Canadian Nautical Research Society

Société canadienne pour la recherche nautique

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Annual Conference and Meeting

Shaped by the Sea: The Maritime World as Transformative.

St. John's NL, August 17 – 18 2023

Also available in pdf format.

Historians have long emphasized the significance of the maritime as a transportation vector between global regions, between metropole and colony, and between networks of commodity extraction and manufacturing sites. The 2023 meeting of the Canadian Nautical Research Society presents papers with a focus on the maritime world as transformative, shaping the objects, ideas, and people who travelled by sea. Maritime workers, vessels, and the ports that connected ship to shore left indelible impressions upon the people and objects that passed through their midst, reshaping ideas on land but also impacting the maritime world itself.

The 2023 CNRS Conference will take place in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, on August 17-18. A vibrant port and a region of significant maritime transformation as a military station, fishery, and a gateway to the North Atlantic and Arctic, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be shaped by the proximity of its peoples to the sea.

The Conference is a hybrid meeting, hosted in-person at the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University of Newfoundland. The archive holds one of the British Empire's largest collections of working men's documents, including the bulk of Britain's Crew Agreements, as well as important collections of documents and photographs from Newfoundland and Labrador.


Please register for the conference here (electronic or paper format.)

Schedule (subject to change)

Times indicated below are Newfoundland Daylight Time (UTC -2:30)

Thursday 17 August 2023

  • 0900-0930 Welcome and introductory remarks
  • 0930-1030 Session 1 – Researching Famous Shipwrecks
  • Alex Comber, "Wrecking the Terror: Drowning Breadalbane"
  • Eriak Laanela, "A Biography of His Majesty's Ship Saphire, sunk in Bay Bulls in 1696"
  • 1030-1100 Break – Arts Building Atrium
  • 1100-1200 Session 2 – Animals at Sea as Objects and Companions
  • Gonçalo C. Lopez and Joana Baço, "Lanterns and Windowpanes Made of Shell: The Case of the Frigate Santo António de Taná (1697)"
  • Joana Baço and Gonçalo C. Lopez, "Little Birds, Long Voyages: The Presence of Companion Birds Aboard European Ships, 17th to 19th Century"
  • 1200-1300 Lunch
  • 1300-1400 Session 3 – Food and Clothing for Maritime Workers
  • Meaghan Walker, "Buying Clothes in Bonavista: A Study of Garment Sales in the Ryan's Merchant Records"
  • Thomas Malcomson, "The Efficient Cook: The "Cookery Manual" of the Upper Lakes & St. Lawrence Transportation Company"
  • 1400-1430 Break
  • 1430-1530 Session 4 – To the Crow's Nest: The Battle of the Atlantic
  • Wes Cross, "Not Lost at Sea: The Ajax Club Legacy"
  • Christopher Bell, "The Battle of the Atlantic and the Delay in Closing the 'Air Gap'"
  • 1900 Reception at the Crow's Nest, 88 Water Street, St. John's NL

Friday 18 August 2023

  • 0915-0930 Welcome back and conference announcements
  • 0930-1030 Session 5 – Maritime Labour in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
  • Michael Moir, "As Scarce as a Snowball in Hades: Shipbuilding and the Search for Skilled Labour during the First World War"
  • Johnathan Thayer, "Merchant Seamen and the Parameters of Involuntary Servitude"
  • 1030-1100 Break
  • 1100-1200 Session 6 – Canadian Cold War Defence in the Atlantic and Pacific
  • Richard Goette, "Canada, the US, and the Defence of Newfoundland and Labrador during the 1950s"
  • Jeff Noakes, "'This matter will have to be given much careful thought': Soviet Torpedoes and Mines Captured in North Korea"
  • 1200-1300 Lunch
  • 1300-1400 Session 7 – A Focus on Maritime and Military Scholars
  • Chris Madsen, "French Interest in Philip Colomb's 1879 Naval Wargame The Duel"
  • Roger Sarty, "An Albertan's Discovery of the Maritimes: George Stanley in New Brunswick, 1936-1942"
  • 1400-1430 Break
  • 1430-1530 Session 8 – Mapping the Sea, Charting a Course
  • Isabel Campbell, "The RCN's 1948 Northern Voyages and Contributions to Oceanographic Research During the Cold War"
  • Salvatore Martinelli, "Navigating the High Seas: A Comparative Analysis of the 'Atlante idrogeografico ed astronomic' and 'Portolan Atlas' in the 16th Century"
  • 1530-1600 Conference Conclusion & Break
  • 1600 CNRS General Meeting

