Concrete River Steamers of World War I, ca. 1921


Source: John B. Green Collection #380.2.b
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: Seen in the photograph above are four, unnamed, concrete-hulled river steamers at the Newport Shipping Corporation shipyard, in New Bern, North Carolina. They are obviously incomplete and unnamed. Built to solve the desperate shortage of steel for shipping during World War I, they were just one of the many innovations, from flame-throwers to tanks to aerial warfare, inspired by the “War to End All Wars”. During the first World War, steel had become so scarce that the U. S. Shipping Corporation which controlled all American shipping during the war, recommended that President Woodrow Wilson approve the construction of 24 such concrete ships. Of the 24, only 12 were built, at a total cost of $50 million. The Newport Shipbuilding Corporation of New Bern, NC was one of the companies selected to build the ships. Not one of the ships was finished in time to contribute to the war effort and were launched only in 1921, just when a huge surplus of now-unneeded shipping was beginning to flood the market. By the time the ships were completed, the war was already long over and the nation was still mired in a deep postwar recession. Just what happened to the ships built in New Bern is a matter of some conjecture. Most of the others sank or were converted to other purposes such as breakwaters, hotels, and fishing piers. It is unclear what happened to some of them. Please contact the author if you know the present location of any of the New Bern built concrete ships.

Aerial View of Barbour Boat Works, Inc.

Source:  Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records

Staff Person:  Dale Sauter

Description:  This image offers a nice view of the Barbour Boat Works factory in New Bern, North Carolina.  The business ended in the mid-1980s.  Included in the Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records are important ship drawings, correspondence and photos.  We plan to add descriptions of all photos in this collection very soon.  Check the finding aid at the following link for future updates.  http://specialcollections.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/0758/

USS LACKAWANNA Cabinet Card (1882)

Source: Preliminary Inventory of the Albert Parker Niblack Collection, 1876-1942; East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1080

Postcard, depicting officers of the U.S.S. LACKAWANNA

Postcard, depicting officers of the U.S.S. LACKAWANNA

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo

Description:

 This 1882 cabinet card shows portraits of 17 officers inset around a photograph of their ship, the USS LACKAWANNA. Captain Henry Wilson is featured in the center of the top row between his higher ranking subordinates. The lower ranking officers are in the lower rows. The lowest ranking, most junior officer in the view is Ensign Alfred Parker Niblack, Naval Academy Class of 1880, who appears at the extreme right of the bottom row in civilian dress. It was his first assignment after graduating.

Niblack (1858-1929) was born in Vincennes, Indiana and was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1876. He graduated in 1880 and was immediately posted to the LACKAWANNA and served there for two years. Niblack quickly made a name for himself in the Navy for his initiative, resourcefulness, diplomatic skills, and tactical and navigating skills. In 1887, while still an ensign, Niblack commanded the small 23-ton launch USS COSMO, which was being towed by the USS PATTERSON to Alaska. In weather so severe that at least one other large ship sank, COSMO‘s two lines parted and Niblack was forced to sail his newly built and badly leaking boat several hundred miles to Astoria, Oregon. Despite the fact that the storm caused much damage to the boat and 5 of the 7 crewmen were seasick much of the time, Niblack brought his command and crew home safely to port.

In later years, Niblack served on many ships and held several shore posts including the Smithsonian Institution, the Bureau of Navigation, and a tour in the Office of Naval Intelligence. He published numerous works on naval engineering, navigation, and tactics. He won his first significant command, USS IROQUOIS, in 1904, and subsequently commanded numerous other ships including USS HARTFORD and USS OLYMPIA. He was naval attache to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany and The Netherlands, and served as a member of the General Board of the Navy. He saw significant action in the Battle of Manila in the Spanish American war in 1899 and the Occupation of Vera Cruz Mexico in 1914.

In World War I, Niblack commanded Division 1 of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with USS ALABAMA (BB-8) as his flagship. While in European waters, he was promoted to Rear Admiral in August 1917. In October he took command of Squadron 2, Patrol Force, and served in this post through the Armistice. In March 1919 he became Director of Naval Intelligence and U.S. Naval Attache in London in August 1920. As Vice Admiral he commanded all U.S. Naval Forces in European waters from January 1921 to June 1922. After commanding the 6th Naval District at Charleston, S.C. for a year, Niblack retired in July 1923 and retired to the South of France. He died at Monte Carlo, Monaco on 20 August 1929. In 1940, the destroyer USS NIBLACK (DD-424) was named in honor of Vice Admiral Niblack, sponsored by his widow.

