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Independence Seaport Museum collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School material
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Independence Seaport Museum, J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
- Independence Seaport Museum, J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library
- Independence Seaport Museum collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School material
- Date [bulk]:
- Date [inclusive]:
- Call Number:
- PA Nautical
- 8.5 Linear feet
- The Pennsylvania Nautical School was formed in 1889 by the Pennsylvania State Legislature to meet the nation's demand for trained seamen. For 58 years cadets were instructed by U.S. Navy officers in the arts of navigation, marine engineering and seamanship to prepare them for careers in the maritime trades and professions. In 1942 the school was renamed the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy (based in Morrisville, Pennsylvania) and in 1947 the Academy closed. Between 1889 and 1947, close to 2000 cadets graduated from the program. Ships retired from the Navy were retrofitted into schoolships. The Nautical School taught aboard five different ships over its 58 year history: Sloop of War USS Saratoga (1889-1907); Screw Bark USS Adams (1907-1914); Gunboat USS Annapolis (1919-1942); Cutter Keystone State, ex USCG Seneca (1942-1946); and Attack Cargo Ship USS Keystone State II, ex. USS Selinur (1946-1947). In 1940 the Light Cruiser USS Omaha and the Ammunition Ship USS Pyro were hosts to Nautical School cadets. An early alumni association The Pennsylvania Nautical School Association was established around 1906. A later association, the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association, was formed in 1955 and publishes a newsletter, The Lookout. This is a collection of papers related to the Pennsylvania Nautical School and the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association, the Nautical School's alumni association. Files on cadets include: photographs; correspondence from cadets to their families and from the school to families; itineraries; grade sheets; programs; class journals; diplomas and certificates; and ephemera. Files on ships include: photographs, negatives, and drawings of the various ships used by the School. General school materials include: an 1889 prospectus for the school; course materials compiled by Commander C. W. Densmore, U.S.N., Retired on various aspects of nautical engineering; a run of the Nautical School’s yearbook The Helm (1924-1946); and newspaper clippings. Material related to the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association include: The Log of the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association and The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships (1912-1915) a publication of the Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York alumni associations; menus; and photographs. Pennsylvania Schoolship Association materials include: invitations and programs; memorials; alumni directories; anniversary booklets; and a run of the Association’s newsletters, The Lookout (1956-2006).
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An Act of Congress approved June 20, 1874 authorized the Secretary of the Navy to provide a suitable ship and assign a superintendent and officers for the purpose of training young men for the merchant marine at a nautical school at each of any of the ports of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk and San Francisco.
The provisions of the Act of April 17, 1889 and the appropriation of May 23, 1889 by the Pennsylvania Assembly established a nautical school in the port of Philadelphia aboard the 47 year-old 882 ton sailing ship USS Saratoga. The admission requirements to the school were for boys 16 and 19 years of age whose parents were citizens and residents of the state of Pennsylvania.
The schoolship Saratoga was operated as a nautical training school from 1890 to 1908 when the 65 year-old vessel was replaced by the Navy by the 32 year-old sail and steam-powered 1,400 ton USS Adams. The schoolships Saratoga and Adams were operated jointly by the State of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia.
The course of training was approximately two years which was dependent upon the capability of the ships to complete their training cruises within the specified time. The schoolship Adams ceased operations on February 16, 1914 when the Navy withheld its appropriation and withdrew the ship on account of local disagreement and the legislature's failure to appropriate funds.
The provisions of an Act of Assembly approved July 8, 1919 reactivated the nautical school as the Pennsylvania State Nautical School under the administration of the Board of the Commissioners of Navigation for the Delaware River and Its Navigable Tributaries. The 23 year old 1,000 ton steam-powered USS Annapolis was assigned by the Navy in 1920 and continued in service for 20 years. Admission requirements were raised to high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 years and the school offered two separate courses either in deck or engineering. Students were instructed in dead reckoning; methods of finding latitude and longitude; the duties of an officer; theoretical and practical marine engineering; and in handling boats under oars and sail.
