Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ship-of-the-Line USS Pennsylvania, Ship Model

Shown here is the museum’s model of the giant ship-of-the-line Pennsylvania. The museum has had the model for many years and it was one of our earliest acquisitions. The ship model company Arthur G. Henning, Inc. of Mount Vernon, New York built the model in 1970. 
The model impressively shows the ship’s massive battery of guns and her large hull. It size is a show stopper for museum visitors.  One cannot help but notice the battlion of guns, the size of the model, and the detail of the ship’s rigging. As a result, the model is one of the more popular artifacts at the museum.
Unfortunately, the model does not fully present the vision of the ship's deigner Samuel Humphries. Like many builders of large warships before him, Humphries wanted Pennsylvania to have a bold artistic presence to accompany her massive broadsides. The first issue is the ship’s figurehead.  On the model is the bust of woman with a crown and has the appearance of Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra. According to Humphries’ original drawings, not only was the figure not a woman but rather a bust of the Greek demi-god/hero Hercules. 
The second issue is the stern art.  On the model, there are a series of human figures, a ship, and what looks like the Acropolis.  These are all correct, but it is incomplete. 

Picture of Cleopatra on th ship model at left and a drawing
of Hercules on the right as Samuel Humphries intended.
According to Humphries' original drawing of Pennsylvania’s stern, in the middle are two representations of war: the brute strength of Hercules with his club in hand and several modern weapons of war surrounding him.  On the starboard side is the goddess Athena, who represented skill and wisdom in war.  Her hand is on the Acropolis, which was her main temple in Athens, Greece.  She is surrounded tools used to plan war. 
On both sides of the ship, Humphries intended for there to be a series of aquatic creatures from Greek myths such as sea nymphs and mermaids.  He also intended for there to be an eagle on an American shield, which is a classic representation of the United States. 

A comparison between the art on the
 model and what Humphries intended.

 The actual ship was impressive. Rated at 120-guns and displacing over 3,000-tons, the ship was the largest sailing warship ever constructed for the U.S. Navy. Her designer, Samuel Humphries, drew inspiration for the design from the Spanish battleship and Battle of Trafalgar-veteran Santisima Trinidad and the British battleship Royal Sovereign.  The Navy intended her to be the ultimate blockade buster, should another European war occur.
The ship's size, however, was the cause of many issues. To build just the hull of a ship of the size cost the taxpayers over $800,000 (1830’s dollars).  The annual budget for the entire Department of the Navy during this time period was about $4,000,000 a year.  The consequences for Pennsylvania and other new ships was lengthy build times.
The ship was not only expensive to build, she was expensive to operate.  If the Navy had sent her into battle, it would have taken 3,000 sailors to man all of her weapons and sails.  The battleship made one voyage: Philadelphia to the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Here, workers put her in the new constructed Dry Dock Number 1 and placed copper on her hull.  She never sailed again.  The Navy burned her in 1861 to prevent capture during the evacuation of Gosport. 

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