Legal Advice for Shipping and Sailing


The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant and Common Carrier’s Guide (Boston: I.R. Butts, 1850) and The Seaman’s Assistant (Boston: I.R. Butts, 1849).

Joyner Library Special Collections, HE745 .B88 1850

Digitized version available online in Joyner Library’s Digital Collections.

Staff person: Sarah McLusky


Special Collections holds many books dealing with nautical themes. Among them is Isaac Ridler Butts’ 1850 The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant and 1849 The Seaman’s Assistant – Joyner’s copies were bound together, so we have two books in one!

Title page for “The Merchant Shipper’s Assistant”

 The first helped shipmasters, owners, and shipping companies understand insurance laws related to their business, while the second gave sailors an idea of their rights. Butts’ company printed similar volumes of insurance and business laws for landlords, tenants, mechanics, and farmers.

The second, the Seaman’s Assistant, shifts focus from shipping companies to the people who worked for them. It lists requirements for sailors’ food (lots of salt beef and pork). It also explains what companies had to pay if they left a sailor behind in a foreign port (two months’ extra wages to the sailor, one month’s to the American consulate to help support other destitute sailors).

Detail from one of several charts in “The Seaman’s Assistant” showing recommendations for feeding sailors, page 99

At ECU, 18th-century pirates like Blackbeard get most of the attention. Even in the 19th century, however, The Seaman’s Assistant still lists the penalties for piracy (which included fines, hard labor, and death).

 Recto of book page with 4 paragraphs followed by image of sailing ship

Detail from page 65 of “Seaman’s Assistant” outlining the penalties for working with pirates, which included fines of up to $1000 and 3-year prison sentences

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Source: Jan Sellars Coward Collection, (Manuscript Collection #1112)

Staff Person: Jennifer Joyner

Description: With Fall approaching, many are visiting the beach for the last time this season. One tourist attraction at the North Carolina coast is the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Located south of Nags Head, the current Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872. Two other Bodie Island Lighthouse structures, no longer in existence, were built in 1847 and 1859.  Today’s structure stands 150 feet tall and has a signal that’s visible for 19 miles. The Bodie Island Lighthouse recently underwent a massive 3-year, $5 million restoration. It reopened in April 2013, and the public can now climb all 214 steps to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the views of the Outer Banks.

This undated image of the Bodie Island Lighthouse was taken by Jan Sellers Coward of eastern North Carolina. For other images of eastern North Carolina, see the Jan Sellars Coward Collection (#1112), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library.

USS Sarda (SS488)

Source: USS Sarda entering Havana, Cuba  Call Number: 818.os1.1

Staff Person: Ken Harbit


USS Sarda (SS-488), was a Tench-class submarine.  Financed by bonds purchased by the residents of Lynn, Massachusetts, her keel was laid down on 12 April 1945 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was launched on 24 August 1945 sponsored by Mrs. Heffernan, the wife of James J. Heffernan, Congressman from New York.

Because World War II had ended a few weeks before the submarine’s launch, a new decision whether to commission or scrap her had to be made. Sarda’s prospective commanding officer grew frustrated with the debate over the fate of his boat. During the months of waiting, he received a small plaque from his father inscribed Illegitimi non Carborundum — “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Up.” After a a hard won fight by her prospective commanding officer, Sarda was commissioned on 19 April 1946 with Commander Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., son of the famous Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, in command.

During the period between launching and commissioning, Sarda, was no longer needed for wartime service. Because of this, her conning tower was made bigger to permit installation of experimental equipment. After commissioning, she conducted her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea, then returned north to commence experimental work out of New London, Connecticut. There, she joined Submarine Division (SubDiv) 22 of Submarine Squadron 2; and, for the next four years, she tested new equipment for the Underwater Sound Laboratory, Fort Trumbull, and evaluated new ship control procedures. In the fall of 1949, she was transferred to SubDiv 21, and her primary mission was shifted from test and evaluation work to training ship duties. She continued that work through the 1950s, interrupting it only for type training; mine planting exercises; ASW exercises; fleet exercises; occasional participation in NATO or joint United States-Canadian exercises off the coasts of the Atlantic Provinces and northern New England; and, from January to June 1957, operations in the Caribbean Sea and the Guiana and Brazilian basins for the Hydrographic Office. On her return, she resumed her primary function, training submarine school students.

In the early 1960s, she continued her training mission, but devoted more time to providing services to ASW units conducting exercises. During the winter of 1960, she provided services to 92 surface ships and 14 air squadrons participating in annual training exercises in the Caribbean. During the winter of 1962, she again returned to the Caribbean for an extended stay and, when not employed in servicing Atlantic Fleet air and surface ASW units, she tested and evaluated acoustical torpedoes. The following winter, 1963, she deployed to the Mediterranean Sea where she operated with the Sixth Fleet; and, on her return to New London in late May, she resumed school ship duties.

