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A month or so ago, I talked with Don Lake, who wanted to tell me some family history, which I transcribe here:  “My family has been on tugs for many years, beginning with my grandfather, Captain James Lake, who began his career as a young boy on Rondout Creek, NY, in the late 1800s and later moved down to New York harbor where he acquired his Master Mariner’s license with unlimited tonnage and pilotage.  In the early 1920s he was also instrumental in the formation of Local 333 along with Captain Joe O’Hare, who organized the tug boat workers of NY harbor.

I have relatives who worked for M. J. Tracy for many years, an old line company in NY, specializing in coal delivery to the power generating stations in NY and NJ at Con Edison and PSE & G.

There’s a great history of the company in a back issue of Tug Bitts from the Tug Boat Enthusiasts organization.”  [The organization is now dormant.]

Helen L. Tracy has since ultimately been rechristened Providence, and I posted a photo of the boat here a few months back tied up on the Mississippi just around the bend downstream from New Orleans. That is, it is the same boat unless I’m confused here.    Another question . . . what was the connection between Avondale Towing Line and M. J. Tracy Towing Company?  I could call Don, but I’m putting the question out to blog readers.  Here’s what I learned about the photo from the Portal to Texas History.

At times like this I really wish there was a digital archive of the years of Tug Bitts.  Is there any plan to do this?  I’d be happy to contribute some ducats for this to happen, and I’m sure lots of other folks would too.

Again, many thanks to Don for writing and sending along a photo I need to frame.

Here’s more on Rondout Creek, currently home to Hudson River Maritime Museum and formerly headquarters for Cornell Steamboat Company. And if you haven’t read Thomas Cornell and the Cornell Steamboat Company by Stuart Murray, here’s how you can order this must-read.

Click here for a Tracy boat from the 1952 tug boat race.

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I’ve mentioned before that this is my miscellaneous category, although “everything” you pull out of your line locker or junk drawer is important for something, “miscellany” sounds dismissive.

Here’s how this post  works:  I’ll put in no comment until the second time through.  Starting with the one below, see the man face mostly down in the small craft sculling with right hand.  See the “cannon” forward, recoil preventer in place?

 

Someone’s altar?

I’d meant to include this a few weeks ago, but forgot.

And here . . . notice a splash of color where often you’d just read a phrase like “safety first” or “no smoking”?  Ice waters below and

lock walls here.

“Yes!!   I beat the ship,” thought he.   But why’s he blowing the horn so much, a**hole!!@#, thought he.

And finally . . . ever stop into a Wawa for coffee?  I’ll get back to that.

Reprise time.  See the gun there?  I paced it out at about nine feet long.  It’s a punt gun, formerly used by “market hunters” in a host of flyways, including locally along Long Island.  I finally visited the New York State Museum in Albany recently, and this is one of the displays.  Much more about punt guns and sneak boxes here.

Nearby in the Museum, here’s a sixth boro diorama.  Meseck boats came up in the previous line locker post also. And here’s the Carroll Towing post I’d wanted to include that 1946 clipping in.

And the painting on the forward side of the superstructure, here’s more on that CSL project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the creation of an independent Canadian confederation.  And if you ever wonder what the francophone Canadians call the “Canada goose,” it’s a bernache du Canada.

And that SUP racing to cross the river in front  of a ship!  It’s that season, and soon conditions like those that created a near-fatal incident last summer will present themselves again.  Don’t be a statistic!  Here’s James Berman’s article from Workboat magazine with the “wheelhouse perspective.”

And Wawa, I’d read this and let it slip through my fingers.  They are having an ATB unit built.  Nah . . . not to transport coffee, which is sold at their midAtlantic convenience store gas stations. I’m wondering what they’ll call it . . . Wawa One?  Wawa Wanna cuppa?  Watuppa?

 

All photos here by Will Van Dorp, who wishes you a happy and peaceful day..

Sixth boro fifth dimension posts are about vintage NYC harbor shipping culture photos.  This very welcome photo I received from frequent commenter/researcher William Lafferty.  This should be an easy question for many of you:  where was this photo taken?

