‘Twas a lovely surprise a few weeks back, to receive…by way of a thank you of sorts…a package from Matthew Stackpole. He, by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Mystic Connecticut, and a lifetime of service to both seafaring villages and museums and maritime history everywhere.
He had sent me a copy of the book, The Charles E. Morgan – The Last Wooden Whaleship, written by his father Edouard A. Stackpole. It’s a lively in depth history of the ship and her adventures published in 1967. I’m only part way through and it has me hooked. Great sky chair reading. Thank you so much Matthew.
Matthew and his brother had the run of the Morgan when their father was at the helm of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
So he had fond memories to share when looking at the paintings I had done from the museum and the ship for last years’ Granary Gallery Show.
Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
THIS JUST IN…
Remember this painting…
The Spinning Loft
And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground
Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.
I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.
My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.
My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating.
I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.
So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff. I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.
From Peter then Paula,
PF -So the question is: Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?
Who would know?
PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.
PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016
If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.
There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later
Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…
PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…
Then… PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221)
And again a day later…
PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824).
Huge expansions came by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9).
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…
Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families.
Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):
The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary
By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)
Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian
By William Thomas Davis
History of the Town of Plymouth
By James Thacher
Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.
And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.
If you want to learn more about such endeavors, I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research, and I’ll make it really easy for you…
We have one more stop to make in Mystic. A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building
And this is the Spinning Loft, below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum. There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about, and you can read more of it’s history there as well.
But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space. Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air, the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces, the sensuous flow of the carded fiber, it positively sings history.
The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long, and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company, which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.
Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…
and the long walk back in technology…
And there’s a mystery…
As is so often the case, when I returned from one of several visits to the museum and reviewed the thousands of reference photos, I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.
Those frisky muses.
Round about my birthday, the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south, and, being a carver of woody things, I showed him this part of the painting, whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.
I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it. I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research, but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.
These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving… well…from my rendering of the carving.
That should be sorta fun.
For me, it’s all about the peaceful art… of spinning.
I am pleased to invite you all to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for the opening of my 2018 show at the Granary Gallery.
Sunday August 5, from 5-7pm
I’ve been in a full tilt painting sprint since January and I laid the last of the brushes down only a few hours ago.
The work this year takes us to a few new places, has a few new faces, and takes some head long dives into depth and detail.
I’m as eager as I’ve ever been to launch the annual rollout of New Paintings. It will be the first chance I get to see them as an entire show. During the long months of production, the finished works are set aside to dry in stacks throughout the studio until it is time to begin varnishing and photographing. Due to space limitations here, this happens in stages and until I walk into the gallery on the afternoon of the show, the first glimpse I get of them all together is on this blog as I unveil them to you…dear viewers.
So let’s get right to it…
Let’s take a boat to Mystic…
The Cooper’s View – 24 x 28
There are a couple threads of themes which run through the 14 paintings for this year’s show. This painting weaves two of them together. Mystic and Me.
When I was a young girl living in Swarthmore, PA, our family would escape the dangers of Mischief Nights around Halloween and drive up to New England. I have vivid memories of exploring Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. My father loved boats and was building a wooden model of the Cuttysark around that time, and some of those interests filtered down to me…but I didn’t appreciate it back then.
What drew me in was the Cooperage. The Mystic Seaport Museum is a magical collection of all things maritime and wooden boat building and seafaring lore. A historic seaport village, along the banks of the Mystic River, brings maritime life in the 1800’s… alive.
From their website…“The buildings you see aren’t replications–they’re trade shops and businesses from the 1800s that were transported to Mystic Seaport from locations around New England. The village is made up of many bustling maritime trades, from shipsmiths and coopers to woodcarvers and riggers.”
So picture a 10 year old girl, whose three younger brothers are running off the energy from the long car ride, while she walks into the dark and dusty cave of the Cooperage.
( I have added a link here to the museum’s website where you can watch a nice little video and see inside the place for yourself.)
I was fascinated.
A small shack full of wooden barrels, and piles of wood shavings, and a shaving horse…
Fast forward about 20 years or so and look where that little girl was sitting…
I wielded my own drawknife for a decade making chairs and spoons and baskets and such. Then I put down the woodworking tools and picked up the brushes.
Fast forward another 20 years and that little girls has just turned 60.
And, on one of her now regular trips to New England, she returned to Mystic and once again stood inside the dark wooden den of the Cooperage…and turned around.
The Cooper’s View is just that. On this crisp fall day the sunlight bounces off of the t’gallant sails being raised on The Morgan which is docked just outside of the shop.
The Charles W. Morgan is the last of the American whaling fleet and was painstakingly restored at the Mystic Seaport Museum. (here’s a link to the museum’s website with a complete history and chronicle of her restoration…Click Here.)
We will go on board that ship in tomorrow’s blog post, but linger here a while and soak in the salty air and take a closer look at that rigging…
enjoy the playful pastel diagrams drawn inside…
and study the roman numerals carved on the barrel stays…
The artiste has taken license, in an autobiographical way, and added her own hatchet and well worn drawknife to authenticate the pastiche.
It was deeply moving for my 60 year old self to stand in that shop again and realize that I’ve come full circle, and back around yet another one, to complete a creative cycle that my 10 year old self didn’t even know how to dream of.