In 1940 the administration of the school was transferred to the United States Maritime Commission and renamed the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy, but this administration was discontinued in March 1942 and the cadets and officers were transferred to the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. to complete their training. The schoolship Annapolis was replaced in 1941 by the 33 year-old steam powered former Coast Guard cutter Senaca.
The state of Pennsylvania resumed administration of the school in September 1942 when the schoolship Seneca was returned to the state and renamed Keystone State. A shore base was established at Morrisville, Pennsylvania in 1945 to augment the shipboard training facilities. The schoolship Keystone State was replaced in 1946 by the USS Selinur and renamed Keystone State II. With newer facilities there were plans for increasing the training program to a three-year course, with two practice cruises and a minimum of five hundred hours per year of classroom time . However, charges of poor management and newspaper allegations of "mutinous" behavior by cadets coupled with dwindling support in the State government, and a decline in applicants, resulted in the closing of the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy, on June 20, 1947.
There have been several alumni organizations associated with the Pennsylvania Nautical School. The first of these was the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association which was founded ca. 1905. Its newsletter, The Log of the P.N.S.A. was published for only a few issues (1912), before it was absorbed into The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships, which was published monthly by the Allied Associations of the Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania Merchant Training ships. (1913-1915).
The Pennsylvania Schoolship Association was established in 1955. It’s mission: “To provide a means for the maintenance of contacts with esteemed shipmates; to promote a spirit of enduring friendship between alumni; to preserve the venerable traditions and lore of the Pennsylvania’s Schoolships, and to further the interests of the American Merchant Marine.” The Association holds annual musters and memorial services, and publishes the Association’s newsletter, The Lookout (1956 to present). The Lookout features profiles and updates on alumni, reports of association meetings, as well as articles related to the merchant marine in general.
Scope and Contents
The Independence Seaport Collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School material documents the School and its alumni association the Pennsylvania Nautical Schoolship Association largely through photographs, class yearbooks, alumni newsletters, course materials, postcards, programs, and other ephemera. The collection spans the entire existence of the school, but the bulk of the materials are from the 1920’s to the 1940’s.
The Cadets series contains a variety of materials documenting the cadet experience. Of particular note is the photograph scrapbook of Cadet C.J. Anthony "Ants" Charlton (Class of 1941), which includes numerous photos of life aboard ship as well as training cruises which visited Havana, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. The Helm, which forms the bulk of the School Publications series, records graduates and underclassmen, faculty and staff, but also includes reports on cruises, dances, and sporting activities. Especially rich in terms of documenting cadets post Nautical School careers is a complete run of the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association's newsletter, The Lookout, which contains updates on class members, individual profiles, and reports on the Association's activities. Taken together these series help to form a picture of cadets as they moved from “Boots” to graduates entering the Merchant Marine.
The Course Materials series includes a number of copies of typed notes compiled by the School's Chief Engineer, Commander C. W. Densmore, U.S.N., Retired related to all aspects of onboard engineering. Some of the subjects covered include Engineering Metals, Fuel and Combustion, and Engine Room Chemistry. Notes include diagrams and questionnaires. Also included in this series are several textbooks used by the cadets.
The School Ships series is composed almost entirely of photographs of the various ships used by the School as training vessels.
The Alumni Associations series contains materials related to the School’s two alumni associations, much of it in the form of newsletters. The first of these to be established was the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association. Its newsletter, The Log of the P.N.S.A. was published for only a few issues (1912), before it was absorbed into The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships, which was published monthly by the Allied Associations of the Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania Merchant Training ships. (1913-1915). The Pennsylvania Schoolship Association was established in 1955. Materials related to their activities include invitations, programs, and announcements of Association musters, member directories, and anniversary booklets. The Association’s newsletter, The Lookout (1956 to present), features profiles and updates on alumni, reports of association meetings, as well as articles related to the merchant marine in general.
The Independence Seaport Collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School and Pennsylvania Schoolship Association materials are arranged into six series. In addition to the six series there is a box containing Administrative materials such as copies of accession records, background information, notes on the dispersal of accessions, and other materials related to the collection. The collection is an aggregate of numerous accessions over a nearly 50 year period. For further explanation and information regarding arrangement see the Processing note below.