Presenters' Abstracts and Biographical Notes

Baço, Joana, and Gonçalo C. Lopes

"Little Birds, Long Voyages: The Presence of Companion Birds Aboard European Ships, Seventeenth to Nineteenth Century"

Our presentation proposal targets the presence of companion animals on board of European ships in the 17th-19th centuries, namely the transport of small birds. We intend to show not only the existing relationship between humans and non-humans, but also the objects and the reason for this relationship. Our study is based in a specific group of archaeological objects collected from the Portuguese frigate Santo António de Tanná, wrecked in Mombasa (1697) and through the analysis of a historical source directly related to this wreck.

The voyages lasted months, which made the transport of live animals difficult due to limited space, atmospheric conditions, and restricted attention was given to the animals. One of the easiest animals to care for and transport were birds, especially the very colourful and melodious ones such as parrots, macaws, parakeets and canaries. It is therefore not surprising that they were among the most traded species, both as collectors' items and as gifts for royal families and other dignitaries. It is also worth mentioning the symbolic role these ornamental birds played, especially their contribution to creating a serene and bucolic environment. Thus, they became pets, trade items and transformers of the environment in which they were kept. Through historical sources, iconography, painting and archaeological objects we discover these little companions of people, the voyages and the ships where these encounters happen.

Joana Baço has a master's degree in Archaeology from NOVA FCSH, Lisbon. She has participated in national and international research projects on nautical and underwater archaeology and on the archaeology of the Portuguese expansion. She has coordinated several preventive archaeological works, mainly in riverside and coastal areas. Since 2018 she is a researcher at CHAM – Centre for the Humanities and currently integrates the ERC SYNERGY 4OCEANS team. She is also the executive coordinator of the UNESCO chair "The Ocean's Cultural Heritage". Lopes bio bellow.

Bell, Christopher M.

"The Battle of the Atlantic and the Delay in Closing the 'Air Gap'"

The Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic was delayed by the inability to provide air support to convoys for the entire length of their passage through the U-boat infested waters of the north Atlantic. From mid-1942 until May 1943, U-boats inflicted devastating losses on shipping in the region known as the 'Air Gap' – the waters south of Greenland in which convoys could not count on air support from either land-based or carrier-based aircraft. It was only in May 1943 that the 'Air Gap' was closed and the Axis threat to shipping finally reduced to manageable proportions. This result could have been achieved much sooner if Allied resources had been allocated differently. The persistence of the 'Air Gap' is usually attributed to British leaders' prioritization of the strategic bombing campaign over the defence of trade. Recent research has demonstrated, however, that this explanation is both misleading and incomplete. This paper argues that the delays in providing air support to mid-Atlantic convoys need to be examined from a multi-national and multi-service perspective. Critical miscalculations and oversights were made on both sides of the Atlantic in 1942-43, and were not recognized and corrected promptly due to systemic shortcomings in the Allied decision-making process.

Christopher M. Bell is Professor of History at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His books include Churchill and Sea Power, The Royal Navy, Seapower and Strategy between the Wars, Churchill and the Dardanelles, and (as co-editor) Decision in the Atlantic: The Allies and the Longest Campaign of the Second World War.

Campbell, Isabel

"The RCN's 1948 Northern Voyages and Contributions to Oceanographic Research During the Cold War"

This paper will summarize multiple, intertwining, and layered motivations for the Royal Canadian Navy's 1948 northern voyages into Hudson Bay. Drawing upon scientific papers, it adds to the existing historical literature about this voyage, showing how some officials and scientists attempted to utilize the voyage for humanitarian, social, economic, and other purposes beyond security and defence. It also critically examines how a westernized masculine faith in science and technology drove Cold War anxieties and developments, justifying military and naval invasions of the sparsely populated Northern areas. It also exposes how the bipolar dynamic influenced decision-making, taking attention away from a vital consideration of local peoples, their lifestyles, and the conservation of natural resources.

Isabel Campbell is a senior historian at the Directorate of History and Heritage, NDHQ, Ottawa. The author of Unlikely Diplomats: The Canadian Brigade in Germany, 1951-1964, she is a co-author on volumes three and four of the official histories of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force respectively. This paper is based partly upon "A re-assessment of the Royal Canadian Navy's (RCN) 1948 northern voyages into Hudson Bay and its place in oceanographic research," International Journal of Maritime History, December 2019, 826-841.

Comber, Alex

"Wrecking the Terror: Drowning Breadalbane"

During 2021, as new information became available about the Franklin Expedition shipwreck HMS Terror, located in 2016 at King William Island, I decided to attempt a small-scale reconstruction of Terror in its current condition. After 170 years of mystery, we are on the threshold of understanding the last days of the 1845-1848 expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. Using site survey plans, ROV and dive footage, other sources of imagery and data, and information gleaned from academic presentations and recently published monographs, I have attempted a preliminary diorama, interpreting and hypothesizing as I went. I continued the project with a reconstruction of the wreck site of one of the many ships lost searching for Franklin's crews, the supply ship Breadalbane, sunk in the Barrow Strait off Beechey Island in August 1853. My hope is that these hobbyist reconstructions could help interpret two extremely remote, but incredible, National Historic Sites. Come take a tour with me as we wreck two fine vessels and forge a last miniature link across the top of Canada!

Alex Comber is a government records military portfolio archivist at Library and Archives Canada. He has directed his passion for naval history to making archival collections more accessible, while also working to acquire Department of National Defence records. Personal projects include warship identification and tracking, OSINT analysis, and the sharing of online content about naval vessels and Canadian First World War war trophies.

Cross, Wes

"Not Lost at Sea: The Ajax Club Legacy"

At the outbreak of war in September 1939 Canadian ports were ill-equipped to deal with the volume of shipping required to deliver goods and supplies across the Atlantic. Halifax immediately became a key port on the western edge of the Battle of the Atlantic. The city faced several issues related to the surge in ship movements and the resulting increase of naval and merchant marine sailors in port. Several local initiatives were undertaken to cope with this influx including the creation of the Ajax Club in 1940 by Dolly McEuen. Over the next five years she would struggle with local, provincial and federal levels of government, churches, temperance leaders, two naval bureaucracies and even bootleggers. Once a national story, it has been illuminated once again by the re-discovery of the Ajax Club collection of naval badges in McGill University.

Using the collection and archival material from a number of Canadian and British institutions the home front tale of an urgent need and an indomitable woman remains a compelling part of Canadian history. The story of the Ajax Club provides a unique prism to examine the evolution of local, provincial and federal policy and controls, popular sentiment, the role of contemporary media and the outcome for sailors, the city and the naval collection itself.

Wes Cross is a co-founder of the McGill Remembers Roundtable created in 2005 to raise awareness of military and social history contained in institutional archives. In this role he has lectured on a range of military history topics, prepared course material for educational institutions and served as an advisor on several initiatives. He currently serves on the Executive Council of the James McGill Society. A graduate of Concordia University, Wes is a recipient of a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for his work on the development of historical material and public engagement.

Goette, Richard

"Canada, the US, and the Defence of Newfoundland and Labrador during the 1950s"

The role of Canada in defending Newfoundland and Labrador in conjunction with the United States during the Second World War is familiar to many. However, the defence of the territory, notably after it became a Canadian province, is less well known. During this time the Canadian military also worked closely with the United States. The Northwest approaches to the continent once again became a possible route for an enemy maritime, land, and air attack, only this time it was the Soviet Union was seen as the adversary. Significantly, Newfoundland and Labrador also hosted American military bases, this time with nuclear weapons present. Defending both the territory of the province and the American strategic deterrent resources located within them therefore became a key consideration.

This paper will be based on official documents from both Canadian and American archival institutions. It will discuss the establishment by the American Joint Chiefs of Staff of U.S. Northeast Command in Newfoundland in the late 1940s and what the Canadian military's relationship with this new unified command would be. Specifically, it will examine the variety of proposals tabled by both Canadian and American planners, including: the establishment of a combined Canada-U.S. command for Newfoundland, with an American commander and a Canadian deputy; the appointment of Canadian offers on the staff of U.S. Northeast Command; and lastly the final compromise, the assigning of operational control over the American command organization to the Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF's Air Defence Command.

Richard Goette is an air power academic and Canadian air force historian. He is an associate professor in the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College (CFC) in Toronto. Richard has been a CNRS member for over 20 years and is currently the CNRS Secretary. He is conducting research on air power issues related to the RCAF as a professional military institution, command and control, maritime air power, air mobility (airlift and Search-and-Rescue), "soft" air power, and the Arctic.

Laanela, Erika

"A Biography of His Majesty's Ship Saphire, sunk in Bay Bulls in 1696"

Many Newfoundlanders are familiar with the story of the English fifth-rate frigate Saphire, which was set on fire by its commander in Bay Bulls during an encounter with a French squadron in September 1696. The remains of the ship were rediscovered by divers in the 1960s, and the wreck was partially excavated by the Newfoundland Marine Archaeological Society and later by Parks Canada. What is less widely known is that the Saphire had 21 years of active service in the Royal Navy prior to being deployed to Newfoundland. Most of the Saphire's career was spent cruising in the Mediterranean, where it was engaged in chasing warships belonging to Barbary corsairs, and capturing or assisting with the capture of several ships that were commissioned into the Royal Navy as prizes. To understand its historical significance, it is important to consider the whole lifespan of the ship, and not only the last six months spent in Newfoundland on convoy duty to protect the English cod fishing fleet. This examination of naval records will illuminate the service history of the Saphire and demonstrate the role that frigates played in English naval policy, the duties and roles typically assigned to them, and the demands of maintaining an active-duty naval vessel in the late 17th century.

Erika Laanela is an archaeologist and heritage professional with experience working in a range of academic, consulting and government contexts. She studied archaeology at Simon Fraser University, Texas A&M University and the College of William and Mary. Erika previously worked for the Ontario Ministry of Culture and for Parks Canada's Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage directorate, and she is currently a heritage policy advisor for the province of British Columbia. This paper is an extension of her PhD research on the Saphire.

Lopes, Gonçalo C., and Joana Baço

"Lanterns and Windowpanes Made of Shell: The Case of the Frigate Santo António de Taná (1697)"

During the Portuguese presence in Goa, there was a constant exchange of traditions, customs and techniques, with both sides incorporating elements from the other. In art and architecture, this symbiosis resulted in the so-called Indo-Portuguese architecture, which can still be seen today along many coastal areas of India, but especially in Goa and its surroundings. The case study presented here is an example of the perfect communion between these two realities, especially regarding the exploitation of fauna resources.

The frigate Santo António de Taná, coming from Goa and bound for Kenya, sank in 1697 after a long battle with Omani forces. Its wreck remained untouched until 1960, when it was found by two local divers. Between 1977 and 1979 the site was the target of underwater archaeological excavations, carried out by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA). Numerous artifacts of daily use used by the crew were identified and recovered from the wreck. Among them were several very small elements, considered undetermined at the time, but which a recent study has positively identified as fragments of windowpanes. They were used to replace glass, both in the ship's windows and in the hand lanterns also identified. There were also lead frames where the windowpanes fitted.

The present proposal aims to highlight a unique case study in the world, where European and Asian traditions cohabited, resulting in a perfect symbiosis, only possible through globalization.

Gonçalo C. Lopes has a master's degree and a PhD in Nautical and Underwater Archaeology from NOVA FCSH, Lisbon, with a dissertation and a thesis about the shipbuilding architectural fingertips of two wooden shipwrecks. Since 2013 he is a researcher at CHAM – Centre for the Humanities, where develops research on Early Modern shipbuilding. He has integrated national and international research projects about Portuguese Expansion in North Africa. He has also coordinated some urban archaeology excavations, mainly rescue contexts on Lisbon waterfront. Since 2021 integrates the Portuguese National Centre for Nautical and Underwater Archaeology of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage. Baço bio above.

Madsen, Chris

"French Interest in Philip Colomb's 1879 Naval Wargame The Duel"

In 1879, Royal Navy officer and budding historian and naval strategist Philip Howard Colomb published a naval wargame through the commercial firm of Griffin and Co. in Portsmouth. It was meant to simulate a warship-on-warship encounter as a means of instruction in tactics, maneuvering and gunnery, opportunity for safe tabletop practice, and resolving of debates surrounding the best way to fight modern armoured steamships. To this end, the game's reception in professional circles inside Great Britain was tepid, Colomb not even getting a chance to play a game during a session at the Royal United Service Institute when critics lined up to point out its deficiencies. In France, however, Colomb was held in high regard as a noted authority; knowledgeable French naval officers followed his writings and ideas with some interest. Adherents to the emerging Jeune École argued for a naval strategy of the weak against the strong, the main tenets being coastal defence and commerce warfare against Great Britain and its dominant Royal Navy. Colomb's naval wargame also appeared at a time when the French were learning and adapting wargaming from the Germans, and incorporating that methodology into professional military instruction in armies and navies. A foreign navy like the French therefore benefited far more than the Royal Navy from the critical intellectual inquisitiveness that playing the game fostered and never dismissed it out of hand. This research note introduces and presents a full bilingual text of Philip Colomb's naval wargame based on a translation in the February 1881 Revue maritime et coloniale by Lieutenant de vaisseau Louis Jean Rivet and the Griffin and Co. original book held at the British Library.

Chris Madsen is a Professor in the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College and Royal Military College of Canada in Toronto, Ontario. He teaches military officers and senior public servants on the National Security Programme and the Joint Command and Staff Programme. He is a past president of the Canadian Nautical Research Society.

Malcomson, Thomas

"The Efficient Cook: The "Cookery Manual" of the Upper Lakes & St Lawrence Transportation Company"

The food served afloat has long been a major concern for sailors at sea. It could be a highly anticipated break from work, a nondescript bland event, or simply dreadful. A ship's meals play an essential role in maintaining the crew, yet food is one of the least studied aspect of maritime history.

This paper will explore the "Cookery Manual" distributed to stewards aboard ships of the Upper Lakes & St Lawrence Transportation Company in 1949. The document provides an interesting look at meal planning, preparation and serving, as well as general food handling aboard ship. The manual informed its readers that as cooks they were "making a substantial contribution towards the success of the Fleet" by providing meals that helped crews "attain the maximum efficiency and output." The manual reflected the contemporary nutritional knowledge and the push by public health officials to improve worker diets.

The "Cookery Manual" is clearly the company's attempt to create a uniformed skill level and to encourage nutritious cooking to the stewards that prepared the meals aboard ship. From how to plan a week's menu, to basic nutrition, cooking and baking, through butchering various cuts of meat, the manual is an introductory course to cooking. The numerous recipes provided the meals from which to plan a healthy menu. It also contained a list of approved food and galley suppliers to buy from in different ports around the lake.

Thomas Malcomson retired after teaching after 32 years at George Brown College, Toronto. He has a BA and MA in psychology, while his PhD is in history. As a professor he taught courses in Introductory, Social, and Developmental Psychology, the history of eugenics, and genocide, and was a co-author of a Life-Span Development text. Thomas has written numerous articles on naval and maritime subjects, with a primary focus on the final years of the long 18th century and the War of 1812. His latest book is Order and Disorder in the British Navy, 1793-1815: Control, Resistance, Flogging and Hanging (Boydell Press, 2016). He lives in Toronto with his wife Peg.

Martinelli, Salvatore

"Navigating the High Seas: A Comparative Analysis of the 'Atlante idrogeografico ed astronomico' and 'Portolan Atlas' in the 16th Century"

The use of atlases in the 16th century played a crucial role in the advancement of navigation and astronomy. Two specific types of atlases were particularly significant as they contained both hydrographic and astronomical information, thereby facilitating navigation at sea. This study aims to examine the differences between the "Atlante idrogeografico ed astronomico" created by Francesco Ghisolfi and the "Portolan Atlas" created by Battista Agnese in terms of their hydrographic and astronomical content, as well as their effects on navigation, allowing for a deeper understanding of the advancements in navigation and astronomy during the 16th century. The comparison of these two atlases analyzes their hydrographic and astronomical content, as well as their effects on navigation and this study aims to shed light on the significance of these atlases in the development of navigation and astronomy. Furthermore, this study serves to demonstrate the importance of analyzing and comparing historical works, as it allows for a better understanding of the evolution and advancements in different fields.

Salvatore Martinelli is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Kassel, Germany. His research focuses on the cosmological figura of Antonino Saliba, a 16th-century Maltese polymath. In his published article, "Antonino Saliba: Maltesischer Polyhistor, Kartograph, Astronom und Philosoph des 16. Jahrhunderts," he explores the multifaceted contributions of Saliba. Salvatore has received prestigious research grants, including the Gerda Henkel Stiftung fellowship and a grant from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, supporting his ongoing scholarly projects. Through his dissertation, he delves into the intricate connections between cosmology, mapping, and intellectual networks during the Renaissance.

Moir, Michael

"As Scarce as a Snowball in Hades: Shipbuilding and the Search for Skilled Labour during the First World War"

By late 1916, the loss of Allied and Neutral merchant shipping threatened to halt fighting in Europe regardless of the outcome of land battles. More than 1,600 ships with a combined capacity of almost 3,860,000 gross tons were sunk by German submarines in an attempt to sever the supply of munitions, equipment, and food across the Atlantic. Britain responded with an international shipbuilding program that included Canada and the United States until America's entry into the war led to construction of its own merchant marine. The rapid increase in the demand for new ships led to expansion of existing shipyards and creation of new companies along North American coasts and Great Lakes, straining the industrial capacity of both countries that was already under pressure from munition manufacturers and military recruiters. Skilled labour was in short supply. As a Canadian shipyard manager observed in October 1917, trades such as fitters were "as scarce as a snowball would be in hades." The lack of trained workers seriously impeded the pace of production when time was of the essence and raised issues about the quality of ship construction. This presentation will examine the approach taken by Canadian authorities in comparison with British and American counterparts to address this shortfall within an environment affected by the growth of unions and workers' independence through training, the introduction of women to shipyards, and cross-border recruitment.

Michael Moir's career as an archivist began almost forty years ago with the Toronto Harbour Commission. He joined York University Libraries in 2004, where he is University Archivist and Head of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections. His research interests include Canadian shipbuilding between 1890 and 1939, and the management of ports and harbours. He was elected to the Council of the Canadian Nautical Research Society in 2015 and currently serves as President.

Noakes, Jeff

"'This matter will have to be given much careful thought': Soviet Torpedoes and Mines Captured in North Korea"

Since 1960, the Canadian War Museum's collection has included a Soviet torpedo whose history remained obscure. Archival research has furnished details of its provenance, including its 1951 transportation to Canada as part of a cargo of Soviet-made torpedoes and naval mines captured in North Korea, destined for analysis and training purposes. Research has also revealed the intricacies and the implications of the technical analysis of the mines that accompanied the torpedoes. Events revealed limited Canadian capacities for explosive ordnance disposal work and for advanced technical analysis of this enemy equipment. While the torpedoes were similar to those in Canadian service, the more complex magnetic influence mines took much longer to assess. In part, this was because removing their explosive charges took quite some time, a reflection of the need to acquire the appropriate equipment.

The torpedoes proved to be relatively uncomplicated weapons, but the magnetic influence mines had considerably greater implications. The analysis of these mines raised significant questions about their potential threat in Canadian coastal waters, as well as doubts about the suitability of the RCN's Bay-class minesweepers which were then being procured, and the equipment and training of clearance divers who were expected to deal with such weapons. This paper will examine the history of the CWM's torpedo and the other torpedoes and mines brought to Canada, and suggest some of the wider implications of their acquisition and analysis for the early Cold War RCN, including potential areas for further research.

Jeff Noakes has been the Second World War historian at the Canadian War Museum since mid-2006, and is also the curator responsible for the William James Roué Collection at the Canadian Museum of History. He has also been the historian on museum teams responsible for creating or adapting a number of temporary and online exhibitions. He is the author or joint author of books, book chapters, exhibition catalogues, and articles on subjects related to the First World War, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the Arctic.

Sarty, Roger

"An Albertan's Discovery of the Maritimes: George Stanley in New Brunswick, 1936-42"

George Stanley, a native of Calgary and a historian of western Canada, had never been to the Maritimes when took up his first academic position, at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. He had graduated from the University of Alberta in 1929, and immediately gone to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He received additional scholarships to complete the doctorate, and revise his B.Litt and D.Phil theses for publication as The Birth of Western Canada (1936). The move to Sackville after seven formative years in the UK was a shock. Yet, as the paper will demonstrate, he soon flourished. He began entirely fresh research, moving fully into military history, which had only figured in parts of his work on western Canada, studying events in the Maritimes during the French Revolutionary War through the War of 1812. He also joined the local militia unit, and instructed in the Officers Training Corps at the university, which led to full time military service in 1940 at the Canadian Army training centre in Fredericton. These developments set his career on a new course: his appointment as an official historian of the Canadian Army in 1942-7, and then, in 1949, as chair of the newly created department of history at the Royal Military College of Canada. He had not abandoned the Maritimes, however. In 1969 he returned to Mount Allison, and after his retirement became New Brunswick's lieutenant governor in 1981-1987.

Roger Sarty is professor emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he taught naval, military and Canadian history. Previously he had leadership positions at the Canadian War Museum (1998-2003), and was a historian (1981-1991), and then Senior Historian (1991-1998), at the Department of National Defence. A native of Halifax, with family roots in Lunenburg and Pictou counties, Roger developed his early interest in the military history of the Maritimes at Duke University (MA) and the University of Toronto (BA and PhD).

Thayer, Johnathan

Merchant Seamen and the Parameters of Involuntary Servitude

With the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, the US Congress officially banned involuntary servitude in addition to slavery. Despite this ban, Congress and the federal judiciary failed to provide a working definition of involuntary servitude that would establish guidelines for deciding court cases involving contracts between wage laborers and their employers. This lapse in definition was partially resolved in 1897 when the Supreme Court ruled on Robertson v. Baldwin, in which four U.S. citizen merchant seamen brought their case before the Court, arguing that their imprisonment as punishment for breaking contract through desertion constituted a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. This presentation considers the transformative impact of Robertson v. Baldwin in establishing far-reaching precedent in the history of free labor ideology and law both at sea and ashore, and as a turning point that sparked a national controversy in the US over the nature of contract labor and the legacy of emancipation and the Thirteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court's ruling against the Arago seamen, which privileged freedom of contract over the sailors' rights to the full protections of the Constitution, exemplified the janus-faced nature of the legal system's treatment of merchant seamen: both as wards of the state subject to extraordinary mechanisms of restriction and control, and simultaneously as a "special class" of workers entitled to extraordinary protections of the state. Sailors' mobility, an essential component of sailor culture ashore, had been abruptly curtailed by the nation's highest court, albeit temporarily.

Johnathan Thayer is Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). He holds a PhD in History from the CUNY Graduate Center, an MLS with concentration in Archival Studies from Queens College, CUNY, and a BA in English from Wesleyan University. He is the author of the forthcoming book Citizenship, Subversion, and Surveillance in US Ports: Sailors Ashore, and is co-editor of Negotiating Masculinities and Modernity in the Maritime World, 1815-1940, both titles in Palgrave Macmillan's Global Studies in Social and Cultural Maritime History series.

Walker, Meaghan

Buying Clothes in Bonavista: A Study of Garment Sales in the Ryan's Merchant Records

The journals of the Ryan's Merchant Premises, held by the Maritime History Archives, contain a day-to-day record of what Bonavistans were purchasing from such a merchant store. Among the fishing supplies, imported foods and general household wares sold by the Ryans at the store are copious amounts of fabrics and notions, as well as ready-made clothing. The large movement of fabrics into the community reinforces the reliance on women's domestic labour for outport clothing, but even so the ready-made market of maritime menswear was being felt even in rural Newfoundland as trousers, shirts, coats, and specialist gear like oil clothes were also sold in small numbers, in addition to the more typical market for stockings, footwear, and accessories. Financial data from the years 1863, 1873, and 1883 show the increasing amount of clothing and fabric available for purchase, the changing popularity of fabrics and cuts, and the fluctuating price of those items. Further, by looking at the purchases of a maritime community that contain more financial and physical detail, information from this study could be used to further comprehend the contents of the inventories of deceased merchant seafarers contained in the Crew Agreements also held at the MHA.

Meaghan Walker is the 2021-2023 Ewart A. Pratt Postdoc at Memorial University of Newfoundland and works closely with the Maritime History Archive. She studies the maritime menswear in the British Empire between 1660 and 1920. Her work has explored the clothing of merchant seafarers, Royal Navy sailors and marines, and now Newfoundland fishers largely in the long nineteenth century, with an emphasis on the adoption of ready-made or "slop" clothing by maritime workers. Dr. Walker received her doctorate from the University of Alberta in 2020 and studied for both her BA (Hons) and MA at Memorial University of Newfoundland.


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