Thursday, August 25, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Cushing Road

---Christina Anderson, Curatorial Volunteer

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

Cushing Road on the NWC Campus looking North

Lieutenant William B. Cushing (1842-1874) Naval Hero of the Civil War

Cushing Road on Coasters Harbor Island, NAVSTA Newport is named for William B. Cushing (1842-1874).  The road, well known as the mailing address for the College, honors a young officer in the Union Navy who made history when he sunk a Confederate ironclad with a spar torpedo. On the night of October 27-28th 1864 Cushing took a steam launch up the Roanoke River into Plymouth, North Carolina and attacked the CSS Albemarle, sinking it with the explosive device. This success made him a national celebrity.  After the Civil War Cushing continued to serve as an officer.  He passed away as a Commander and the Executive officer of the Washington Navy Yard in 1874.   In 1869, five years before his death, the Naval Torpedo Station was established on Newport's Goat Island. The station was dedicated to the experimentation and research of stationary and automobile torpedoes.
He is buried at the United States Naval Academy. There were a series of torpedo boats and destroyers named after him: USS Cushing (TB-1) of 1890-1920, USS Cushing (DD-55) of 1915-1936, USS Cushing (DD-376) of 1936-1942, USS Cushing (DD-797) of 1944-1961, and USS Cushing (DD-985), commissioned in 1979.
Street Image by Christina Anderson, courtesy of the Naval War College Museum
Cushing Image, Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Eight Bells Book Lecture Series Schedule for Fall 2011

The museum is gearing up for the College's academic year with its increasingly successful Eight Bells Book Lecture Series. Please take a look at the upcoming program and join us on the 2nd deck of the museum for this fall's lectures.

The format of the Eight Bells Lecture Series has the author speaking about 40-45 minutes on the topic of his book and the facts leading to its publication. The last 15-20 minutes are given over for audience members to ask questions on the topic. Those who are able to remain after the allotted hour can stay and discuss the book further and have the book signed. Copies of the books are on sale in the Naval War College Foundation Gift Shop. As always, this event is a brown-bag affair which is free and open to the public. For those without Department of Defense ID cards, please call the Museum at least one work day in advance at 841-2101 to make reservations for any of these events or to visit the Museum.

Check the Museum's Facebook Events Page for the lastest information on the lectures listed here.

8 September  - Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein – Chinese Aerospace Power

The fifth book in the series Studies in Chinese Maritime Development, Professors Erickson and Goldstein have edited a series of articles that evaluate the Chinese aerospace development and the resulting implications for U.S. maritime strategy. The book is a comprehensive survey of those developments and their potential significance to that strategy.

19 September  - David Ulbrich - Preparing for Victory

This is the biography of General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1936 – 1943. A combat veteran, progressive manager, politician, visionary, he was the right man in the right place to prepare the Marine Corps for its expansion into the elite amphibious fighting force it became in World War II.

29 September  - AMB J. William Middendorf II – Potomac Fever: A Memoir of Politics and Public Service

Ambassador Middendorf details his career in business, politics, and service to his country. Easily read, this book offers keen insights and revealing commentaries into the times and many personalities that shared this political stage.

6 October  - James Bussert and Bruce Elleman – People’s Liberation Army Navy

Providing a look at the combat systems technologies on Chinese warships, this book documents the evolution of the Chinese Navy from the Communist takeover to the present day and its state-of-the-art fleet. The book provides specific and detailed descriptions of the platforms, weapons, and infrastructure while looking at both strengths and weaknesses within the system.

13 October  - Dr. Larrie Ferreiro – Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition that Reshaped the World

This work traces the 1735 expedition to Peru to determine the shape of the earth. Scheduled to be three to four years in length, the Geodesic Mission to the Equator lasted nearly ten years and proved the earth was oblate and that Newton was correct in his theory on the shape of the earth. An interesting yet complicated journey that is explained in understandable detail.

18 October – Ben Runkle: Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden

Early May 2011, in a dramatic late-night appearance at the White House, President Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. Although this daring raid marked the end of the longest strategic manhunt in American history, bin Laden was not the first individual targeted as the objective of a military campaign. From Geronimo to Pancho Villa, to Manuel Noriega, to Saddam Hussein, the United States has deployed military forces to kill or capture a single person nearly a dozen times since 1885. Part military history, part action thriller, and part strategic policy analysis, Wanted Dead or Alive chronicles the extraordinary efforts of the military and intelligence agencies to bring America’s enemies to justice.

3 November - Dr. William "Bill" Morgan - Pacific Gibraltar
Based on new material and a sweeping reevaluation of existing sources in the U.S., Japan, and Hawai`i, Pacific Gibraltar is the first major account of the annexation of Hawai`i, the initial episode of U.S. overseas imperialism, in a generation. The book clarifies murky episodes in the story of annexation, such as USS Boston's mysterious return to Honolulu in time to land Sailors and Marines during the Hawaiian Revolution, President Cleveland's failed attempt to restore Queen Lili'uokalani, and the growing threat to the white rebel government from burgeoning Japanese immigration.

