Maryland’s Shipbuilding Past – the Steward Shipyard Dogshore

The Stephen Steward Shipyard (18AN817), located on the West River in Anne Arundel County, is one of state’s best-documented and preserved eighteenth-century shipyards.  Steward’s thriving enterprise was both large and complex, including workshops and storage buildings, as well as housing for the free craftsmen and laborers, indentured servants and slaves employed there.  During the second half of the century, Steward and his workers constructed seagoing vessels ranging from 20 to 270 tons for both the transatlantic and Caribbean trades.

The MAC Lab’s Chief Conservator Nichole Doub takes measurements of the Steward Shipyard dogshore.

The MAC Lab’s Chief Conservator Nichole Doub takes measurements of the Steward Shipyard dogshore.

Archaeological excavations conducted at the site in the 1990s revealed this impressive artifact – a dog-shore.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines dog-shore as “each of two blocks of timber used to prevent a ship from starting off the slips while the keel-blocks are being removed in preparation for launching”.  This dog-shore, fashioned from a branching tree trunk, is an ideal object to represent the shipbuilding industry in our state.

Thomas Paine perhaps most clearly stated the importance of our nation’s shipbuilding industry in Common Sense (1776):  “Shipbuilding is America’s greatest pride and in which she will, in time, excel the whole world” (Paine 2008:53).  Because they benefited from the colony’s ability to produce seaworthy craft, shipbuilding was the one colonial industry that England did not attempt to regulate (O’Neill 2010).  Building and owning ships was also appealing to American colonists, not only for the economic benefits of the industry, but also because it provided American merchants with greater commercial independence from the British.  In the Chesapeake, ships were important for transporting the region’s primary crop—tobacco—to Europe. Continue reading

Look Mom, We’re on T.V.!

Our staff was very excited this week when C-SPAN visited the MAC Lab to film its weekend program “American History TV”, a half hour program that features discussions with authors and historians, coverage of history events, and first person accounts of American history. The crew from C-SPAN filmed two half hours programs; one about the World Trade Center ship and another about the MAC Lab in general, including footage of our research and conservation labs and collections storage. The C-SPAN crew tells us they expect to air both programs sometime in late October or early November of this year. We will keep you updated!

Head Conservator Nichole Doub is becoming a real pro at press interviews

*American History TV airs each weekend on C-SPAN 3 from 10am ET on Saturday to 10am ET on Monday. Tune in!

World Trade Center Ship – Cleaning and Still Cleaning

Cleaning continues with sponges, hoses, and toothbrushes all playing their part. Since the MAC Lab is a state-of-the-art conservation facility, you may think cleaning with anything less than state-of-the-art scientific equipment is oddly “low-tech”, and it is! It is also the gentlest, most careful way to remove dirt from historical timbers without damaging any surfaces, tool marks, nails or other inclusions that are on (or in) the possibly 200+ year old ship parts.

Using sponges and hoses

And toothbrushes for a “careful clean”