbuilding to his numerous other activities; in the 19th century his nephew Thomas Hyde established the great Bath Iron Works, shipbuilders for the U.S. Navy, which has sent down its ways destroyers and torpedo-boats, transports, cargo-vessels, tugs, the ill, fated iron ram of the Civil War, Katahdin, and-in spite of the smallness of the harbor -- one dreadnought, Georgia. The Bath Iron Works has produced travelers and ferry-boats, yachts and fishing-boats, defenders of the America's Cup (but not the first America) and Pierpont Morgan's magnificent yacht Corsair.
Camden is situated on the west side of Penobscot Bay, These are possibly the mountains mentioned by Captain Weymouth, as seen in his voyage in 1605, and by Captain Smith in 1614. They are visible 20 leagues distant. After the British, Camden became the only place upon the Penobscot of general rendezvous for the Americans. A small force was encamped here, believed to have been under the Command of Captain George Uliner, afterward major general of militia, state senator and sheriff.
Camden was a part of the Waldo patent, and the township passed into the ownership of the “Twenty Associates,” becoming Megunticook plantation. It was surveyed by David Fales, of Thomaston in 1768, and settlements were commenced a few years after on Goose River, Clam Cove and Megunticook, and mills erected. The first settler was James Richards in 1769. The town was incorporated in 1791 and named in honor of Lord Camden a parliamentary friend of the colonies in the Revolution. Camden Saving’s Bank at the close of 1879, held deposits and profits to the amount of $145,672.72.
Camden Herald, October 19, 1888
Blaine's Brilliant and Convincing Speeches.
No speeches are being delivered by any orator in the campaign that draw so large crowds or have telling effects as those of Blaine. Could the Democrats silence Blaine they would feel that they had some hope winning in the great battle now being so fiercely waged between free trade and protection. He is hitting Cleveland and his free trade theories harder blows than any other speaker on the stump. His knowledge is wonderful; his statistics irresistible and his unequaled facility in reaching and moving audiences infuriates Democratic papers and speakers so that they can hardly treat him with the courtesy due from from members of one political party to those of another.
At Grand Rapids Mr. Blaine made one of his most telling speeches in which he handsomely defended New England against the taunts attributed to Post Master General Don M. Dickinson. "By the statistics," said Blaine, "New England takes between half a million and six hundred thousand tons of grain annually. It raises only four per cent of what her people use for bread stuffs. There are annually raised in this country, 300,000,000 pounds of wool. We had only 60,000,000 pounds of wool grown annually by formers of this country when free trade tariff was in operation just before the war. Under the effect of the protective tariff we have increased the amount of wool grown almost wholly in the west to 300,000,00 pounds annually and it brings a vast aggregate of nearly $100,000,000 (Cheers) to the farmers of this country.
Cleveland recommends that the duty on that be repealed and that we put the wool grower of the West on the same plane as the wool grower of Australia and Canada. The republicans say "no" and New England takes every year half that entire wool crop and pays the West $45,000,000 a year for it. (Cheers) Besides, as New England needs bread for which she pays the West $20,000,000 a year, she needs also provisions which includes all forms of meal, and for that and poultry. In addition imported from the West, New England pays the farmers of the Western States $55,000,000 a year. (Cheers.)
The people of the east want some butter spread and they can't make enough at home, (laughter and applause) and they paid the West over $30,000,000 for that. Then New England needs a good deal of lumber, hardwood and pine. There are just three States here from which she gets it; Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and she takes $15,000,000 worth a year of western lumber, principally from Michigan. Then of copper and lead and salt and hides and lumber, which are taken from the Western States, in the aggregate of about $50,000,000 more. The aggregate you will observe is well up to $100,00,000. A little bot of New England, of which Dickinson spoke contemptuously as only having four millions of people. This little bit of a frozen place on the northeast corner of the United States takes $60,000,000 worth of cotton from the Southern States, and goes down to Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, and of the products of coal, iron and steel takes $56,000,000 more in the grand aggregate. That little piece of country takes more than $400,000,000 worth of material from other states of the union, and in the grand exchange between the East and West, makes the trade profitable to both and keeps the money at home instead of sending beyond the sea.
The total value of the products we sent to old England last year of all imitable articles was $325,000,000. Now, gentlemen, if you want to know what value to have a market at your door - by exchange of industries, see what four million people can take from you at your door, and among your fellow citizens as compared with forty millions beyond the seas.
The first settlement was established by the Plymouth Company who arrived at Popham in
1607 from England in the ships Mary and John, Captain Raleigh Gilbert and the Gift, Captain George Popham. This was the same year of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Because the
Popham colony didn't survive the harsh Maine winters, Jamestown enjoys the distinction of being regarded as America's first permanent settlement.