Here’s what William says about the photo above:  “You don’t see classic New York harbor steam tugs in color often.  I acquired this red border slide years ago.  It shows Carroll Towing tugs docked, I’m guessing, in Greenpoint, between 1950 and 1955, very late in their careers.  You should be able to identify the location.  From left to right we have J. F. Carroll, Jr.Sally CarrollRichard S. Carroll, and Anne Carroll.  The J. F. Carroll, Jr. was built at Baltimore in 1911 by Spedden Shipbuilding Company as the Neptune for the Curtis Bay Towing Company there.  The Army Engineering Department got it in 1915 and renamed it San Luis operating it in the New York District.  After World War II Carroll obtained it, and it lasted until 1958, probably ending its days at Witte’s. [Note:  Witte’s today is known as Donjon Recycling.] The Sally Carroll was built by John H. Dialogue at Camden in 1906 as the Haverstraw for the Cornell Steamboat Company but the Lehigh Valley Railroad bought it in 1907 and renamed it Aurora.  After a stint in World War I as a minesweeper and later towing tug for the navy, it was returned to LV in 1919.  Carroll got it in the early ’50s but it, too, disappears by 1960.  The Anne Carroll was another Lehigh Valley carfloat tug, built by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company at Port Richmond in 1910 as the Auburn, and dismantled at Staten Island in 1960.

My particular interest is the wooden Richard S. Carroll, since it was built on the lakes.  It was launched as Active 4 January 1919 at the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, yard of the Leathem & Smith Towing & Wrecking Company, one of a number of small yards on the Lakes and East Coast to built standardized 100-foot wooden tugs for the Emergency Fleet Corporation.  Powered by a double cylinder vertical compound steam engine built by Chicago’s Marine Iron Works, it operated for the United States Shipping Board in New York harbor until 1925 when transferred to the navy as USS Active  YT 112.  Decommissioned by the navy in June 1946, Carroll bought it 21 July 1947 and renamed it.  It was dismantled at Staten Island in 1956 and its final document surrendered at New York on 20 February 1957.”

Besides the location question, does anyone have additional photos of any of these Carroll tugs, particularly Richard S.?

Many thanks to William Lafferty for this photo and information.

A photo of Anne Carroll appears in this post about the 1952 Hudson River tugboat race.

. . . and in case you’re rummaging through your change drawer for some cash to buy something for yourself or someone else special, here are some ideas.  Buy a raffle ticket for an opportunity next summer to ride an Interlake Steamship vessel on the Great Lakes . . .  Here’s a post I did a few months back on the classic Interlake Oberstar.   And from International Shipmasters’:  The funds from sales keep our lodge financially secure and we donate every year to other various maritime related non-profits. Sea Cadets, Whistles on the Water, and Shipmaster Grand Lodge Scholarship Fund.  Our own scholarship fund is endowed and gives 3 scholarship awards each year of $500 to each, 1 Canadian, 1 US, 1 hawse piper.   Click on the image below for information on purchasing a raffle ticket.  I have mine . . . and I imagine these would make a great gift for lots of folks you want to give a gift to.

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If you win and need something to do when you’re not just mesmerized by Great Lakes scenery, here are some books to consider.  Of course, you can read them any time . . . real books, not device books. Here’s what the Icelanders say about giving books.

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Here are some of the books I’ve read this past year.  I’d recommend all of them.

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The Big Book of Real Boats and Ships was an impulse buy after someone mentioned it on FB.  George J. Zaffo did a whole series of these books back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Here’s more on his and similar books. What makes it interesting for me is that real means real;  here’s the info on C. Hayward Meseck, the vessel in the illustration below.

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Also from Zaffo, here’s info on the tug in the foreground below, Barbara Moran (1948), scuttled in 1990 and sits upright about 70′ below the surface. 

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This past year I’ve met lots of folks whom I’ve encouraged to write their stories or have someone else write them.  Bob Mattsson did that a few years ago, and I finally read it this year.

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Here’s part of page 1.

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Up River is another one I read this year, one that helps you see what you can’t see from the river.  The cover photo below shows Tomkins Cove Quarry, one of many quarries whose scale you get no sense from the river.  Recently on a trip from NYC to Waterford on the river with some folks who had never done the trip, I brought this along and noticed they paged through during the entire trip as a way to “see” what they otherwise couldn’t.  Thanks to Capt. Thalassic for introducing me to this book.  You can “page” through the entire book here!

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All those books . . . this time of year, it all reminds me of a post I did here 10 years ago about the circumstances around the first Christmas presents I ever got .  .  .

 

Actually, the full title of this book is Tugboats Illustrated: History-Technology-Seamanship with Drawings by the author Paul Farrell

I first heard of the book and Paul Farrell last February;  I got an email from an editor at W. W. Norton expressing interest in licensing one of my photos for the cover of the forthcoming book. The photo was the 9th in the post called “Helen’s Last Waltz.” I was thrilled, as you might imagine, and we arrived at a price. Then I hoped it would be an attractive, technically accurate book.

