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History of Steam

i Mar 17th No Comments by

Book and periodical titles in this list are selected which offer technical illustrations and photographs or paintings to accompany descriptions of historical ships. Ships registers and reference books feature steam, motor, diesel and other vessels, ships in the U.S. Navy and the Merchant Marines.

 Steam at Sea by Dennis Griffiths

Cover of Steam at Sea by Dennis Griffiths

Steam at Sea : Two Centuries of Steam-Powered Ships / Denis Griffiths. Conway Maritime Press, London, England, 1993

Steam at Sea: Two Centuries of Steam-powered ships provides an introduction to steam powered vessels and how the engine works. The book has black and white illustrations and photographs of steam engines and ships. Its 16 chapters are mainly concerned with the motive power of steam and how steam engines were designed for the variety of steam boats and ships: merchant ships, fighting ships and passenger liners. Included are a Glossary of steam power terms, and a General Index and Index of Ships named in the text.

View books on steamship history in the Pacific Ocean.

Title page scan of The Engine Powered Vessel

Title page of The Engine Powered Vessel

The Engine Powered Vessel; from Paddle-wheeler to Nuclear Ship. / W. A. Baker and Tre Tryckare. Grossett & Dunlap, New York, 1965.

The Engine Powered Vessel; from Paddle-wheeler to Nuclear Ship is an excellent resource for the history and illustrations of steam ships in historical sequence, from 1783 with Pyroscaphe (French) to Andorra (Dutch) in 1964. The book is world-wide in scope, naming the earliest proponents of steam-powered vessels from French, British and American sources.

Though the very first steam boats were tried on inland waterways, the intent to build larger and more powerful engines became a reality with ocean-going Savannah (American) in 1818, a ship which used sails for most of its Atlantic crossing and its steam engine for only 1% of the journey. Shipwrights and entrepreneurs sought to exploit the power of steam as the new technology to replace sailing ships. Ships eventually used wind-power less often (City of Paris, 1865) and later the paddle-wheel was replaced by screw propulsion. Eventually battleships and ocean liners were built with steam engines as the sole method of propelling the new iron hulls.

Scanned cover of Merchant Ships edited by John LaDage.

Cover of Merchant Ships edited by John LaDage.

Merchant Ships; a Pictorial Study. / John H. La Dage with Charles L. Sauerbier and others. Cornell Maritime Press, Cambridge, Maryland, 1955

Divided into seven parts, Merchant Ships; a Pictorial Study gives details for the merchant seaman or candidate on types of ships, what it was like to live aboard ship, the structure of the ship, cargo handling, deck and engineering aspects of ships and a description of how ships were built and repaired.


Scanned cover of Ocean Steamers

Cover illustrated by stacks for the book Ocean Steamers.

Ocean Steamers: a History of Ocean-going Passenger Steamships 1820-1970. / John Adams. New Cavendish Books, London, England, 1993.

Ocean Steamers: a History of Ocean-going Passenger Steamships’ many illustrations include deck plans, sketches of life aboard, engravings and line drawings of ships underway, photographs in black and white for the first half of the book from 1820 to 1880; color illustrations representing postcards, posters, flags and photographs enhance the chapters dealing with the 1880s to 1970. Ships are illustrated and noted for innovations they represented. As the author details each aspect of steamship history, ship structure and propulsion wooden hulls versus steel, paddlewheels and iron screw propellers are seen for the major improvements they signified. In the twentieth century, steam had proven value and relative safety for oceanic travel, and fueled by oil and allowing ever greater ship length and luxury to its passengers. Yet another engine modernization, the diesel engine, closed the steamship era for passenger ships, beginning about 1961.

Since this book covers only passenger and not cargo or battleships, the detail is considerable in depicting ship profiles for the early years of steam, and the color illustrations of twentieth century ships. Brief paragraphs, rather than tables or lists of specifications, give the facts about each ship noted. The author intended the book to have coffee table appeal, but with information available at a glance this is a reference book for information on passenger steamships.

The Story of the P&O

The Story of the P&O

The Story of P & O: The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Revised Edition. / David Howarth and Stephen Howarth. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, England, 1994.

The Story of P & O: The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company is a history of one steamship company from about 1837 for the ensuing almost 160 years of its life. The Story of P & O presents a close look at the development of a shipping line that happened to be at the heartbeat of British colonial administration. The P & O’s passenger and mail cargo voyages from the British Isles to the West Coast of Africa and later to India made up the backbone of the company’s business with its routes directly involved with British commerce in the Far East. Included are portraits of chairmen of the board. Written by two experts in maritime history, the book is profusely illustrated. Due to the nature of the story, the book is not organized for ready reference, but is best taken chapter by chapter.


