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Unformatted text preview: Wooden Ships Featured Reference
Youngquist, W.G. and H.O. Fleischer. 1977. Wood in American Life: 17762076. Forest Products Research Society. 192 pages. ISBN 096324485X. "A French scholar who visited this country during the War of Independence wrote, `The art of constructing vessels has made more rapid progress in America than anywhere else.' "In the 100 years prior to the Revolution, American shipbuilding had advanced from a small, scattered parttime enterprise which produced vessels mainly for fishing and coastal trade, to a major industry, which supplied a large domestic merchant fleet as well as foreign maritime interests." W.G. Youngquist and H.O. Fleischer, Wood in American Life, p. 51 The Royal Navy in America 1588: Defeat of the Spanish Armada Britain emerges as the world's dominant sea power Britain lacked the resources particularly timber to sustain its shipbuilding industry The Golden Hinde, Beaufort, NC 1990 British Men of War of the 1750s Blenheim 60 guns 142' 7" long Required 188,688 cubic feet of "high quality lumber" 100 guns Approx. same length Required 288,025 cubic feet Harvey Green, Wood, p. 159 Royal George Dependence on the Baltic States Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia The Baltic was a precarious source of supply England's war with Holland in 1652 closed the entrance to the Baltic Other European wars involving the Baltic States forced them to reserve raw materials for use by their own navies On occasion, the Baltic States levied customs duties on exports, driving up costs of materials for Britain The American Colonies
The earliest English explorers recognized the potential of North American forests as a source of raw materials for shipbuilding The American Colonies
The Navigation and Trade Acts governing the colonies protected raw materials, particularly eastern white pines that were the best species for masts, spars, and planking.
U.S.S. Constellation, Baltimore, MD The American Colonies
Emergence of a local shipbuilding industry in New England that grew rapidly in the 1660s was a source of conflict with the Mother Country over supplies The Charles W. Morgan, Mystic, CT The American Colonies In 1698, Britain sent a fact finding commission to the colonies to investigate the potential for obtaining naval stores Naval Stores Act of 1705 established bounties for masts, spars, hemp, pitch, tar, turpentine, and resins Colonial governments also provided incentives for production of goods for the Royal Navy The Golden Hinde, Beaufort, NC 1990 Naval Stores Original meaning included masts, spars, timbers, and planking for shipbuilding Later came to mean pitch, tar, resins, turpentine, hemp for rope making, and flax for sail making.
Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA "Whereas the Colonial hemp system was a failure the special culture and techniques for hemp were never mastered the production of tar and pitch was a success."
Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests, p. 75 Pitch, tar, resins, and turpentine Pitch: Used to caulk ship's timbers. Hemp rope was soaked in pitch to make "oakum," a rope caulk used between ship planks. Tar: Used to preserve ropes and timbers Resins: Used as a glue Turpentine: Thin, clear resins used as a paint carrier and thinner Naval stores are derived from chemicals in wood known as "extractives" Organic byproducts of the tree's metabolism that are deposited in the heartwood and bark There are literally thousands of extractives found in trees Many are volatile Extractives give wood its color, odor, decay and insect resistance North Carolina supplied approximately 60% of the naval stores South Carolina was the other main producer and exporter of naval stores Longleaf pine was the best species for their production Mystic Seaport, CT Naval stores were shipped directly to Britain Or shipped to New England where they were: transshipped to Britain, exported (illegally) to other European markets, or consumed by Yankee shipbuilders Production of Resin and Turpentine Bark was stripped on the sunny side of the tree and a notch cut near the ground A Vshaped incision the "box" was cut periodically in the bark to stimulate resin flow A cup at the base of the box was used to collect resins which were periodically ladled into barrels The exposed xylem was periodically scraped to collect heavier resins One slave could collect 21/2 barrels a day from approx. 1,000 trees Thinner, crude resins were distilled in copper vats the clear, thinner distillates were turpentine Production of Tar and Pitch Freshly split, fire deadened pine wood was burned particularly the dried out old "boxed" trees Pitch was boiled down in vats or kettles to remove volatiles. The extra processing made pitch twice as expensive as tar. Masts and Spars Mystic Seaport, CT Masts were of much greater strategic importance than naval stores Any sailing ship needed 23 timbers for masts, cross yards (spars), and a bowsprit A ship of the line needed a main mast at least 40 inches in diameter and up to 120 feet long Mystic Seaport, CT The eastern white pine of New England was ideal tall, straight grained, and strong As early as 1652, the Royal Navy sent ships to Portsmouth, NH to replace masts By 1727, Falmouth, Maine was the center of trade in masts to England The charter of the Mort Kunstler Massachusetts Bay Company (Plymouth and Maine) of 1691 reserved all white pines over 25 inches for the navy A surveyor of pines and timbers would mark trees reserved for masts with three cuts of a hatchet in the shape of an arrow The White Pine Act of 1722, Britain reserved all white pines on the English efforts to reserve the white pines were the first efforts to regulate use of the North American forests, but they met resistance from the New Englanders Nonetheless trade in masts and spars never amounted to much due to distance and the expense of finding quality raw material The system was corrupt with much duplicity on the part of Crown agents, local merchants, poachers, and smugglers. Mystic Seaport, CT Americans and Their Forests, p. 90 "Colonial New England developed a complex lumbering, shipbuilding, fishing, whaling, and