West Sea Company

Hall of Fame


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SCRIMSHAW SWIFT. Genuine 19th century scrimshaw yarn winder, undoubtedly the work of an American whaleman. This complicated device with a particularly pleasing presentation is entirely hand-made employing whale tooth ivory, panbone, tropical mahogany, silver and mother of pearl. It consists of the swift mounted atop a sewing stand. Its 48 whalebone stays are distinctive in that each was laboriously "scalloped" before being incorporated into the mechanism. The finial, cage collars, clamp and base are all carved of whale tooth, while the support column is whale bone. The swift opens, closes and revolves properly and is kept open by means of the threaded whale ivory shaft clamp inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It is mounted atop the sewing stand on a massive, thick whale ivory plinth fastened with silver rivets. The rich mahogany stand is fitted with 8 beautifully turned whale tooth finials, 8 eyelets, whale ivory drawer pull with mother-of-pearl, and pull-out mirror faced with whale bone. The top of the sewing stand lifts off to reveal the compartment within which accommodated 8 spools of thread -- corresponding to the 8 ivory eyelets. This especially lovely display is in an excellent state of preservation. It measures 19 inches tall and approximately one foot in diameter when the swift is fully expanded. The stand itself measures 7 inches wide by 5 1/2 inches deep. Original mounted scrimshaw swifts like this one are quite rare, and this example is certainly one of the finest to come on the market.

A swift, very possibly by the same hand, which exhibits these distinctive sculpted stays, is held in the prestigious scrimshaw collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

On August 22, 2004 a mounted scrimshaw swift sold for a record setting $118,000 at Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

EARLY SCALE BOAT MODEL. Simply superb, 19th century plank-on-frame boat model of a type of wherry known as a "New York Whitehall." This all wood model was meticulously constructed exactly like the real thing -- hand-fabricated with carefully bent oak frames and sheathing. Joinery is done with precision fits connected by hundreds of tiny wooden pins! This beautiful little rowboat has two thwarts with four rowing stations indicated by exquisitely-crafted removable brass oar locks seated in their flush brass receptacles on the rails. The construction and detail of this realistic model are of the highest order. It measures 12 3/4 inches long with a beam of 4 1/2 inches and a stem post to keel depth of 2 3/4 inches. Condition is outstanding. The patinated surfaces are rich, old and untouched. Undoubtedly this one of the finest models of its type ever built! Circa 1880. 

 PATENT MODEL. Very rare, genuine 19th century patent model made for the U.S. Patent Office as originally required by that agency for issuance of a patent. This model represents patent number 230998, issued to Eben M. Boynton of West Newbury, Massachusetts on August 10, 1880. It dealt with the "Construction of Ships & C." providing what the patentee claimed was, "a means of preventing the timbers from springing or moving from their places and of holding the outer sheathing or planking firmly in place, and for the purpose of giving additional stiffness and strength, dividing the same into a series of small independent compartments…" To these ends this exquisitely-made wooden model exhibits an intricate array of interlocking mortised ribs overlaid by its planked hull. There are 2 "keeper pins" with square heads which allow removal of the ribs for a detailed inspection of the construction techniques. In addition there is a sliding floorboard with a cutout for the mast. The model is mounted upon its original oval mahogany stand in rich finish. It bears the original patent label penned, "No. 230998 E.M. Boynton. Construction of Ships & C, Patented Aug 10th 1880." along with a line diagram detailing the method of construction. These are now mounted to the base and protected under Plexiglas. Included with this offering are 2 full copies of the original patent documents describing in detail the nature of the construction along with precise schematics of same. The model itself measures 17 ¼ inches long with a beam of 5 ¾ inches. As configured with its stand it measures 17 ¼ inches long, 8 ½ inches wide and is 5 ½ inches high. Outstanding original condition. A particularly scarce documented nautical patent model, which makes a for a very handsome display 130 years old!

From 1790 to 1880 the U.S. Patent Office required submission of a working model for any invention considered for a patent. These "Patent Models" were to be no larger than 144 square inches and had to be accompanied by a written explanation with diagrams detailing the purpose of the item, its construction and operation.

In 1908 Congress authorized the sale of all Patent Models. Yet an estimated 150,000 models were stored and finally ended up in an abandoned livery stable. From 1884 to 1925 approximately $200,000 was spent in moving and storing the models. It was not until 1925 that Congress appropriated $10,000 to disperse the models in an effort to avoid paying further storage costs. On December 3, 1925, the models were sold at an auction to philanthropist Sir Henry Wellcome who intended to establish a Patent Model Museum. His plans evaporated with the stock market crash of 1929. In 1936 Wellcome died, having never realized his noble dream. That same year the trustees of his estate sold the models for $50,000 to Broadway producer, Crosby Gaige. In turn Gaige sold the collection for $75,000 to a group businessmen who formed a corporation known as American Patent Models, Inc.

In 1940 American Patent Models, Inc. declared bankruptcy. A year later New York auctioneer O. Rundle Gilbert acquired the models in a bankruptcy sale. He moved the collection to his home at Garrison-on-the-Hudson, from where he ultimately dispersed the entire collection to various interests.

A small printed tag accompanies this model. It reads, "CERTIFIED TO BE THE ORIGINAL MODEL: # 230998 FROM: Mr. and Mrs. O. Rundle Gilbert's Collection of Original United states Patent Models 1790-1890. Garrison, N.Y. 


EARLY MAST LAMP. Extremely rare second half of the 19th century ship's masthead lamp with the front boldly signed "Barclay, Phillips & Co., 17 Anderson Quay, Glasgow" in lovely hand-engraved script. This extraordinary survivor of the 1800's is of heavy all brass construction with a remarkable hand-blown bulbous glass lens. A rear hinged door with sliding latch provides access to the interior which is complete with the original silvered parabolic reflector. A proper copper oil font and glass chimney (not original to the lamp) are installed. This substantial lantern has a heavy pivoting bail handle on the top fitted with a rotating cast brass eye. The cap of the lamp body is hinged allowing it to swing back in order to view the interior. Both sides of the lamp are equipped with the original cast brass mounting brackets which held the lantern in place on the mast during use. It is in a superb state of original preservation with no dents or losses, and exhibits a nice age patina on all surfaces. The incredibly thick glass lens is in perfect condition! This lamp was presumably electrified at some time in its distant past, noting two small holes; one above and and one below the rear door. 22 inches tall by 12 1/2 inches wide overall and weighing a hefty 18 pounds! Without a doubt the finest and oldest ship's lamp we have ever offered for sale in our 27 years. It is a very rare example of a marine lantern that predates the advent and nearly universal use of the Freznel lens in navigational lighting from the late 1800's onward. A museum piece!


MINIATURE YACHT BINNACLE. Delightful, 3rd quarter of the 19th century yacht binnacle with the compass bowl signed "Riggs & Bro., Philadelphia, Pa." below the card. The diminutive "wet" compass with an agate pivot, has a white composition card only 2 inches in diameter. Yet it shows the cardinal points of the compass divided to 16ths with North marked by a fleur-de-lis. The substantial compass body is blackened brass slung in gimbals. The binnacle housing is of spun brass with a charming "mushroom" hood which attaches to the base with a bayonet twist. The hood supports a large brass suspension ring on the top, a glazed oval viewing port on the front, a circular rear daylight window and a side lamp holder. The removable lamp has a bail handle and contains its original "tiny" font with burner marked "Pat. June 13, 1863." The binnacle is affixed to its lovely sculpted wooden base in original dark finish with nice patina. This binnacle measures a mere 9 1/2 inches tall to the top of the hood and 11 inches inclusive of the suspension ring. It is 7 inches wide with the lamp holder and measures 7 1/2 inches in diameter on the base. The compass itself is just over 2 3/4 inches in diameter. Overall condition is absolutely remarkable for a working instrument of this type. There are no dents or scratches. The brass surfaces retain a substantial portion of their original lacquer and interior paint. The compass and lamp are both functional and complete. A finer, cuter example is not to be had!

Riggs & Brother were well known 19th century American nautical instrument makers and chandlers. Compasses were their specialty. Founder, William H. C., began his manufactory at 126 South Front Street, Philadelphia in 1848. In 1863 he took his brother Daniel as a partner, moving to 244 South Front Street. The firm continued at various Philadelphia addresses into the early part of the 20th century.


IDENTIFIED SHIP'S FIGUREHEAD. Spectacular 19th Century carved and painted wooden ship's figurehead from the North American bark EDINBURGH. This stunning example of the ship carver's art is dressed in classical attire, adornmed with a ribbon-carved gilt necklace and tiara, central oval brooch and bracelets on each wrist. She poses a striking stance, forward leaning with her right arm across her bosom as she stands on the original base, flanked by Acanthus scrolls. This important artifact was sculpted by the well known Canadian wood carver John Rogerson (1837-1925) who worked in St. John, New Brunswick in the second half of the 19th century. The figurehead stands 73 inches tall inclusive of its small wooden display pedestal and weighs approximately 400 pounds. It is in an outstanding state of preservation with approximately 90% original surfaces and paint.

The EDINBURGH was a Canadian-built and registered 3-masted barque of 203 1/2 feet launched by William Charland, Jr. of St. Joseph de Levis Quebec, Canada in 1883. After 26 years of service, she met her demise in the port of Bermuda where she foundered in 1909. This figurehead was first owned by the American Consul to Bermuda, William H. Allen and was proudly displayed in his garden for several years. In the 1920's she became the property of Francis Turnbull Meyer, a successful businessman from New York. Mr. Meyer, long a patron of the arts, donated the figurehead to the Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts in 1933 where it was on public exhibit in the Maritime Wing until 2002.

This famous figurehead is well documented in associated literature. In the book "Shipcarvers of North America," M.V. Brewington, 1962, Barre publishing Co., Barre, Massachusetts, the entire page 94 is devoted to a full length photograph of the figurehead with accompanying text. In the landmark work "Treasury of American Design" by Clarence Hornung, published by Abrams, Inc., New York, 1976, the first chapter is entitled "Forgotten Figures Fore and Aft." The frontispiece of chapter I, page 6, is the full page image of this beautiful figurehead


EARLY HARD HAT HELMET. Authentic very early 1900's American deep sea diving helmet made by "A. J. Morse & Son (Inc.), Boston, Mass." as cast in relief on the oval brass maker's breastplate tag. This early 3 light, 12 bolt commercial helmet is complete and totally original. The "brails" are all stamped with the matching serial number XXXX*, corresponding with matching numbers on the breastplate and bonnet. Indicative of its age, this old helmet has many early characteristics including a squatty, contoured breastplate, lashing eyelets on the top of the bonnet, and 2 hooks -- one on the left (diver's) and one on the right rear for attaching additional weights. It has a screw-on faceplate and telephone box on the diver's immediate right. The telephone connection is to his left. Abaft the phone box and sidelight is the adjustable exhaust valve with bubble diffuser, faced internally with a chin button. Completing the rig are the dumbbell lock and air inlet gooseneck, complete with non-return valve, at the rear of the helmet. This remarkable helmet is in extraordinary original "as last dived" condition, showing use but no abuse, and without any modifications! It retains all of its original tinning inside and out and has acquired a wonderful age patina through the years -- just the way collectors like them!

According to an original 1925 Morse catalog in our reference library, the Morse Company was the first in the United States to manufacture diving equipment. It was begun as a partnership between Morse and Fletcher for the manufacture of brass goods at the corner of Water and Congress Streets in Boston in 1837. During the Civil War Mr. Fletcher retired and the company name changed to Andrew J. Morse & Son in 1864. Andrew J. Morse died in 1881 but the business was carried on by his son William under the same name. In 1905 William F. Morse retired and the business was transfered to his daughter and her husband, Elizabeth and Mark A. Lawton. It was then that the company was first incorporated and the company name of Andrew J. Morse & Son (Inc.) was adopted. It continued under that name until 1940 when the name changed to the Morse Diving Equipment Company.

In his landmark reference book, "Helmets of The Deep," author Leon Lyons depicts and describes an identical 3 light Morse helmet on page 84 dating it at "Circa 1915."


SCRIMSHAW PIE CRIMPER. Simply superb 19th century American scrimshaw jagging wheel. This lovely example of the whaleman's art is sculpted from a single piece of whale ivory -- there is no joinery. As such it was carved out of a huge sperm whale tooth! The graceful snake-like form terminates with an eagle's head handle that measures slightly over 7 inches in length. The finely crenelated whale ivory wheel measures 2 inches in diameter and is pinned to the handle with the original copper rivet. The entire crimper is in an outstanding state of original preservation with a mellow age patina. There are the usual tiny age checks in the ivory as expected, however none affect the integrity. Complete with a high quality custom-made display stand 8 inches long. A stunning example of this form of scrimshaw!

Provenance: Nantucket Island

IMPORTANT TELESCOPE. Most impressive, research grade 19th century telescope made by "R. MAILHAT, 41 Bould St, Jacques, Paris" as signed on the end of the main tube. This massive tripod telescope has a huge 5 inch achromatic objective lens on the end of its 6 foot main barrel. It is equipped with rack and pinion focusing and a small "sighting scope" for initially spotting a subject. The all original optics produce a stunningly clear, highly magnified, upright image at the eyepiece. Of particular significance is the amazing tripod and mount of this telescope. The heavy turret head assures the telescope's stability while affording the user train and elevation functions by means of the ivory-tipped "wands" which operate worm gears on both axes. The tripod is further complicated by the hand crank with stop which allows the viewer to adjust the entire telescope for height of eye! As pictured, this telescope stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and measures over seven and a half feet in length when focused at infinity. This is the finest quality telescope in the best, virtually pristine original condition, that we have ever seen offered in our 30 years!

Provenance: Last used in the Astronomy Department of the University of Mexico, Mexico City. 


AMERICAN SALUTING CANNON. Exceptional solid bronze cannon with folding breach block signed "MANF'D BY THE STRONG FIRE ARMS -CO- NEW HAVEN, CONN. U.S.A." and marked with the company logo of a spread winged eagle perched atop arrows. This fine 19th century American signaling cannon has a barrel measuring 15 inches in length with a bore of 7/8ths inch and a barrel diameter of 3 1/2 inches at the breach. It is percussion fired by means of a pivoted bronze hammer actuated by a lanyard, which strikes a steel firing pin. Within the chamber is a spring-loaded extractor for removing the 8 gauge shell casing. The cannon is mounted on trunions to its original cast iron field carriage marked on either side in relief "STRONG FIRE ARMS CO." Below the rear of the barrel is the elevating gear which raises and lowers the cannon by means of a 4-pronged threaded brass jack screw. The carriage is supported on two cast iron "wagon wheels" measuring 14 inches in diameter and 1 foot in total width. The length of the field carriage is 30 inches overall and 15 inches high as shown. What is unique about this presentation is that the cannon comes complete with its original matching "limber" with pivoting rear axle for towing -- just like a real field artillery piece of that era! As so configured the entire unit measures 37 1/2 inches long. Excellent original condition with a nice patinated bronze surfaces and all iron work in original finish free of rust.

Last used at the Hanover Military Academy, Taylorville, Virginia.

The "Strong Fire Arms Company" was founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1884, Horace H. Strong, president. Formerly the Strong Cartridge Company, the cartridge manufactory of the company was sold in 1883 to a consortium of companies, with Winchester Repeating Arms being one of the participants. In 1889 Levi T. Snow took over the Strong firm and changed the company name to "L.T. Snow." Snow remained as director until 1897. In 1906 the company became Snow & Petrelli, but apparently no longer produced cannons as there was no mention of yacht cannons in their advertising. The company appears to have gone out of business in 1919. Some examples of Strong cannons are extant with patent dates in the 1880's. It is safe to assume then that this example dates to 1889 or before -- the date of the Snow takeover and company name change from "Strong."

This exact cannon is pictured and identified by Cannon Mania as a "Rare Strong cannon with double wheels!"


SAILING SHIP WHEEL. Massive, genuine ship's helm from a 19th century wind jammer. This impressive ship's wheel from the days of sail measures 5 feet 6 inches across and 9 inches thick at the center, with the rim being 3 1/2 inches thick. It weighs an incredible 128 pounds! It is constructed of beautifully turned solid mahogany with a solid bronze hub, rarely found original hub cover, and circular brass inlays on both sides. The condition of this classic ship's wheel is excellent noting the expected minor chips and age cracks consistent with a working ship relic approximately 150 years old! Very rare in this size and of this age and condition. A museum piece.


PRESIDENTIAL SHIP'S PASSPORT. Extremely rare and historically important presidential document assuring the safe passage of an American vessel. This official early 19th century American document has original signatures of three very famous American personages. It is personally signed by the President of the United States, John Quincy Adams and is also co-signed by his Secretary of State, Henry Clay and the Collector of the Port of Salem, Massachusetts, Benjamin Crowninshield. This early document was issued to the Schooner FRIENDSHIP and reads in part (sic), "By the President of the United States of America, Suffer the Schooner Friendship, William Bartole, master or commander of the burthen of one hundred and ten tons or thereabouts mounted with no guns navigated with six men To Pass with her Company, Passengers, Goods and Merchandise without any hinderance, seisure or molestation... Given under my Hand and Seal of the United States of America the twelfth day of July in the year of our Lord thousand eight hundred and twenty six." This lovely document is on parchment-type paper with an engraved image of full-rigged ship at the top below which is another engraved image of an American port, probably Boston. It is affixed with the embossed Presidential seal and bears the "number Two." The top of this document is hand-cut in a wavy fashion as was the practice of the time. The uppermost portion of the document was retained by the Government and used as a "proof" of authenticity of it by matching the cut edges, should its validity ever be called into question. The actual document measures 11 1/4 by 13 inches and is in excellent original condition. As expected, it was originally folded. However it was long ago laid down on a stiff backing rendering the folds virtually unnoticeable. The quality paper is slightly toned with age but exhibits virtually no foxing and no tears or losses. The ink of the signatures and hand-written entries is somewhat faded with time but still very legible and distinct. An extremely important document of great significance in early American maritime history. Nicely framed and preserved under glass.

John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States and the first President who was the son of a President. J. Q. Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1767, and watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from the top of Penn's Hill above the family farm. As a young man President Madison appointed him Minister to Russia and under President Monroe, Adams was one of America's great Secretaries of State, arranging with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon country, obtaining from Spain the cession of the Floridas, and helping to formulate the Monroe Doctrine. Upon becoming President, Adams appointed the feisty Henry Clay, famous orator of War of 1812 fame and later Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State. John Quincy Adams served as President from 1825-1829, succeeded by the illustrious Andrew Jackson. In 1830, the Plymouth district elected Adams the House of Representatives, and there for the remainder of his life he served as a powerful leader. He died February 23, 1848.

As a matter of great interest it should be noted that about the time of the issuance of this document the emergence of the Barbary Pirates was of great concern to the fledgling United States fleet. Up until then, ship passports listed the vessel tonnage, armaments, and crew. In an effort to conceal that important information from potential enemies such specifics were withheld on similar documents issued after about 1827. This then represents the earlier form of a Presidential Passport.



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