Scanned cover of the book The World's Merchant Fleets .

Cover of the book The World’s Merchant Fleets

The World’s Merchant Fleets, 1939 : the Particulars and Wartime Fates of 6,000 Ships / Roger W. Jordan. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1993.

The World’s Merchant Fleets, 1939 : the Particulars and Wartime Fates of 6,000 Ships offers the most detailed statistics of oceanic fleets in 1939. Just prior to World War II ships still used steam propulsion, fueled by oil. Listings for United States ships begin alphabetically with Alcoa Steamship Co, Inc. and end with Wisconsin Steamship Co, Inc. for each line, in addition to individual ship’s specifications (year built, tonnage, dimensions and speed, etc.) are given the funnel and hull colors (for image recognition) and areas of service. There follows a chapter entitled “Losses”, and extensive index; some black and white illustrations accompany the text.


Scanned cover of magazine Steamboat Bill, Fall 2004.

Scanned cover of magazine Steamboat Bill, Fall 2004.

Steamboat Bill is a long-running periodical or journal in the collections of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library. The Library holds consecutive issues from 1944 to 2007. There are indexes to the issues published by the Steamship Historical Society of America.


Scanned cover of magazine Power Ships, Winter, 2014.

Scanned cover of magazine Power Ships, Winter, 2014.

Power Ships is the continuation of Steamboat Bill. The Library holds issues from 2012 to the present.


The Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library maintains collections on steamship history. Please see the online catalog of books at or call the Library at 310-548-7618 for more information.

History of Sail

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Scanned image of a color postcard, circa 1920.

Shipping Scene in San Pedro cropped version of a scanned image: color postcard, circa 1920.

The Age of Sail is known in European terms to cover about 300 years, between the late 1400s to the late 1700s. It is the history of sailboats and ships as propelled by wind power, rather than by human power on boats with oars or paddles. Most notably, it marks the period when people and goods were transported and battles were fought on sailing ships. The most advanced sailing technology of each era constantly changed over the centuries, from the lugsail-rigged Chinese junk (about 200 C.E.) to square-rigged ships merchant ships (about 1860).

Two kinds of history books

1. Commentaries on this history provide insight on the intricate relationship between the nations’ economies, their sovereignty and relative power on the world’s stage.

American and the Sea

America and the Sea : a Maritime History / Benjamin W. Labaree. Published by Mystic Seaport, 1998. This book is about ships and the maritime history of the United States. It has a very broad and formal outline of “the relationship of America to the sea”, see Introduction. In this book you will hardly find ships plans or technical details about ship design, but rather an account of what happened in each era of the development of the United States in four parts. The first part begins with a description of native American use of boats, followed by European explorers; the fourth part describes ships and the maritime history of commerce and the military in the twentieth century.

See more on America and the Sea at

See more on The Way of the Ship at

The Way of the Ship

The Way of the Ship: America’s Maritime History Reenvisioned, 1600-2000. / Alex Roland, W. Jeffrey Bolster, Alexander Keyssar. Published by John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2008. The Way of the Ship charts the growth of maritime America and its strength in overseas trade and inland transport. There is also a glossary of shipping terms, chapter notes, and an index.

Is the book suitable for ready reference, or quick answers? Yes, to the extent that the book is chronologically arranged and its sections are listed with specific chapter headings. However, the subject requires reading essays to gain a sense of the history. So it is significant for the careful consideration by the authors in specific historical eras. The detail provided in this book of forty-six essays makes it a valuable resource for not only maritime but also social and economic history.

For more illustrations a visual encyclopedic reference can be found in Ship: the Epic Story of Maritime Adventure: it’s a reference work, a book you can open to any page for visual reference to historical fact.

2. Design and engineering reviews of ships in terms of their capacity to hold goods or achieve speed or to defend a nation provide visual and textual content that accurately describe ships at particular eras of change in hull and or motive power.

The History of American Sailing Ships

The History of American Sailing Ships ./ Howard Chapelle; with drawings by the author, and George C. Wales and Henry Rusk. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1935.

The History of American Sailing Ships by Howard Chapelle is considered a classic text on the history of ships. The author has provided line illustrations of the wide variety of wooden sailing ships. There are 81 plans and lines, the naval architectural drawings of ketches, sloops, revenue cutters, schooners, yachts; and plates, folded out drawings of frigates, packets, schooners and barkentines.


The American Sailing Navy

The History of American Sailing Navy. / Howard Chapelle. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1949.

