Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Tree Ship

Rouse Simmons Centennial CelebrationThis is an interesting story about a vessel from ship history. In the late 1800s, Chicago's Harbor was one of the busiest in the world. During the holiday season it was especially busy due to the sale of Christmas trees. Wooden bottom sailing vessels would sail far up into northern Michigan and bring back trees to sell.

Captain Herman Schuenemann owned a large vessel  a three-mast schooner  named the Rouse Simmons. He would load her with trees and sell them right off the deck. People knew who she was because the captain would decorate his ship with lights and greenery.

In order to cut expenses he had to transport as many trees as possible. On November 23, 1912 the ship was on its way back to Chicago on Lake Michigan and was caught in a terrible storm. The weight of 5,000 or so Christmas trees contributed to the sinking of the Rouse Simmons. The Captain and the his crew of 12 sailors perished.

Many years later, Milwaukee diver Kent Bellrichard discovered the vessels remains in just 165 feet of water 12 miles northeast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. On November 30, 2012 the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw re-enacted the Rouse Simmons landing in Chicago. Thousands of Christmas trees were delivered to deserving families throughout Chicago.

For more information on Captain Santa and the Rouse Simmons, go to
Lynn Conaway

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

USS Nautilus

I was lucky to inherit my father's stamp collection. He was the Curator of Rare Books at the Cincinnati Public Library for over thirty years. In that capacity, he received mail from all over the world. This was back in the day when people wrote letters and used postage stamps. I think stamps are not only pretty, many have fascinating stories behind the image. I'm going to tell you the story of a stamp which was issued in 1959 to commemorate the voyage of a very special vessel.

The USS Nautilus was the first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was launched in 1954. Because she used nuclear propulsion, she could stay submerged much longer then diesel-electric submarines. Nautilus set her first record in 1955. When submerged, she traveled 1,100 nautical miles from Connecticut to Puerto Rico. This was the longest any vessel had ever traveled under water.

During the Cold War, President Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Navy to attempt a submarine voyage around the North Pole. On April 25, 1958, The Nautilus was commanded by Commander William R. Anderson and began her polar trip -- operation "Sunshine." After being turned back by deep ice and shallow water, finally on August 3 she became the first watercraft to reach the North Pole.

Now, here is where the story gets interesting. As the sub was going under the pole, the crew was surprised by the appearance of an unexpected visitor. That visitor was none other than Santa Claus himself. Apparently Santa was not happy about all the noise and commotion generated by Nautilus. He was right to be annoyed because the hull and superstructure of the vessel vibrated and made so much noise that even the sonar didn't work. If Santa could hear them, then so could the Russians. Santa let them pass through his yard with a warning. The vessel continued on to Greenland, having made the first successful submerged voyage around the North Pole.

This same postage stamp also commemorates the 50th anniversary of  Robert Peary's 1909 North Pole expedition.   
--Lynn Conaway

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Mad Potter of Biloxi

Before the artist Salvador Dali became known for his eccentric persona, there was George Ohr the self-proclaimed Mad Potter of Biloxi. The highest praise accorded his work during his lifetime came from himself. He described it as "unequaled, undisputed, unrivaled, the greatest art pottery in the world." He is best known for his work from 1895-1905. Like Dali, George Ohr cultivated his eccentric personality as a form of marketing. Also like Dali, he sported a wacky mustache. His was 18 inches long, wrapped around his cheeks and tied behind his head.

When his work was finally "discovered" many years after his death, it was considered ground-breaking. He had achieved porcelain-thin walls from clay he dug himself in southern Mississippi. His glazes were colorful and unexpected. But the most astounding characteristic of Ohr's pottery was the shape. Now his work looks thoroughly modern. His work is held in such esteem that the famous architect Frank O. Gehry was commissioned to design the Ohr-O'Keefe museum of Art in Biloxi which houses a large collection of George Ohr's vessels.
 To learn more about George Ohr go to
--Lynn Conaway

Everyone Has These

Blown glass by Gary Farlow.
Farlo's Scientific Glassblowing
Everyone has blood vessels. Blood vessels are networks of hollow tubes that transport blood throughout the entire body. There are three major types, all part of the circulatory system:

1. Arteries, which carry blood away from the heart.
2. Capillaries, which enable the actual exchange of water and chemicals between blood and tissues.
3. Veins, which carry blood from the capillaries back toward the heart

Now that you know the basics consider this: There are artists who use images of blood vessels and other physiological parts of the human body to make beautiful art.

Sometimes their work is used to teach medical students or to illustrate books but often it is for the sheer graphic beauty of our bodies. According to the Association of Medical Illustrators, medical illustration as a teaching tool first appeared in 4th Century in Hellenic Alexandria. Probably the most famous medical illustrator was Leonardo da Vinci.
A drawing of the heart and it's blood
vessels by Leonardo da Vinci.
To see artwork inspired by science go to Cleveland Gallery06/GilmourAcademy. Another site is Look for Gallery: the Art in Biomedical Research.
---Lynn Conaway

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Oldest vessels in Cincinnati on display now

I snapped this photo of household vessels on display.        

A visit to the Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times at Cincinnati Museum Center will not only reveal some of the most significant historical documents ever found, but as they are more than 2,000 years old, they surely must be the oldest vessels in Cincinnati now. The scrolls are significant because they contain the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible. The exhibit also includs other ancient handwritten  texts and remains of religious objects, weapons, stone carvings, textiles, mosaics, everyday household items, jewelry and ceramics.

Vessels play a major role in the discovery of the scrolls. The 11 caves where the scrolls were found are in the ancient ruins of  Qumran, 13 miles east of Jerusalem. According to the docent on my tour,  a Bedouin goat-hearder discovered the scrolls in the spring of 1947 while looking for a lost goat along the cliffs of the Dead Sea. He threw a stone into a cave on a cliff to try to roust out the goat and heard the sound of pottery breaking. The herder climbed up and found pottery vessels in the cave. Taking a lid off a vessel, he found ancient parchment inside. The goat herder sold seven of the scrolls to an antiquities dealer, who in turn sold the scrolls to people at Hebrew University and Syrian Orthodox monastery of St. Mark. Four were then resold to the American School of Oriental Research -- which brought them to the attention of American and European researchers. Between 1949 and 1956, ten additional caves were discovered and yielded more scrolls, thousands of fragments of scrolls and other manuscripts.

But this blog is is about vessels. One of the first stories the docent in the exhibit tells is about how vessels preserved these amazing historical artifacts. Throughout the exhibit, you see vessels of various shapes, sizes and purposes in this exhibit. A storeroom was discovered in one of the Dead Sea excavation sites and it contained more than 1,000 pottery items arranged by function for cooking, serving, pouring, drinking and dining. I was surprised by a large ceremonial bathtub which probably was used for some kind of purification ritual. I was stunned by the intricacy of jewelry and stamped images. While we tend to think of “branding” as a modern marketing concept, I saw an ancient pottery stamp that was used on bread. One storeroom found during the excavation contained more than a thousand pottery items arranged by function --  cooking, serving, pouring, drinking and dining.

The show is open through mid-April. Here is a link to find out more information about the exhibit, hours and admission prices.

--Nancy Berlier