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A few months later, Norton’s publicity department sent along a five-page sampler and asked if I’d write a review of the book. The cover letter described Tugboats Illustrated as “gorgeously detailed guide to the evolution, design, and role of tugboats” from “ the earliest days of steam up to today’s most advanced ocean-going workboats” and referred to its “dynamic drawings that show how different kinds of propellers move, to explanations of the physics and engineering that allow this movement to happen.”

Mr. Farrell, an architect with almost a half century of experience, was described as having spent a quarter century researching and writing this book, his first. When someone spends that amount of time focusing on a subject, I’m impressed. But I wasn’t ready to do a review until I saw the entire 156-page book, which arrived in November.  The photo below should illustrate how comprehensive this slim but well-designed book is.

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I first paged through it and then read it cover to cover. Paging through, I noticed how many of these “dynamic drawings” there are, more than 70 of them at least, depending how you count.  Below is a sample of a set of drawings from p. 114, illustrating an evolution that always mesmerizes me . . . a flanking turn with a long tow on a winding river, and he shows it from both the downstream and upstream perspective.

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Indeed, an architect’s drawings honed by years of professional work complemented with captions, guided by the experts in the wheelhouse, illustrate complex maneuvers in this and many other instances.  Ironically, Farrell never intended to showcase his illustrations in the book; he says it began as “rough sketching intended to guide a mythical illustrator who would intuit just the right feel and content” until he realized this these sketches, such as they were, would work. He reports that doing the set of drawings to illustrate hull chines as seen from underwater were pivotal. I find them charming, below (p. 93),  a boon to the book and not just “limited” or “enough.”

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Then there are the photographs, over 80 of them in total and more than half of them in color, many of them taken by photographers whose work I know and have great respect for: Brian Gauvin, Alan Haig-Brown, and Pat Folan.  There was one photo by Rod Smith, who has so many to choose from in his albums on the shipbuilding work at Senesco. Many of the black-and-white photos come from the collections of Steven Lang and Brent Dibner. Other photos introduced me to photographers I’d like to see more of in the future.

In the “Acknowledgements,” Farrell reveals that he first sent a draft of the book to Norton in 1996, a full twenty years ago. When a book takes shape over such a long period of time as this one, it gets vetted for accuracy and thoroughness, which this one has.

Got friends who want to learn about tugboats? Want to expand your own knowledge of the history and variety of these vessels? Then order it here.

I’m just so thrilled that my photo from that July 17, 2012 move graces the cover of this fine book that I’ll digress and post three more photos from that day.

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Helen, she is a classic from 1900!   Does anyone have photos of her working out of South Carolina waters as Georgetown?  In that photo above, Helen looks just slightly like Little Toot in Hardie Gramatky’s wonderful watercolors, reproduced on p. 11 of Paul Farrell’s book.

Click here for some previous reviews.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

 

Leaden skies cover my sixth boro today, a dour sign leading me to the Gmelin collection and the grim discovery that well over a third of the photos of shipping represented in his photos from the 1930s by a decade later were sunk or scuttled as fanaticism drew the world into war.  Take this photo taken in 1931.  To situate the photo in the sixth boro, note the Stevens Mansion–demolished in 1959– just above the stern of the ship.  Nerissa was launched in Scotland in 1926, ran between NYC–St. Johns NF until 1931, when she ran between NYC and the Caribbean.  Her end came in 1941, when she was torpedoed off Ireland by U-552, on her 40th crossing with mostly Canadian troops from Halifax to Europe.  The number of souls lost was 207.

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Here’s another victim, Empress of Britain taken in 1932.  You can see the Empire State Building less than a year “topped-out” at this time. Empress of Britain made its first crossing from Southampton to Quebec City in spring 1931.  Here she was likely completing her first visit to the sixth boro, headed for Southampton to complete her first trip around the world. In November 1939 she was requisitioned as troop transport.  Less than a year later she too was sunk by a combination of a German bomber and U-boat.    She was the largest Canadian-owned merchant vessel lost in WW2;  beyond that, she was the largest ship sunk by a WW2 submarine.  For others, click here.

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I’ll be looking for sunshine in the next days and longer.

Random means random, and I challenge you to come up with a more random set . . .

