A Guide to Vintage Naval Books

May 12, 2020

A Guide to Vintage Naval Books

The Lure of the Sea

The water sparks a passion, salt air, a strong wind, and the open sea. If you're on a fishing boat on the Great Lakes, sailing around the world or landlocked but have a genuine love of the sea from the books you read. Sealife is a way of life for many people, from the songs they sing to the stories they tell to the artwork they design.

The Art of The Sea

Life on the open water has inspired music, artwork, and design throughout the ages from the precise building of ships in bottles, models to craftspeople creating their boats. Longboats to barges and freighters, sailboats and canoes, ocean liners, and more - various naval vessels have graced the cover of a book. They are stirring the imagination of the people who read them.

Old Naval Prints Their Artists & Engravers is a collection of old prints of naval action and engagements and a brief description under each photograph. This description details what the painter represented, with commentary against a historical background

The Songs of The Sea.

What are Sea Shanties? Life at sea during the age of sail was loaded with difficulty. Sailors had to endure uncomfortable situations, illness, bad food and pay, and poor weather. Sea Shanties were sung by the sailors who lived and worked on ships at sea. They were used to raise spirits and maintain rhythm when working. These shanties made long, lonely days at sea bearable. 

 These songs were written to achieve a purpose, not just for pleasure; the lyrics and melody were not complicated. The songs were usually significant and spoke of a sailor's life, the backbreaking work, abuse from captain and crew, spirits, and desire for girls and dry land.

 A standard shanty was sung in a call-and-response arrangement. A sailor (a shantyman) would shout out a verse; the crew would return in unison. The work would happen on the ending syllable of the response or another cue.

The book Iron Men and Wooden Ships are full of old sea shanties, packed with the quaintest imaginable pictures. One hundred fifty pages of these songs of the sea, authenticated by old sailors. William McFee, whose sea stories are known and loved by all, has written an introduction.

Want to listen to sea shanties?

Here is a Spotify playlist of 40 shanties sung by various artists for your enjoyment. If you have played Assassins Creed, some will sound familiar. My favorite so far is Rolling Down to Old Maui.

History of Shipping on the Great Lakes

The earliest known ship to sail the Great Lakes was the "Griffon," a small boat around sixty tons, built-in 1679 by the French explorer, La Salle. This ship was launched on the Niagara River near the village of La Salle.

In the 1840s, the Great Lakes grew to a highway for moving wheat, corn, lumber, coal, and iron ore. The midwest was being settled and farmed, and shipping was the easiest and most economical way to bring it to market. Iron ore still makes up half of the cargo shipped on the Great Lakes today.

The Ships of The Great Lakes

The most well-known freighter ever to sail the Great Lakes was the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. She was the biggest ship on the Great Lakes at the time. With a length of 729 feet and a weight of 13,632 tons when empty. She was named for the new chairman of the board of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

To learn more about the fateful day of Edmund Fitzgerald or learn more about the history of shipping on the check out the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. It is a wealth of history and information.

The story of the ship Chief Wawatam, this ship was a hand-fired, coal-burning steam vessel. This ship was one of the last on the Great Lakes of her kind. The railroad car ferry at work in the Straits of Mackinac who's history spanned from 1911 to 1976. Her crew and captains tell her story with great detail and many illustrations.

This book looks to be the author inscribed this book to the previous owner in 1982 in pen. Also included is a postcard found in this book of the Chief Wawatam. What a piece of history.

 Vintage Postcards are a fun way to learn about the Great Lakes. This postcard is of the Straits of Mackinac Ferry Mackinaw City, Michigan. Taking the ferry has always been the highlight of the trip to Mackinaw Island in Michigan.

Experience Life at Sea

The beauty of the ship, the drama of the sails full of wind, the vastness of the ocean. Days on the open water are so unpredictable. For some, the sun is shining bright, the wind is working in your favor, and the seas are comfortable.

You can experience this through the pages of the many nautical books until you can seize a chance to get out on the water and enjoy it in person.

There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea."

— Joseph Conrad, Writer


Happy Reading,

Pam of Reading Vintage




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