The History of American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle continues the author’s expertise in shipbuilding history and technology. Model builders consult Chapelle’s books for details not easily available otherwise.

See more books on the History of Sail at

Journal on Diving

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Cover of Issue No.2 Historical Diver, Winter 1993

Historical Diver

The Journal of Diving History publishes histories of international diving and divers written by diving enthusiasts and practitioners. The journal began with the Summer Issue, 1993 with the title Historical Diver, a title that remained until 2008 when it became The Journal of Diving History.

Articles in Historical Diver feature biographies, events and milestones in diving history from the 19th century as well as articles on famous divers. Hans Hass is featured in Issue No. 9, Fall 1996, “Hans Hass Pioneer Swim Diving”. His innovations are highlighted subsequent issues and the Summer 2013 issue of The Journal of Diving History ran a feature-length article on his life and work. See the Library’s blog on Hass.


“Sea Hunt: Television’s Epic Underwater Adventure” is the main article in Issue 16, summer 1998 of Historical Diver. “Zale Parry: the First Lady of American Diving” and “Lotte Hass Diving’s International Leading Lady” are two articles highlighting the achievements of women divers.

Cover of The Journal of Diving History, Vol. 16, Issue 2

The Journal of Diving History

Jacques Cousteau is also featured in Historical Diver with a Jacques Yves cousteau Commemorative Issue published in Fall 1997. In Spring 1998, Historical Diver ran the feature “Cousteau and Hass, an Early Timeline”. “100 Years of Jacques Yves Cousteau” is celebrated in the Summer 20120 issue of The Journal of Diving History.

The Library also holds a collection of books on deep diving and diving history. Please see the online catalog for a listing or call the Library more information at 310-548-7618.

Deep Diving

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Deep diving is a form of professional or commercial diving. It requires the use of a breathing apparatus or surface supplied air in order to descend and ascend a depth of 200 feet or more below the water surface.


20,000 Divers Under the Sea : a History of the Mediterranean and Western Atlantic Sponge Trades with an Account of Early Deep Diving. / by Torrance R. Parker. Published by Sub-Sea Archives, 2013.

The Library’s collections cover the history of deep diving and some of its technical aspects. The recently-published book on sponge diving was added to our collections.

Other histories of diving focus on deep diving, ocean engineering, underwater exploration, diving in the navy, and offshore oil well drilling. Our collection contains a variety of resources such as books by well-known authors and practitioners Torrance Parker, Jacques Cousteau, and translations from French authors, symposium proceedings, and technical manuals. The Library also holds a complete series of The Journal of Diving History. Please call the Library for more information at 310-548-7618.

Deep Diving History: See our online catalog for books on the subject of deep diving.

Jack London, Writer, Photographer

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Jack London Novels and Stories

Jack London (1876-1916) is an author of stories about the frontiers of the American West, Alaska, and the peoples of the Pacific Islands. He was also a photographer and journalist who was featured in a travelling exhibit at the Museum. His best known works described the Alaskan Gold Rush: Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Sea Wolf. Equally compelling but lesser known are his Pacific Island stories which they grew out of his experiences sailing the Ocean between 1908-1916.

Jack London's Novels and Social Writings.

Titles by and about Jack London in the Library include stories and novels:

The Cruise of the Snark. / Jack London. Published by Mills and Boon, Limited, 1911.

Jack London, photographer. / Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson, and Philip Adam. Published by University of Georgia Press, 2010.

Selections Novels and Stories. / Jack London. Published by Library of America, 1982.

Selections. Novels and Social Writings. / Jack London. Published by Library of America, 1982.

Stories of Hawaii. / Jack London. Edited by A. Grove Day. Published by Mutual Publishing, 1986, c1965.

Tales of the Pacific. / Jack London. Published by Penguin Books, 1989.

Jack London in Aloha-land. / Charmian Kittredge London. Author of “Voyaging in Wild Seas”. Published by Kegan Paul, Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 2002.

Jack London, Sailor on Horseback; A Biographical Novel by Irving Stone. Published by doubleday and Company, Inc., 1937.

Jack London’s Tales of Cannibals and Headhunters : Nine South Seas Stories by America’s Master of Adventure. / Jack London. Edited and annotated by Gary Riedl and Thomas R. Tietze. Published by University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

A powerfully-engaged man, London traveled to Asia as a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War, photographing people and conditions there. He also appeared in England where he posed homeless along London’s quays so he could study the struggles of poverty and wrote “The People of the Abyss”, an acknowledged and socially-charged statement of the times (early 1900).

See the Library’s blog posts on Jack London here.

