Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Old Merchant Marine by Ralph D. Paine

book cover

The Old Merchant Marine
by Ralph D. Paine

Hardback: 214 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: 1919

Source: Bought in a library book sale.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Written in 1919 and a part of the Yale Chronicles of America series, this book takes a look at America's merchant marine in the age of the sail. Covering the end of the colonial days to about 1870, this book talks about coastal fishing, whaling, trading with Europe and the East, and privateers during the Revolution and the War of 1812.

My Review:
The Old Merchant Marine contained "romantic" (to use the author's term) stories about the adventures to be had at sea for brave Americans in the 1700's & 1800's. The stories were exciting and contained quotes from sea journals. Some general information could be gleaned from the stories about trade routes, crew sizes, ship types, and profits, but that wasn't the focus. The author assumed that the reader knew about sailing ships, so he freely used technical terms without explaining them. The book was written in a "popular" rather than "scholarly" style. I'd recommend the recent re-releases of this "classic" to those who enjoy reading about adventures at sea.

Chapter 1 was about American seaman and pirates in the 1600's. Chapter 2 was about the 1700's up until the American Revolution and talked about merchants, whalers, and privateers. Chapter 3 was mostly about the American navy and privateers during the American Revolution. Chapter 4 was about captains of merchantmen after the Revolution, especially those out of Salem Port. Chapter 5 was about merchantmen out of other ports after the Revolution. Chapter 6 was about the post-Revolution perils faced by sailors on merchantmen and the Federal legislation passed to help promote and protect the American sea trade. Chapter 7 was about American privateers during the War of 1812. Chapter 8 was about packet ships and the early days of steam ships (covered 1816-1859). Chapter 9 was about clipper ships (covered 1832-1869). Chapter 10 was about fishermen and domestic shipping from colonial days to 1919.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The story of American ships and sailors is an epic of blue water which seems singularly remote, almost unreal, to the later generations. A people with a native genius for seafaring won and held a brilliant supremacy through two centuries and then forsook this heritage of theirs. This period of achievement was no more extraordinary than was its swift declension. A maritime race whose topsails flecked every ocean, whose captains courageous from father to son had fought with pike and carronade to defend the freedom of the seas, turned inland to seek a different destiny and took no more thought for the tall ships and rich cargoes which had earned so much renown for its flag.

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