Let’s start with a Gmelin photo from 1930.  I’ll give the name of the tug later in this post so that all experts of arcane sixth boro history can play.  Since today is the V-Day, let me mention that Herbert Hoover was POTUS, and not very popular at that time, post-crash, in spite of his 1928 campaign slogan “A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage.”  Well, that did not work out so well.  A few things impress me about Hoover though, like . . . in what language would he and the First Lady–Lou–converse privately when guests were in the White House.  By the way, why is the 2nd Tuesday in November Election Day?  Answers at the end of this post.

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Here’s a photo from my archives, Surrie Moran (2000 built) assisting with a big south-bound Crowley barge El Rey (1979) in June 2013 on the Delaware River.  I was shooting against the morning sun.   You see a little of Cape Henry (1967) on the stern also.   Any guesses which Crowley tug was towing?

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And another photo from 2013, January,  in the KVK.  It’s Rebel, built 1976, with her odd hull.  Is she now scrapped?

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So now a few from the past week . . . James D. Moran (2015) passes the KV buoy heading for the North River.

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Genesis Victory (from 1981) heads into the Kills.

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The 2002 Labrador Sea comes in from somewhere out east.

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And over on a waterway I don’t get to see that often, I stumbled onto the 1940 Ireland,

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1958 Bergen Point, and

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the 1947 basic Harbor II.

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And since a lot of things are cyclical, we’re back at the mystery tug.

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With my magnifying glass, I read enough to make me think this is Richard J. Barrett, which would have been 11 years old in 1930.  Here’s Birk’s info. The ship is the 1925-launched MS Gripsholm, significant as the first transAtlantic liner powered by a diesel engine.

And Hoover and his wife spoke Mandarin for their secret asides when guests were in earshot.  I’m impressed.

And towing El Rey, here’s Sentry  (1977).

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And we have our 19th century agrarian roots to thank for the 2nd Tuesday being election day . .  . here.

 

 

SS George Washington was launched from Newport News Shipbuilding in November 1924 to operate on the Old Dominion Line between NYC and Norfolk.  It was sold to Eastern Steamship Lines in 1927.   Mr. Gmelin marked this photo–where she carries the logo on Eastern Steamship Lines on her funnel–as 1940, making it a photo of the ship near the end of its life on that run. But there were other exciting lives to come.

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After the war, it ran very briefly for Alaska Transport Company (ATCo.) between Seattle and Alaska in 1948, until ATCo went bankrupt the same year.  A French company named CGT bought her in 1949, renamed her SS Gascogne (sometimes spelled Gascoigne), ran her in the Caribbean for a while and in 1952 sold her to Messageries-Maritimes, who operated her in Indochina until she was scrapped in Hong Kong in 1955.  Quite the journey for this US East coast steamer named for POTUS 1, and what stories have been lost with her forever;  I guess some clever novelist will have to make them up.

Her Newport News Shipbuilding/Old Dominion Line twin–Robert E. Lee–was torpedoed and sunk in 1942.

Yesterday’s post showed the 1923 SS California, which was launched with three funnels until it the two dummies were removed.

The SS California below was launched in 1928 to operate as a vessel in the Panama Pacific division of the American Line Steamship Company, as shown below.  But a decade later, it was sold to the United States Maritime Commission, which modified it extensively to comply with new fireproofing requirements post-Morro Castle fire.   They also removed one of the funnels and renamed the vessel SS Uraguay.  Click here to see the two superstructures on the hull side by side.

Mr. Gmelin caught it here passing the Jersey-side Holland Tunnel vent.  Anyone have guesses on the two ferries shown?

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Actually this first in this series started here.   The ship is SS California, launched in April  1923.  If you look at the top photo in the link in the previous sentence, you’ll see this SS California started with three funnels, although it’s likely that two of the three were dummies.  Extra “dummy” funnels were “style enhancements,” added for appearance.  Notice the Lipton Tea building along the water in Hoboken?  The photo was cropped as shown.  Anyone help identify the tugboat company?

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As I mentioned in the September post linked above, I bought an album of prints at an antique shop in Oswego NY on one of my stops there this summer.  We were spending extra time there to replace a prop dinged on an immovable uncharted underwater obstruction.   Thanks to William Lafferty, I’ve learned that Mr. Gmelin “was a Cranford, New Jersey, based amateur photographer and maritime historian. He was one of the earliest members of the Steamship Historical Society of America and an occasional contributor to its journal, Steamboat Bill [now called Power Ships]. He died in 2001 at the age of eighty-eight.”  Click here and scroll for a photo of Mr. Gmelin, whose full name including the first name spelling I used above was stamped on the back of most of the photos.

Click here for SHSA’s online gallery.

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