Library Collections on the Merchant Marine

i Jan 23rd No Comments by
Cover of Merchant Vessels of the United States 1887

Merchant Vessels of the United States 1887

List of Merchant Vessels of the United States (title is from the cover), was published at various times by the United States Treasury Department, the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation, and the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Coast Guard. The Library has volumes published 1884, 1886-1887; 1891-1989 (with some years missing).

The List of Merchant Vessels of the United States, updated each year, is a ship’s register with offical numbers and scantlings (measurements of the structural parts) for ships. This means a researcher can consult this reference for a ship’s length and breadth, tonnage, crew size, type of ship, propulsion, date and location of construction and home port, and owner’s name. Prior to consulting the reference, all that is needed is a date and ship’s name. Of the appendices, “Former Names Showing Present Names” and “Vessels Lost” help to historically define a particular ship or it’s demise. The series is in constant use for reference. Contact us for a request by filing in the form on this page.

Merchant Marine is a term defined in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language as “…1. the vessels of a nation that are engaged in commerce…”, and “… 2. the officers and crews of such vessels…”. The concept of merchant ships in the service of the military developed during and after the Civil War, yet the American history of merchant shipping dates back to the early 1600s (see John Spears, The Story of the American Merchant Marine.).

Ocean-going commerce expanded up until the 1850s, due to the highly-valued craftsmanship of wooden ships (see Benjamin Labaree, America and the Sea: A Maritime History.), which later could not compete with new technologies of steam and industrial shipbuilding enjoyed by other maritime nations. The 20th century witnessed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 and the later recognition of the United States Merchant Marine veterans by President Reagan in 1988 for service in World War II.

The Library collection includes: Bibliographies and Periodicals, Histories, Labor Law, Navigation, Seamanship, Ship Registers and Yearbooks, and Shipbuilding Histories. hosts our Library collection online which includes material on topics such as merchant ships and merchant seamen and crews: ship registers, histories and periodicals. The Merchant Marine in the World Wars is also represented.


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