Made by Reiman & Co., of San Francisco, California this cabinet card is fairly typical of the genre. By 1882 cabinet cards like these had supplanted the smaller cartes de visites that had been popular in the 1860s and 1870s. They were acquired as souvenirs, and collected or traded like baseball cards. Cabinet cards remained popular into the early twentieth century, when home photograpy became economical. This cabinet card is one of several in the Albert Parker Niblack Papers (#1080).

The LACKAWANNA was veteran of the Civil War. Named for a river in Pennsylvania LACKAWANNA was launched by the New York Navy Yard in August 1862. A screw sloop-of-war she joined the Union blockade of the southern coast of the Confederacy, principally off Mobile Bay until the war ended. LACKAWANNA captured several Confederate blockade runners during the war. She also participated in Admiral Farragut’s conquest of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. In 1866, LACKAWANNA was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet and operated in the Pacific, in Hawaii, along the coast of California and Mexico, and in the Far East until she was finally decommissioned at Mare Island 7 April 1885.

You may access the finding aid to the Alfred Parker Niblack Papers at: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/1080/

Click on the image to view an enlarged version.

Barbour Boat Works, Inc.

Source: Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records, 1943-1998, undated, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #758

Staff Person: Dale Sauter

Description:

One collection that has lately proven quite popular with researchers is the Barbour Boat Works Inc. Records. Many of the requests we have received are from owners of an original Barbour boat who, with plans of restoring them, are seeking the original plan drawings.

Barbour Boat Works Inc. was founded by Herbert William Barbour in 1932 on the Trent River at New Bern, North Carolina, and remained in business until the mid-1990s. During its long history the company built a large variety of vessels for a variety of purchasers, both military and civilian. These records also offer valuable information through such other materials as correspondence, contracts, manuals, photographs, and brochures. The featured image comes from the cover of an undated sales brochure.

Cover of sales brochure from the Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records.

Cover of sales brochure from the Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records.

Japanese Surrender Photograph, 2 September 1945

 

Japanese Surrender, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay 2 September 1945

Japanese Surrender, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay 2 September 1945

Source: Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #35

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo

Description:

The photograph below is one of the most famous in any of our collections. It shows Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) signing the Instrument of Surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during the formal ceremony ending World War II. Standing behind him are representatives of the victorious Allied Powers including General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who had already signed the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander. Standing to MacArthur’s immediate left are Admirals William F. Halsey, Commander, Third Fleet, and Forrest Sherman, Deputy Chief of Staff to Admiral Nimitz. What makes this print special is that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz autographed it for his Air Force friend and comrade, Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. He then added in the bottom margin the following sentiment:

    “To Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., USAF – with best wishes and great appreciation for your contribution to the war effort that made possible this above scene. C. W. Nimitz – Fleet Admiral.”

Admiral Nimitz is perhaps the most illustrious naval commander in American history. He had taken command of all American naval forces in the Pacific in December 1941 just after Pearl Harbor when the United States was at its lowest point. As Commander-in-Chief U. S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) he led the Navy in many desperate battles with the Japanese Navy, achieving success after success until final victory was won. In recognition of his accomplishment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Nimitz to Fleet Admiral in December 1944 the day after Congress created the rank.

Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. (1902-1969) had commanded the 315th Bomb Wing, based in Guam, from April to August 1945. Previously, he had helped organize and lead the first successful American bombing campaign against Germany from 1941 to 1943. His experiences there became the basis of Sy Bartlett Beirne Lay Jr.’s novel, film, and TV series Twelve O’clock High. He is credited with having commanded and flown on both the first and the last American bombing missions of World War II. The photograph is from his papers housed in Joyner Library’s Special Collections Department.

Following the war Nimitz served a term as Chief of Naval Operations until retiring from active service in 1947. At the time of his death, he was the nation’s last surviving fleet admiral.Armstrong remained in the Air Force and rose to become a Lieutenant General and commander of the Alaskan Air Command. He retired in 1962. His son, Frank A. Armstrong, III, also became an Air Force officer and was killed in action during the Vietnam War.Source: Japanese Surrender Photograph (2 September 1945) Tokyo, Japan. Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers #35.17.gYou may access the finding aid to the Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers at http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/0035/

Click on the image itself to see an enlarged version.

Safe Boating

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Records, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #559

Staff Person: Martha Elmore

Description:
Special Collections in Joyner Library is the official repository for the records of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Auxiliary was established by Congress in 1939 as a way for owners of motorboats and yachts to volunteer their services and their boats’ services to assist the Coast Guard. During World War II they kept a lookout for suspicious activities along our coastlines such as the smuggling in of arms, narcotics, and spies and saboteurs. Today the group has 27,000 members who are organized into districts which are broken down into regions and divisions and into smaller groups called flotillas. The Auxiliarists volunteer their time to do vessel safety checks, harbor patrols, safe boating courses, search and rescue operations, and marine environmental protection. The records we hold include newsletters, meeting minutes, training materials, histories, scrapbooks, photographs, videos, cassette recordings, rosters, disaster statistics and reports on catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina. We receive records on a weekly basis from the Auxiliary groups and are entering information about their records into a searchable database that we hope will go live in the future. This photograph shows “Commodore” (and actor) Lloyd Bridges of the Coast Guard Auxiliary promoting a safe boating course. Click here to learn more about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Records

Actor Lloyd Bridges helping to promote a safe boating course

Actor Lloyd Bridges helping to promote a safe boating course

HMS Bucton Castle

Source: A.M. Handley Journal, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Staff Person: Jon Dembo

Description:
Attached is a pen and ink sketch of the HMS BUCTON CASTLE, a three-masted sailing ship. It was drawn on the inside front cover of his journal by one of her passengers, Capt. A. M. Handley. An officer in the British 19th Infantry Regiment, Handley was traveling to India to join his unit and help reestablish order after the recently suppressed Indian Mutiny (1857). He kept his journal to occupy his time sailing from Gravesend, England to Calcutta. He certainly had plenty of time to occupy for the voyage took a total of 160 days from January to June 1859. That may explain the extreme pains Handley took to number and name all the sails, masts and decks on this small pen and ink sketch. The original closely written 136-page journal measures only 9 mm by 15 mm.

In his journal Handley recorded his day to day observations of life aboard the BUCTON CASTLE, including descriptions of the personalities on board, shipboard routine, the ship’s time-keeping system, and a meeting with the whaling ship Isabella. There was much to surprise him. The following excerpt is from his first day aboard ship:

    “3 o’clock. Ship just towed into harbour; went on board immediately & to our immense surprise were told by the captain that if he had not had to wait for us, he would not have anchored at all at Gravesend. All passengers on board except ourselves. Finally embarked at ½ past 10 o’clock, same night. Too late to put up berths & so slept on the ground. Had not been in bed long before a baby in the next cabin began to cry & simultaneously a loud “mew” in the cabin made us aware that we had a cat shut up in it, with us. When the baby stopped the cat began, & between the two sleep was impossible. Thus [I] passed the first night on board.”

After a while he became more used to the routine and was able to remark:

    “Tea at 6. Grog at 8 and bed at 10.”

Anyone who has been irritated by modern travel — the discomfort, expense, delay, unpleasant fellow travelers and surly employees — may sympathize with Handley who endured this and more for more than six months. And without email or web access.

On April 1st 1859 Handley commented:

    “All Fools Day, especially dedicated I should think to those who are fools enough to go to Calcutta round the Cape when they had the chance of going overland.”

If anyone has any questions, or would like to see the actual journal, it is available to the public in the Special Collections Department search room.

Source: A. M. Handley Journal, pp. 1-2, 4, 44-45. (East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064.1.a).

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Towboat Oliver C. Shearer

Source: Marietta Manufacturing Company Records, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #742

M.V. Towboat "Oliver C. Shearer" being built

M.V. Towboat "Oliver C. Shearer" being built

Staff Person: Emily Blankenship

Description:
The Marietta Manufacturing Company records were officially donated to the Special Collections Department in the spring of 1997. A team of four library staff and students traveled to West Virginia to obtain the records. After spending two days retrieving over 200 cubic feet of records and packing them in a van, the team completed the nearly 900 mile roundtrip back to Greenville. The administrative (paper) records of the company are now processed. The finding aid is available online at: Manuscript Collection 742.

The photo below is of the towboat Oliver C. Shearer on the day it was launched, Dec. 8, 1960. The boat was built by Marietta for the O. F. Shearer River Transportation Company. If you look closely, there are 6 men standing under the boat readying the carriage and cradles (which hold the hull) for release and greasing the ways (rails) for the launching.

According to the January 9, 1961 edition of the Inland Waterways Journal, “Mrs. Oliver C. Shearer christened the boat at 3 p.m. and within seconds a hand ratchet was tripped. The boat slowly gained momentum until she careened down into the waters of the Ohio River, going in a 45 degree angle to port, and then lazily falling back to starboard before she settled and righted herself, head toward the shore. Numerous Marietta workmen in rowboats pulled out to retrieve the carriage and cradles on which the Oliver C. Shearer had made her trip down the ways.”