Eleven months later, Sarda was declared to be surplus to Navy needs. May 1964 was spent in port at New London preparing for inactivation; and, on 1 June, Sarda was decommissioned. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day, and her hulk was sold for scrapping in March 1965.

Though she never saw combat action she is just as much an asset to the Navy and America as any combat unit. She tested new equipment, brought about new and better combat techniques, new ways of fleet-wide communication and collaboration, and most importantly of all, she trained those who did go into harms way.

"Memories of Two Years (almost) before the Mast"

Source: Ronald Vaughn Papers (Manuscript Collection #658)

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin

Description: Ronald Vaughn of Brownwood, TX, enlisted in the Navy with his twin brother Donald (January 1944). He served on the escort aircraft carrier USS KITKUN BAY (CVE-71). The Memoir describes Vaughn’s involvements during his service in World War II in the Pacific (1944-1945).

This page was taken from his memoir, (pp. 12)

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.

John L. Porter Naval Architectural Notebook

Source: John Luke Porter Papers (#850)

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin


John L. Porter (1813-1893) constructed naval ships in Portsmouth, Virginia, prior to the Civil War. After the secession of the Confederate States, he served at the Gosport (Portmouth, Virginia) Naval Yard for the Confederate Navy.  Mr. Porter recorded in this notebook (starting on page 164) the details of the conversion of the USS Merrimac to the CSS Virginia (1861-1862). Further on in the notebook (pg 233) he relates the sad story of his house being confiscated after the Civil War and sold for $700.00. To find out more information, ask for John Luke Porter Papers (#850).

Harold Stacey Burdick

Source: Harold Stacey Burdick Collection, 1892-1923;  East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1162

Staff Person: Nanette Hardison

The image shown is a studio portrait of Lt. Commander Harold Stacey Burdick (#1162.1.g) in his naval uniform dated around 1905-1917. This portrait along with other items in the Harold Stacey Burdick Collection gives valuable insight into the life and naval career of Harold Stacey Burdick. Of particular note in the collection is his service as an ensign and acting commander of the Paulding Class Destroyer USS JOUETT (DD-41) at the occupation of Tampico during the War with Mexico of 1914. There are also items relating to his death by pneumonia brought on by influenza on January 16, 1919 contracted during his service in World War I.  The finding aid to this collection can be accessed at

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.

Ellen Zukunft McGrew

Source: Ellen Zukunft McGrew Papers, 1942-1958; East Carolina Manuscript Collection #723

Staff Person: Nanette Hardison

This featured portrait is of Ellen Zukunft McGrew of Portland, Maine, an X-ray technician who in 1942 joined the WAVES which is the acroylm for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. WAVES were more commonly known as, Women in the U.S. Navy, and were part of the National Naval Reserve. This portrait, which shows her in her WAVES uniform as a USNR (WAVES) officer, is an item from the Ellen Zukunft McGrew Papers. The finding aid for the Ellen Zukunft McGrew can be accessed at

S.S. Utah – A Banned Book

Source: S.S. Utah, Hoover PS 3531.E2967 S1 1933

Cover of S.S. Utah

Cover of S.S. Utah

Staff Person: Ralph Scott


Mike Pell’s S.S. Utah is an example of the genre of proletarian fiction. Proletarian fiction written in the 1930s and dominated by middle-class authors, typically featured stories from the life of working class people who overcame the oppression of the mass-industrial world. Many of these works were banned because of their political viewpoints, with the S.S. Utah being no exception. Shortly after publication the book was banned in Australia and a number of other industrialized nations. The novel features a cargo ship bound for the Soviet Union with a cast of standard characters: a conservative union member, a Wobbly named “Slim” who converts the crew to communism, and veteran seafarers from Denmark to Alaska. Other more conservative reviewers felt that S.S. Utah was “not a literary work at all, but rather a fictionalized account of a naval mutiny produced as a manual for agitational work by the clandestine maritime apparatus of the Communist International.” Slim’s speeches, which seem out of date today, urge the “American worker…, together with the workers all over the world, [to] take the rifles that the boss-class shoves into our hands and use them, not against…fellow workers, but to set up a Soviet government of our own.” A number of these fictional works are patterned after the Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin. The Utah crew, like the sailors in the film, are essentially “bottom dogs” who revolt against their melancholy and boring world and march proudly into the socialist world of the future.

Pell, Mike. S.S. Utah, New York: International Publishers, 1933.

Hoover PS 3531.E2967 S1 1933

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