trading structure with little or no interference from Britain, and any attempt to restrict this with imperial edicts was bound to have political repercussions." Michael Williams, Mort Kunstler The first sea skirmish of the Revolution occurred in May, 1775 off Machias, Maine (we'll hear more about Machias later) when townspeople chased down and captured a British ship that had commandeered a shipment of pine lumber. American Shipbuilding As early as 1629, fishing vessels were constructed in Salem, Massachusetts 17th century American vessels were relatively small fishing vessels and merchant vessels that plied the coastal trade with other colonies and the West Plimouth Plantation, MA Between 1674 and 1714, 1,257 vessels totaling 75,267 tons were constructed in Massachusetts; 364 vessels totaling 21,236 tons were built in the rest of New England Boston, Charlestown, Salem, and Scituate built 3/4 of the vessels constructed in the late 17th century In the early 18th century, Philadelphia, Charleston, & Savannah emerged as centers of shipbuilding [Williams, p. 93]. Boston, Newport, Mystic Seaport, CT Portsmouth, and other New England cities accounted for half the American tonnage built just prior to the Revolution (Youngquist & Fleischer, p. 51). Southern shipyards built fewer ships but it was thought that the ships they produced were superior in design and quality [Youngquist & ] Fleischer, p. 52). "Baltimore Clippers" An estimated 40 percent Charles W. Morgan, Mystic Seaport, CT of all British tonnage was built in American shipyards on the eve of the Revolution according to Williams [p. 93]. Youngquist and Fleischer [p. 51] estimate that 1/3 of the ships in the British merchant marine of 1775 were built in American yards The Schooner The Kalmar Nyckel, Mystic, CT Americans built smaller ships than Europeans and developed the "schooner," a sleek, narrowhulled craft with sharp bow and stern that skimmed the water with great speed and maneuverability. Carthaginian, Lahaina, HI Joseph Conrad, Mystic Seaport, CT Faster, more maneuverable Ships were well suited to coastal trade, whaling, and smuggling American Ships of War European naval tactics employed "the line of battle" The European warship was a floating gun platform American Ships of War The American Navy relied instead on schooner design, offsetting firepower with speed and maneuverability enabling American naval vessels and privateers to sink twice the number of vessels during the Revolution than the British. Shipbuilders often built carefully carved scale models before building the ships. North Carolina Mariner's Museum, Beaufort, NC "Shipwrights, like other craftsmen, had to have a thorough knowledge of the properties and performance of different woods. Their range of choice was narrow, since few species met the qualifications for the principal parts of ships. Of the more than 500 species of trees in North America, only about 20 were ever used extensively in shipbuilding.... "The main qualifications for species of wood for shipbuilding were great strength, hardness to withstand frequent blows or groundings, resistance to warping to minimize leaks, lightness to insure speed and carrying capacity, resistance to decay to insure durability, and tenacity to hold fastenings. Few species met all of these criteria.... "...Some that did were inaccessible, too small, or of limited quantity. Only the largest, full grown trees could be used for keels, sternposts, stems, frames, and spars. This meant virgin timber had to be used. Furthermore, naturally curved and bent timbers had to be found for certain parts of a hull."
W.G. Youngquist and H.O. Fleischer, Wood in American Life (p. 52) Frames
White oak Most widely used Mystic Seaport, CT species for ship frames Tough and resilient Decay resistant and the presence of tannic acid resisted shipworms Shape of trees produced curved timbers Frames & Hull Planks
Live oak Short, thick tree that U.S.S. Constellation, Baltimore, MD was used in southeastern yards Finegrained, heavy, and durable Almost indestructible became the primary ship framing species of the U.S. Navy The First Federal Forest Reserves 1789 & 1800 in Georgia 1st American forest plantation established in 1828 near Pensacola to grow live oak for the Navy Planking
White oak was the dominant wood used for bottom and sides of hulls and the ceiling of the hulls easily bent, resistant to decay, and able to withstand alternating heat, cold, water, and hot sun
Charles W. Morgan, Mystic Seaport, CT Planking Southern pine was the wood of choice in the south White pine was used for decking, deckhouses, and cabins lightweight, resistant to sun and weather Teak and mahogany sometimes used in deckhouses and cabins Joseph Conrad, Mystic Seaport, CT Figureheads & Carvings Wooden Ships in American Culture Projected the new nation's naval and economic power around the globe
Mort Kunstler Wooden Ships in American Culture
Ships connected Americans to the rest of the world Furniture, tools, art, and books from Europe Spices, silk, and china from the Orient Immigrants Joseph Conrad, Mystic Seaport, CT Wooden Ships in American Culture
Sea captains and sailors were the most "worldly" Americans of their time
Lahaina, HI Scott Armstrong photo Wooden Ships in American Culture
"In many American towns, the ratification of the Constitution was celebrated by "Grand Federal Procession" in which a large part of the community marched behind a model of a fullrigged ship, as big as a small house... A fullrigged ship was the largest and most complex machine in that era, and it became the symbol of the complex constitutional machinery that was thought to be fundamental to a free republic."
David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom, pp. 196 197 Wooden Ships in American Culture Folklore, literature, art, and music "Call me Ishmael." Herman Melville, Moby Dick Mort Kunstler Wooden Ships in American Culture
Seafaring was the first American "industry" Later industries, especially logging and railroading, followed the cultural model of the sailor Can't resist another travelogue...
Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut ...
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- Spring '11