10 November - Ian Toll – Pacific Crucible

On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.

********************THE 17 NOV LECTURE HAS BEEN CANCELLED********************

17 November  - Mike Matheny – Carrying the War to the Enemy: American Operational Art to 1945

Military commanders turn tactics into strategic victory by means of “operational art,” the knowl¬edge and creative imagination commanders and staff employ in designing, synchronizing, and con¬ducting battles and major operations to achieve strategic goals. Michael R. Matheny looks at the evolution of U.S. military thinking at the operational level and shows that it was at this operational level, particularly in mounting joint and combined operations, that senior American commanders excelled—and laid a foundation for their country’s victory in World War II.

******************************Sorry for the inconvenience******************************

8 December – Kevin McCranie – Utmost Gallantry

Focusing on the oceanic war rather than the war in the Great Lakes, this study charts the War of 1812 from the perspectives of the two opposing navies at sea—one of the largest fleets in the world and a small, upstart navy just three decades old. While American naval leadership searched for a means of contesting Britain’s naval dominance, the English sought to destroy the U.S. Navy and protect its oceanic highways.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Volunteer Profile: Kassie Ettefagh

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

The museum said goodbye to yet another curatorial volunteer when Kassie Ettefagh finished up this month. Kassie came to the museum in September of 2010, working one day a week for nearly a year on a number of large collections registration projects. After carefully inventorying a large unregistered collection of uniform pieces that once belonged to former President of the Naval War College Vice Admiral Bernard L. Austin, Kassie photographed the collection and created records for each object in the database. Later, she was instrumental in creating worksheets of detailed information to register the museum's forty-two presidential portraits with the National Portrait Gallery's Catalog of American Portraits and the American Heritage National Portal to Historic Collections. The submission to the NPG is not yet complete but readers can view the portraits on the American Heritage site by clicking the link provided.

The third and most demanding task was registry of the collection of documents and naval memorabilia loaned by Ambassador J. William Middendorf. Kassie scanned all of the original documents, including letters signed by John Hancock in 1775 and documents signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. She also photographed all of the three-dimensional items and framed prints in the collection. Thanks to Kassie the collection of over one hundred pieces is now registered in the museum database and can be managed electronically.

Kassie, a graduate of Providence College, also works part-time for the Newport Historical Society. This fall she will be pursuing her Masters in Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island. We wish her the very best of luck and thank her for a tremendous amount of hard work and service. The museum owes so much to volunteers such as Kassie who give their valuable time to help us take care of this wonderful collection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Volunteer Profile: Joshua Howard

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Josh working on his final blog for the museum
 Farewell to Josh Howard, who finished up his volunteering time at the museum last week. Josh joined the curatorial volunteer team in August 2010 and, as readers of the blog are well aware, he has been the the main writer and researcher behind the Artifact Spotlight posts which have appeared every Thursday since last October.  Josh's contributions were crucial because he helped open the doors of this wonderful museum to everyone with a personal computer or smart phone. On site, Josh has given two hundred hours of service researching naval history dates and museum collections. He spent more time writing at home. These efforts have gained a broader and more diverse audience for the the museum and its collections. Before our facebook page and this blog, the museum had a minute presence on the Internet. Josh has helped the museum turn this around.

A native New Englander, Josh brought a wealth of experience to the museum. He received his BA from Boston University and his MA in European Historical Archaeology from the University of Sheffield in the UK. and has applied his education on several archaeological excavations in Middletown, Newport, and in Dedham, Massachusetts. He will be continuing his education this fall when he begins the doctoral program in Anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. We thank Josh for his tremendous contributions and wish him the best in his studies.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Painting of USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere, 1928

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer
---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

On August 19, 1812, the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution engaged the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Guerriere. The famous battle in which the American ship dismasted Guerriere and captured her crew, took place approximately 400 miles off Nova Scotia.  The victory was the first of many ship-to-ship actions that displayed the impressive gunnery skills of American crews and the fortitude of American vessels. Though the Royal Navy vessels vastly outnumbered American ships and their blockade confined most merchant and naval vessels to ports, victories such as this improved morale and influenced generations of naval officers. Accordingly, this battle is one of the most often painted scenes in the Age of Sail.  The museum has a wonderful oil on canvas of the engagement painted by the prolific maritime artist, Charles Robert Patterson in 1928.

The painting is one of a series of four commissioned by Edward J. Berwind who was the last surviving member of the USNA class of 1869. The other three paintings were done of the battles between Bon Homme Richard and Serapis in 1779, United States and HMS Macedonian in1812, and Constellation and L'Insurgente in 1799.

Charles Robert Patterson was an English painter born on July 18, 1878 in Stockdalewath, Cumberland, England. He was a son of a shipbuilder and always had a deep fascination with the sea. In 1892 he went to sea as a cabin boy on a ship out of London and spent fourteen years at sea on board various vessels. Between voyages Patterson spent time studying art and moving around the United States. In 1920 he became a United States citizen and spent time on a number of U.S. warships to witness battle maneuvers. His works lead a revival movement in the romance and beauty of the Age of Sail in art. He created hundreds of works related to maritime themes including many for the U.S. Navy. Before his death in 1958, he painted several lunette murals in the U.S. Naval Academy's Memorial Hall.

