Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On show at Liverpool

I trust that everyone is savoring the new year and all the hope it brings. I toil away daily on Heart of Teak, while finding time for my other projects here by the lake.

As I am always on the lookout for new Success images I thought I would share with you a recent acquisition -- this wonderful glass slide of the ship on show at Liverpool. It is undated but I know from my research that she made two appearances in this great city, the first in September and October of 1896 and the second in 1908, when she was tied up at the Salthouse Dock. I will be grateful to anyone who can help me pin down in which of these two time periods the photo was taken and the precise location.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another 'Success'-ful work of art

Another work of art depicting the ship Success has surfaced in the National Maritime Collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum. And this one bears similarities - at least superficially - to one that I have discussed previously.

If you follow this blog you know that in March I wrote a story about the maritime artist Frederick Garling and the a wonderful watercolor he painted of the Success in 1849. Well the newly discovered work you see above is also a watercolor and is also by an artist named Frederick. This one was Frederick Elliot.

Here's what is posted on the National Maritime Collection site about Elliot:
Fred Elliot was a marine painter active in Brisbane and later in Sydney, working primarily in watercolour. He was born in England in 1865 and came to Queensland with his family in 1876. He worked as a lithographic artist at the Queensland Government Printing Office from 1896 to about 1903, and later moved to Sydney. A prolific artist, he painted sailing ships, liners, merchant and naval ships, often depicted with dramatic atmospheric effects. His watercolours are high keyed and often echo the romantic effects of soft light and mist popularised by J J Hilder. He rarely painted in oil, but was commissioned in 1910 to paint a large portrait of shipowner partners Andrew McIlwraith and Malcolm Donald McEacharn.
What I find interesting about this work is that Elliot has placed the ship in Sydney harbor. You will note that here she is rigged as a barkentine. She didn't receive a barkentine rig until early 1912 in preparation for her voyage from England to the U.S. Additionally, the white trim on her hull extends down to midway on her quarter gallery. Again, this paint trim was a characteristic of her appearance during her tour of the U.S. I conclude from this that Elliot based this work on photographs of the ship taken in the U.S., or from sketches after seeing the ship in person somewhere in the U.S., and yet he chose Sydney as a backdrop. Most interesting.

The work is undated (as was most of Elliot's work) but I conclude it must have been done after 1912.

The old Success has inspired many fine artists over the years. This watercolor by Fred Elliot is a fine addition to that body of work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Herbert Croker Model of the 'Success' - A better view

Photo courtesy the South Australia Maritime Museum
Back in May, I told the story of the Herbert Croker model. I reported at that time I believed it was located at the South Australia Maritime Museum (SAMM). Just recently someone with that museum contacted me and confirmed that, indeed, the Croker model is located at the SAMM. At my request they also provided the above image, for which I am extremely grateful. It is a much clearer than the one I had previously posted. I urge you to take a few moments to browse their fine website and, by all means, if you make it to Adelaide allot some time to visit their many fine exhibits, in addition to the Croker model, of course!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New "Success" article appears in northwest Ohio publication

The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette, a monthly regional newspaper distributed free throughout northwest Ohio, has a feature article about me in its just-released September issue. As the paper is not available outside this area, I took the liberty of scanning the article. Julie Hohman, the author, did a good job of getting the facts correct. Click on the images to make them more readable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pics from "Last Days of the Success" at the Ottawa County Museum

Attendees sitting in rapt attention during my presentation

Showing the crowd a piece of teak from the Success

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Convict Ship in Sandusky, Ohio

A sign at the Cedar Point dock directs visitors to the Convict Ship. (Author's collection)

Of the many cities on the Great Lakes where the Success docked over a span of 17 years, her roots to the modest-sized city of Sandusky on Lake Erie are as strong as any. A quick review of history will demonstrate why.

The famed "convict ship" entered the Great Lakes in 1923, with Cleveland having the distinction of being her first port of call. It was a prosperous time for the ship and her owners. The economic engine of the U.S. was just hitting its stride after the Great War and the "roaring twenties" were kicking into high gear. The Success embarked on a successful tour of our inland seas that took her from Lake Erie to Lake Huron and, finally, Lake Michigan, culminating in a triumphant and wildly successful showing in Chicago during 1925. She started back down the lakes and, after a showing at Oswego, New York, in Lake Ontario in August of 1928, departed for the eastern seaboard.

When she returned to the lakes five years later with a showing at Chicago for the Century of Progress International Exposition, it was a profoundly different country, having plunged into the throws of the Great Depression. With 25 percent unemployment across the country, people struggled to put food on their tables, let alone spend money on entertainment.

After Chicago, the Success was not shown for two years. Once back in operation she had several years of marginal success. She arrived in Sandusky for the first time in September 1938, at the tail end of the exhibition season. She wintered there, and in the spring received a new, badly-needed main deck. In May she was towed to Lorain, Ohio for caulking and other repairs, and in June she was taken to Cleveland and berthed at the East Ninth Street Pier. This was to be her home for the next three years. Then in late 1942, pressure for dock space at the height of World War II forced her out of Cleveland.

The Success on show at Sandusky

Thus she returned to Sandusky, lashed to the Hunt Coal Company dock, her future at that point uncertain. Before her owner could decide, nature intervened and did it for him when, in March of 1943 a spring storm pounded the ship's hull so hard against the bottom that she took in more water than her already overworked pumps could handle and she sank at her dock. For the next two and a half years various attempts were made to float her, with little success. She proved to be a worrisome problem for city fathers and for the owners of the popular excursion steamer Put-in-Bay which now had to share its dock with the old prison ship. Something had to be done.

In the meantime, with no one at the dock watching out for her, the darker side of human nature took over. Anything that wasn't tied down was carried away. Exhibits such as the Iron Maiden, dozens of chains and shackles, and numerous wax figures disappeared. Fittings such as the red and green running lights - gone.

The ice shrouded hull of the Success at Sandusky (author's collection)

Had it not been for Harry Van Stack, there would be nothing left. Harry, a naturalized citizen born in South Africa, who for the last 18 years had been a trusted, lecturer, caretaker, and general hand on board the Success. Seeing that the end was near, Stack salvaged what he could from the ship and took it to his new home in Sandusky. Years later, after his death, his wife saw to it the documents and artifacts Harry saved found a permanent home at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library in nearby Fremont. In addition to advertising posters, teakwood, and a ship model, there were scrapbooks, photographs, and other rare documents that tell the fascinating story of the Success.

The Berkley Salvage Company of Detroit finally succeeded in raising the Success in September, 1945. They turned the ship over to an eccentric salvage operator from Port Clinton. I will tell the story of the ship's journey from Sandusky to Port Clinton in a future blog. But history records that the old prison ship Success has a strong connection to Sandusky - one that will be long remembered.