A number of English settlements were established along the Maine coast in the 1620s, although the rugged climate, deprivations and Indian attacks wiped out many of them over the years. At the beginning of the 18th Century, only a half dozen settlements still survived. By then, Massachusetts had bought up most of the land claims in this wilderness territory, an arrangement which lasted until 1820 when Maine separated from Massachusetts to become a separate state. There followed a period of tremendous economic growth in which a number of important mining and manufacturing industries emerged.
By 1796, by the record of the Bureau of Navigation, the American fleet registered for foreign commerce amounted to 476,733 tons. The years between 1789 and 1826 were the golden age of American seaborne commerce: The growth of American shipping from 1789 to 1807 is without parallel in the history of the commercial world of the time.
Vessels, cargos and crews remained in danger of hostile privateers, war ships, and pirates well into the 1800s. Storms at sea or in the harbor could mean disaster for men and ship. The British blockade, American Revolution, Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 each devastated the business of the harbor, requiring great effort to rebuild each time.
Along with stories of loss and destruction, Plymouth town histories include exciting stories of brave and skillful seamen’s resistance—of stripped vessels being re-rigged under cover of a dark night and a lashing rainstorm (that had scattered the harbor guards) and slipping safely out of Plymouth Bay to pursue an enemy vessel or deliver a valuable cargo.
BUILDING TRADE AND SHIPS
After 1783 and the end of 8 long years of war with Britain, Plymouth, along with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, rapidly rebuilt fishing and merchant fleets, increased its coastal and Liverpool trade, and added ports in the Mediterranean such as the Andalusian city of Cadiz in southern Spain.
While Europe fought Napoleon, the United States’ neutral position allowed American trade to prosper everywhere.
By 1807 Plymouth counted more than 70 vessels engaged in foreign trade. In tonnage of shipping registered in Massachusetts’ ports, Plymouth ranked sixth, preceded only by Boston, Salem, Newburyport, New Bedford, and Marblehead.
Foreign vessels arrived in Plymouth harbor from Portugal, Spain, Cape Verde Islands, Russia, Martinique, and other West Indian Islands.
Attempting to bully neutral traders, Britain and France outlawed trading with the colonies of their enemies. For example, Americans who traded with Britain were prohibited from trading with France’s West Indian colonies. If Americans traded with France, they were not allowed to trade in the ports of British colonies, such as that of St. Thomas.
The Americans side-stepped the prohibitions by inserting a short coastal voyage between the two ends of a vessel’s planned trade route. Samuel Eliot Morrison described this “indirect trade” undertaken to maintain peace and profits.
Plymouth custom-house records indicate the indirect routes of the day: The brig Elisa Hardy of Plymouth enters her home port from Bordeaux with a cargo of claret wine. Part of the cargo was sent to Martinique in the schooner Pilgrim, which also carries a consignment of brandy from Alicante in the brig Commerce, and gin from Rotterdam in the barque Hannal of Plymouth. The rest of the Elisa Hardy’s claret is taken to Philadelphia and thence in 7 different vessels to Havana, Santiago de Cuba, St. Thomas, and Batavia.
From the 1640s to the late 1800s, The North River’s fifteen shipyards launched more than 1000 ships. Many were fishing and whaling vessels, and built for owners outside of Massachusetts. According to Morison, the largest vessel built on the North River was the Mount Vernon, 464 tons, built in 1815 for Philadelphia by Samuel Hartt.
By 1830 industries related to boat building, shipping, and fishing lined Water Street and occupied the wharves, warehouses and neighborhoods near Plymouth Harbor. There were lumber and coal yards, iron foundries and forges, blacksmith shops, sailmakers, a pump and blockmaker’s shop, coopers, riggers, caulkers and gravers, shipwrights, ship carpenters, a ship carver, and numerous counting houses (accounting offices).
To help rebuild the fisheries after the American Revolution, in 1789 the federal government granted a bounty of 5-cents on every quintal (100 lbs.) of dried fish or barrel of pickled fish exported. In 1792 additional federal bounties were granted. Fishing and shipping continued to play major roles on Plymouth Harbor until the 1860s when the bounties were abolished and duties removed from Canadian fish. In 1888 only one fishing vessel went to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland from Plymouth.
By the mid-1800s, railroads were competing for shipping business, and the nature of the most profitable maritime trade changed. Speed became the name of the game, and the shipyards of the North River and Plymouth lacked the deep water needed to launch the 2000-4000 ton extreme clippers produced from about 1840-1870 to race across the seas.
Originally developed to carry the perishable tea of the China trade, the so-called “greyhounds of the sea” were perfectly suited for the unexpected market that opened in 1849—the flood of men and supplies rushing to the gold fields of California.
In Plymouth, manufacturing gradually replaced shipping in importance. Until the late 1890s, incoming vessels continued to bring large cargoes of raw materials: among them sisal and hemp for the ropewalks, coal for the iron works.
The Portland peninsula is home to Maine’s largest city. The Native Americans who first inhabited it named it “Machigonne”, meaning Great Neck.
In 1623, English naval captain named Christopher Levett sailed in to found a settlement in Casco Bay. Portland's waterfront soon became a mecca for shipping and trading companies and was renamed Falmouth in 1658.
In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town and named it Portland. Prohibition of trade with England, and the War of 1812 created difficult times for Portland, which had developed as a shipping center.
Maine became a state in 1820. Portland became it’s capital, and remained such until 1832 when Augusta became the capital.
The Grand Trunk Railway was completed in 1853, making Portland the primary seaport for Canadian exports. Six hundred 19th century steam locomotives were manufactured by the Portland Company.
Portland has recovered from four fires, the most devastating having occurred on Independence Day, 1866, when most of the commercial buildings, half of the churches, and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Portland was almost completely rebuilt during the Victorian era, and has maintained much of it’s 19th century architecture, due to constant attention to landmark preservation.
The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House built in 1785, is the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula, and the only family residence to survive in the downtown business district. It was the boyhood home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most famous men of his time. (The House is preserved as a memorial to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family.)
Ice harvesting, granite and lime quarrying also developed as important industries in addition to lumbering and fishing. One of the oldest industries in Maine is boat building/shipbuilding and design. Long ago, Native Americans wove a network of trade around Maine in birch-bark canoes. These craft served as models for the lumbermen's bateaux and canoes.
Loggers also used steamers such as the S/S Katahdin, but the heyday of Maine shipbuilding came with the towering square-rigged clipper ships and Down Easters of the 1800s, as well as coastal schooners with two to six masts. Some significant examples of famous vessels built in Maine include: the 1607 Virginia, the first British ship built on the North American mainland; Ranger, an 18-gun sloop-of-war launched in 1781 and commanded by John Paul Jones; and the magnificent Down Easter, Henry B. Hyde, one of the most beautiful square-rigged ships ever built.
The The Henry B. Hyde Down-Easter is considered to have been the finest American ship of the post-clipper era. The largest ship built in Maine to that time, she was strongly found and cross-braced with iron straps throughout. Her average time over her first twelve passages from New York to San Francisco was a brisk 109 days. Her first master was the hard-driving Phineas Pendleton, Jr., who was succeeded by his son, Phineas III, for two voyages. The Hyde was sold with the rest of the Flint fleet to the California Shipping Company in 1899. On her first voyage for that company, under Captain W. J. McLeod, she loaded coal at Norfolk for Hawaii. A fire was discovered in her hold, and the Hyde put into Valparaiso where the cargo was discharged and partially reloaded. Two years later, en route from Baltimore to San Francisco, she was forced to put into Cape Town in the same condition. After completing her voyage and returning to New York, the Hyde was lost on February 19, 1904, while in tow from New York to load at Baltimore. She was driven ashore about ten miles south of Cape Henry; her crew was saved. She broke in two in October 1904.
Water-powered factories began to spring up beside the numerous sawmills already
located along Maine's important rivers. Textiles, paper and leather products
all became primary sources of manufacturing employment.
Fishing and farming were also important, but were subject to greater economic fluctuations. The overall economic picture -- although periodically disturbed by such developments as the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution -- continued on a relatively prosperous course throughout the remainder of the 19th century.
By the year 1860, 11,375 mariners lived in the State of Maine, comprising almost one-fifth of the population. Of these, 759 were masters of ships and nearly half of these were in command of "Cape Horners." Searsport with 1,700 inhabitants was known in every deepwater port in the world. Over a hundred and fifty masters of full-rigged ships called it home. During the 1870s and 1880s, estimates are that ten percent of all the shipmasters in the American merchant marine had Searsport as their hail. Many of their vessels were built for their own account in the Matthews, Merrithew, Carver, and McGilvery yards at the head of the harbor. In later years, when the shoal waters precluded the launching of the larger ships, the Searsport captains had their ships built up the Penobscot at Brewer and Bangor. Out of twenty full-rigged ships built there, Lincoln Colcord lists at least eight for Searsport accounts. (If you visit Maine, take time to stop by teh Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Searsport was also a home port for Captain James H. Blethen; this site started in 1988 in his honor.)
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Letters from Sea, 1882-1901:
Joanna and Lincoln Colcord's Seafaring Childhood
In June of 1881, on the night of their wedding in Searsport, Maine, Captain Lincoln Alden Colcord and his new wife, Jane Sweetser Colcord, departed for sea to begin a two-year voyage on the bark Charlotte A. Littlefield. The voyage would take them around the world and witness the birth of their daughter Joanna amid the South Sea Islands and young Lincoln's arrival during a treacherous winter storm off Cape Horn.
Text as noted and research centers including: National Archives, San Bruno; Public Library History Collection and Maritime Library, San Francisco, California