A Gift of Charles Dunlap                                                                        76.41.02

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Intern Profile: Grace Christenson

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Summer Intern Grace Christenson preparing a
WAVES officer coat to be photographed
 On August 12 the museum bid farewell to summer intern Grace Christenson. Grace arrived on board on June 6 and jumped in with both feet on a number of large curatorial projects. On the day she started, nine crates arrived containing the maps loaned by collector Henry Wendt for the traveling exhibit Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps, 1472-1700. Grace assisted in carefully removing all the maps, inspecting their condition and assigning loan numbers. She then registered the entire loan in the museum collections database and assisted in the installation of the exhibit.

Grace also conducted an inventory of the museum’s uniform and textile collection. She carefully photographed all of the textiles, sewed numbers on them with cloth labeling tape, and created new box numbers and locations in the database before re-packing them in acid free boxes with tissue paper. In addition to a number of registry projects in which Grace tackled the backlog of uncatalogued artifacts, she took on the mammoth task of cleaning and organizing one of the museum’s offsite storage rooms in Mahan Hall. During this process, Grace and curatorial volunteer Patricia McNamee, created accurate locations for 596 framed pieces, prints, and textiles in the museum database. Not only has she vastly improved the museum's ability to track artifacts electronically, she has made this particular storage room a more secure and stable environment for historic collections. She also conducted research using archival documents, old newspapers, and oral histories for current and future exhibit labels. Perhaps her most rewarding opportunity was her practicum in  "Rhode Islandese" given by our curator Bob Cembrola.

Grace, a Newport native who has grown up in a naval family, will be beginning her sophomore year at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She plans to graduate with a double major in history and business. We wish her the best in all of her endeavours and hope she'll come back to volunteer this winter!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Bust of Rear Admiral Ronald J. Kurth, 1990

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

The Naval War College Museum holds an impressive collection of over forty sculptures by Felix de Weldon (1907-2003) the renown sculptor of the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.  A longitme resident of Newport and great supporter of the Naval War College, de Weldon donated busts and reliefs of twelve College presidents which he sculpted from 1946 to 1990. The last of these was a portrait of Rear Admiral Ronald J. Kurth, the 45th President of the Naval War College. Kurth relieved Rear Admiral John A. Baldwin, Jr. on August 11, 1987 and served until July 17, 1990. The plaster bust, painted to look bronze, was presented to the College by the artist in 1993.

Over the course of his naval career, Kurth served as a pilot, professor, Pentagon administrator, and diplomat. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy. He later earned his masters in Public Administration and his doctorate in Political Science of the Soviet Union/Russia at Harvard University. He taught the Russian language at the U.S. Naval Academy and served in several positions at the embassy in Moscow.

During his presidency, Rear Admiral Kurth led a successful campaign to receive institutional accreditation in order for the College to grant master’s degrees. This step not only made the college the oldest graduate-level military institution in continuous existence in the world but also, the first institution of its type to be accredited at the graduate degree level. Upon leaving the presidency of the War College, Rear Admiral Kurth retired from the United States Navy after a 36-year career. Subsequent to retirement, Kurth served as President of Murray State University in Kentucky, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Air War College, and President of St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin.

Gift of Felix de Weldon                                                                                93.14.01

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Howell Torpedo, c. 1890

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Lieutenant Commander John A. Howell had been experimenting with his design for a fly-wheeled automobile torpedo since 1871. Six years later the Naval Board authorized construction of a single torpedo for testing at Newport's Naval Torpedo Station. As these initial tests utilizing centrifugal pump propulsion were unsuccessful, Howell set out to design an improved model propelled by conventional propellers.

Torpedo boat USS Stiletto firing a Howell torpedo, c. 1895
In 1884, after receiving a substantial Congressional appropriation to purchase automobile torpedoes, the Navy Board recommended Howell's newer design. On August 5, 1885 the Navy conducted the first test of  three new Howell torpedoes in Newport Harbor. Initial testing was unsuccessful (the first two sank) and caused a delay. Once testing resumed in Lake Michigan (the clear water made recovery easier), performance improved and the Howell became the first automobile torpedo issued to the fleet. The Hotchkiss Ordnance Company in Providence manufactured the torpedoes and tested them in Tiverton.

The 11- foot long brass Howell was driven by a 130-pound flywheel spun to 10,000 rpm prior to launch. It had a range of 400 -700 yards, a speed of 25 knots, and a warhead filled with 100 pounds of gun cotton. The Howell MK 1 was used on torpedo boats and battleships until 1898 when  replaced by the Whitehead torpedo. The model on display in the museum, likely used for testing purposes, is one of the few surviving examples.

Transfer from Naval Underwater Systems Center                                                     87.63.02

Click here to learn more about the Howell Torpedo and view another existing model at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, WA.

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum