Artifacts from a 19th-Century Chesapeake Bay Schooner

Ship parts from the Widgeon, a bay schooner, were found during a 1997 archaeological investigation of St. Leonard Creek and are currently in the conservation department at the MAC Lab. A schooner is a type of sailing vessel that was originally used by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the early 18th century, however, schooners were used more extensively in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Used for everything, from privateering to offshore fishing, the most common schooners had two masts. One of the objects recovered from the site of the Widgeon is a hoop of iron that would have encircled one of these masts. This “mast band” would have been used as reinforcement for the wooden mast and also would have served as a place to attach ropes and tackle. Conservation of the Widgeon’s 19th-century artifacts has taken several years and the mast band is one of the last objects still in treatment.

Iron mast band still attached to remnants of the wooden mast.

View from the deck of the Widgeon.

*FUN FACT: After the Civil War, Maryland opened the Chesapeake Bay to oyster dredging. The use of dredges, versus tongs, created a need for larger, more powerful sail boats to haul the dredges across the oyster beds. The first vessels used were the existing schooners, like the Widgeon. Eventually, the bugeye was developed specifically for oyster dredging in the Chesapeake Bay.