Not Quite What They Appear
You are looking up the bore of a ship's cannon from which a four inch round-shot is about to emerge. Understandably, you back off. Wait a minute, there's something not quite right here; it looks a trifle 'wooden', doesn't it?
From this close, yes, but emerging from a gunport two hundred yards across a tossing stretch of water, this "Quaker" cannon (named for the religion that believes in non-violence) might give you pause to reflect. Is it going to fire or not?
The captain and crew of your pursuit are hoping you will believe their ruse and leave them alone.
This harmless softwood log, turned round and painted, is about five feet long; the bore ends about six inches inside. There are holes from a possible gun carriage mounting.
It would have been easily lifted and stored away until the next occasion for fakery.
I probably can't convince you that these six links are anything but the pine they are made from, though a similar wooden chain painted flat black and mounted in our galleries does fool museum visitors all the time. Please note their gargantuan size in comparison to the pair of adjacent nickels. Each link is 20 inches in length.
Made by a pattern maker at Bath's Hyde Windlass Co. as an exact full scale replica of 3-7/16" American Standard steel anchor chain, it was probably used to test the configurations of chain handling equipment, like their windlasses and chain stops.
A razor, yes, but one with immortal proportions (note the nickel). And why would Neptune need a razor when he is invariably sporting a flowing beard?
The answer lies in this hand-written account by 19-year-old Clarabell Airhart, recalling her 1906 passage from Honolulu to Philadelphia aboard the Bath ship Edward Sewall :
"Several deep sea vessels left Honolulu before the Edward Sewall was ready, that able seamen were very low. Many of our crew came from jail. When we crossed the equator, in the Pacific, few of the crew had been initiated in the customary ceremony.
During the 'dog watch' Neptune and his retinue came over the bow. Coming aft with a list of the neophytes, Neptune demanded their attendance. As a lady passenger I was given a pass. The victims had hidden all over the ship, but it did not take long for the A.B.'s [Able Bodied seamen]to find them. Neptune asked their name, and when they answered a nasty pill was forced into their mouth, washed down by salt water.
Then the bosun slapped a mixture of crude oil and tar on their face and hair and shaved it off with this wooden razor that 'Chips' had made. Next, the victim was dumped into a barrel of salt water to get out the best way he could.
It was quite a sight. Afterwards, all hands 'spliced the main brace'. The men returned to their various duties."
Clarabell, a friend of Capt. Richard Quick and his wife Susie, who accompanied her husband aboard the Edward Sewall, was entered on the ship's papers as 'Stewardess', an entirely honorary position.
Here she is with the traditional Hawiian floral leis on the March morning of the ship's departure from Honolulu.
The Edward Sewall, all her company, and several thousand tons of sugar reached Philadelphia in July without incident. They were greeted with the startling news of the destruction of San Francisco from the '06 earthquake and fire the previous April.
Endpiece from Sewall Ships of Steel, Mark.W Hennessey, 1937 ed. Note King Neptune on the right.
Let me know if you stopped by down here!
Chris Hall, Registrar