O.F. Shearer and Sons began operations in the early 1920s moving materials on the Kentucky River. By the 1950’s O.F. Shearer & Sons offices were located in the Union Central Tower in Cincinnati and the company concentrated on Ohio and Kanawha river business. In 1973, the firm was sold to the American Electric Power Co. Today AEP and its sister company, Memco Barge Lines, are major players in the inland river industry. The O.F. Shearer and Sons company records are in the care of the Pt. Pleasant, WV River Museum.

The Oliver C. Shearer still carries its original name, but is now owned by Campbell Transportation out of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Please contact the Special Collections Department with any questions or comments.

USS Merrimack aka CSS Virginia

Source: John L. Porter Collection, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #850

USS Merrimack aka CSS Virginia

USS Merrimack aka CSS Virginia

Staff Person: Jon Dembo

Description:

Attached is an original pen & ink sketch of the MERRIMAC (sic), the famous Confederate ironclad ram. The sketch was made in 1862 by Naval Constructor John Luke Porter (1831-1893) who had helped convert her into the first ironclad warship. The sketch is part of a notebook / diary which he began writing in 1860 and continued until after the Civil War. A slightly edited version of the text was published as John L. Porter: Naval Constructor of Destiny, by Alan B. Flanders in 2000. However, this may be the first time that this image has ever been published.

Originally a frigate in the US Navy known as the USS MERRIMACK, the retreating federal forces had burned her to the waterline in 1861 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent her use by the Confederacy. Porter, one of the few professional naval constructors in service to the Confederacy led the team that raised and converted her into an ironclad warship.

Upon commissioning, the Confederate Navy renamed her CSS VIRGINIA. Almost immediately, on 8 March 1862, the MERRIMAC engaged in a series of historic naval battles sinking or damaging several wooden Union warships in an attempt to break their blockade of Southern commerce. In doing so, she decisively proved the superiority of iron over wooden-hulled warships. She made history again, on 9 March, when she fought the even more radical Union ironclad, the USS MONITOR, off Hampton Roads, Virginia. That battle, which ended in a tactical draw, was the first ever between iron hulled warships. It ushered in the age of iron and steel warships which endures to the present day. The battle between the MONITOR and the MERRIMAC proved a strategic victory for the Union by preserving the blockade and thus, may have spelled the doom of the Confederacy.

Later during the Civil War Porter went on to build more than a dozen ironclads for the Confederacy and become the head of Confederate Navy ironclad building program. Among a variety of other writings, the Porter notebook / diary contains two versions of the story of raising and re-fitting the MERRIMAC and concludes with a description of Porter’s experiences during the final days of the Civil War in Eastern North Carolina.

In later years, Southern sympathizers tended to avoid using the name MERRIMAC to describe the vessel; Porter, a loyal southerner, however, consistently used his slightly corrupted version of the ship’s original name instead of VIRGINIA. In the wake of the famous battle between the MONITOR and MERRIMAC, Porter engaged in a long-running controversy with Lt. John M. Brook, CSN, who also claimed to have been chiefly responsible for raising the MERRIMAC. Both sides continued the battle until long after the principals were deceased but without settling the matter decisively.

The Porter notebook / diary may be found in the John L. Porter Collection (#850) along with a variety of other materials relating to Porter. Please contact the Special Collections department if you have any questions.

Vessels Constitution and Etner

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office Collection, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1041

Two sailing vessels, the Constitution and the Etner

Two sailing vessels, the Constitution and the Etner

Staff Person: Jon Dembo

Description:
This digital image shows two sailing vessels, the CONSTITUTION of Manteo and the ETNER of New Bern, in the waters of Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. The ETNER, the two-masted vessel to starboard, may be in some difficulty or have an injured or sick crewman. Her sails have been hauled in rather clumsily, she is flying a flag at half-mast, and she is tied to the CONSTITUTION by several lines. Both ships appear to have African American crews. The donor, Coast Guard Historian Jeffrey L. Bowdoin, believes that the image was taken from the Coast Guard Cutter KANKAKEE, during the summer of 1921. The KANKAKEE may have been attempting to provide assistance at the time.

The image was made from one of two 3.5″ x 5″ black and white negatives in the U. S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office Collection. Researchers may access the U. S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office Collection (#1041.1.a) through the Special Collections Department Search Desk on the 4th Floor of Joyner Library.

If anyone can provide additional information concerning the ships, crews, or situation shown in the image, please contact the Special Collections Department at (252) 328-6671.