Series I: Cadets is arranged alphabetically by individual and contains materials pertaining to cadets primarily during there time as students. Information provided varies from cadet to cadet. The series also includes group / class photographs that are not associated with an individual cadet.
Series II: General School papers is largely comprised of School ephemera and related newspaper clippings. Within the series materials are grouped by subject with those items produced by the school placed before those items such as newspaper clippings which document the school but are not official productions. Within folders materials are arranged chronologically.
Series III: Course Materials holds copies of typed notes compiled by Commander C. W. Densmore, U.S.N., Retired on a variety of subjects, including: Engineering Metals, Fuel and Combustion, and Engine Room Chemistry. The first three folders of the Densmore notes were housed in binders and their arrangement has been preserved. Additional notes are arranged alphabetically by title. Published texts used by cadets are arranged alphabetically by title.
Series IV: School Publications holds copies of the School’s yearbook The Helm from 1924 to 1946, and The Tarp, a monthly newsletter published by the cadet-midshipmen of the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy, 1945-1946. Materials are in chronological order.
Series V: School Ships is arranged alphabetically by ship’s name, with materials within folders in chronological order
Series VI: Alumni Associations is broken down into two subseries. The Pennsylvania Nautical School Association materials are grouped by subject with official records and ephemera placed before photographs and publications. The Pennsylvania Schoolship Association materials are also arranged in a similar manner. Within folders materials are arranged chronologically.
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by John Armstrong
Processing Information note
The Independence Seaport Museum Collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School Materials is an aggregate of nearly thirty different accessions given over a nearly 50 year period. Prior to processing in 2010, the collection was only roughly arranged around a few subject areas with considerable overlap between them. The current arrangement does not differ radically from the earlier incarnation but does more clearly delineate series and the types of materials to be found within each. During the course of processing a number of items were moved. A note on their dispersal can be found in the administrative notes section of the collection finding aid. Additionally an accrual guide has been created to assist in determining possible future additions to the collection.
Related Archival Materials at other repositories
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives. RG-41. Records of the NAVIGATION COMMISSION FOR THE DELAWARE RIVER AND ITS NAVIGABLE TRIBUTARIES, RG 41.48-41.55
Related Archival Materials at Independence Seaport Museum
David S. Kloss papers. Kloss was a member of the Class of 1943 and a past President of the Schoolship Association. Includes a 1993 copy of The Lookout, a photograph of the Keystone State I, and a plaque honoring Kloss's service to the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association. ISM 1994.95
William McCoy papers. McCoy was a member of the Class of 1895 and a legendary rumrunner during Prohibition. Collection includes some photos of the USS Saratoga. ISM 1991.23
Edward Stoughton papers. Includes correspondence, and additional materials related to his Coast Guard career. ISM 2006.30
Raymond Eisenberg papers. Eisenberg was an active Pennsylvania Schoolship Association member and long time editor of The Lookout. Papers include Pennsylvania Schoolship Association and Lookout correspondence, photographs (cadets, ships, musters), newspaper clippings, and loose scrapbook pages. Collection also includes a folder of Edmund H. Stoughton material. ISM 2009.30
William Boyd papers. Papers include Pennsylvania Schoolship Association correspondence, photogrpahs and loose scrapbook pages, alumni directories, Nautical School regulations, and copies of The Lookout. ISM 2009.31
Separated Materials note
One photo of USS Annapolis was removed to C. Connor collection, 1970.21.45.
Controlled Access Headings
- Adams (Screw Bark)
- Annapolis (Gunboat)
- Keystone State (ex Seneca)
- Keystone State II (ex Selinur)
- Merchant marine -- Study and teaching -- United States.
- Merchant marine--United States--Yearbooks.
- Nautical training-schools -- United States.
- Saratoga (Sloop of War)
- Seamanship--Study and teaching--Pennsylvania.
- Selinur (Cargo ship: AKA-41)
- Seneca (Cutter)
- Training-ships--United States.