Built in Bath, Maine at the apogee of wooden-hulled multi-masted schooner construction in New England, the 4-masted Frank A. Palmer and the 5-masted Louise B. Crary filled an important role in the American economy as bulk cargo carriers. In 1897 Nathaniel Palmer built the 274 foot long Frank A. Palmer in Bath, Maine, which historians believe was the longest 4-masted schooner ever built. In 1900 the New England Shipbuilding Company of Bath, Maine launched the 267-foot long, Louise B. Crary which joined the Frank A. Palmer as a coal carrier along the Eastern seaboard.
The schooners ideally represent a period at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century when economies of scale made the coastwise shipment of coal by sail economical and even profitable. The design, construction, use, and ultimate loss of these schooners reveal important aspects of wooden shipbuilding, the New England coal trade, and the increasing industrialization of the Northeast.
|The Frank A. Palmer (top) and the Louise B. Crary (bottom) carried coal between the Chesapeake and New England without much notoriety until their collision in 1902 (Courtesy of the Maine Maritime Museum).|
The two schooners collided on 17 December 1902 in Massachusetts Bay en-route from Newport News, VA to Boston, MA. Within moments of the collision both vessels sank beneath the waves. The initial collision caused the immediate drowning of six of the 21 crewmen. The remaining 15 men struggled into the Frank A. Palmer's yawl boat which floated around Massachusetts Bay for 4 nights. During that time 4 crewmen died from exposure, while one man, who was hallucinating, committed suicide by jumping overboard.
|The harrowing tale of survival made headlines and was widely reported in New York and New England's newspapers.|