New books in the Library are featured titles on this website. In our collections more titles on the same subject may be seen at the Library’s online catalog at

New in the Library! February 2014

i Feb 18th No Comments by

New Books increase the Library’s collections on the 19th history of slave ships and the 20th century history of African Americans in the military:

Book cover Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy

Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy… / Dennis Nobel and Truman Strobridge

Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy: From American Slave to Artic Hero / Dennis Noble and Truman Strobridge. Published by University Press of Florida, 2009.

Book cover of The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin

The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin

The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Decpetion in the New World / Greg Grandin. Published by Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt, 2014.

More new books in the Library.

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.

The The Library collection online includes material on many 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.

Maritime History in Art

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Souvenir Postcard Los Angeles Harbor.

Postcard from Souvenir Folder of Los Angeles Harbor, San Pedro and Wilmington. Published by A. Kashower Co., Los Angeles, Calif.

Art from postcard issued circa 1912, is labelled “California Yacht Club and Harbor, Wilmington, Calif.”

The term Marine Art, alternatively ships in art, refers to paintings, prints and objects created well before the photographic image captured maritime history. Marine art is represented in both the Library’s and the Museum’s Collections of artists who depicted ships, sailors, masters, crew, and objects of maritime significance primarily of the Victorian Era through the 20th century (1830s to 1999).

For a definition of the history of portraying the sea and ships in pictures, see Peter Kemp, in the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, 1976, page 521, who recounts: “… the earliest known pictures of ships and boats are those which decorate Egyptian pottery… around 3200 B.C.”, and further, that “… representations of the sea and ships appear in many paintings of the early Renaissance…” and, further, that “… the true birth of marine painting… occurred in Holland in the late 16th century.”.

Later in his entry on Marine painting, on page 524, Kemp discloses, “… world wars of the 20th century produced a plethora of marine artists… a result of naval appointments of painters as official artists to record scenes of naval activity.” A sample of this interest in illustrating the Navy in action can be found in the Museum’s Current Exhibit.

Locating illustrations of maritime history

Paintings of ships and maritime views may be found in many works that are not about art, but have used paintings as illustrations of a historical text.

Searching for artists or painters by name is facilitated by dictionaries or encyclopedias. Two such works available at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum research Library are selected here:

Book cover for Marine Paintings and Drawings in the Peabody Museum

The Marine Paintings and Drawings in the Peabody Museum by M.V. and Dorothy Brewington.

The Marine Paintings and Drawings in the Peabody Museum by M.V. and Dorothy Brewington. Published by The Peabody Museum of Salem, 1981. 535 pages, index, illustrations, color and black and white.

The Marine Painting and Drawings in the Peabody Museum is a catalog of visual images of the nineteenth century, especially of the merchant marine vessels of any type; not Navy vessels, but ships used in trade and transport of goods across oceans and on inland waterways. To find an artist or ship, look alphabetically for an artist’s name, or look by port name or vessel name by consulting the Index. The text is rich with information; this is not a book to read but to glean information and data from.

Image of painting by Antonio Jacobsen.

“The Forteviot”, 1896, by Antonio Jacobsen.

Paintings you will find in this book are exemplified by this image, found on Wikipedia, of the Forteviot. The ship is shown in rough seas, with full sun illuminating the sails and careful delineation of the rigging, sails, hull, flags, and other details, a hallmark of the artist, Antonio Nicolo Gasparo, 1850-1921. His style, from the late 1880s to 1920, was extremely popular and is stylistically indicative of the era of sail and early days of steam.


Cover of Dictionary

Dictionary of Sea Painters by E. H. H. Archibald

Dictionary of Sea Painters by E.H.H. Archibald. Published by The Antique Collector’s Club, Ltd., 1989. 575 pages, index, illustrations.

Dictionary of Sea Painters is a resource with an international focus, that identifies artists and their works beginning with Dutch painters of the 1600s and, including painters from all countries, extending through the middle of the twentieth century. The preliminary chapter consists of “Sea Paintings–Identification and Dating” which outlines and illustrates the aspects of marine illustration: flags(shown in full color), ship profiles, picture content, and coastal craft (dated). The dictionary of names follows and finally a chapter of plates, consisting of 932 black and white paintings. Over 30 color plates are interspersed throughout the text.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum’s collections of paintings and other works of art may be consulted separately: please call the Museum for more information at 310-548-7618.

The Library’s collection on maritime history in art is represented at If you do not see what you are looking for please call the Library for more information at 310-548-7618 x 215.

New in the Library, March 2014.

i Jan 17th No Comments by
New books, March 2014.

Announcing new books in the Library, March 2014.

Nearly two centuries of history and biography are the subjects of new books in the Library. More details about these books can be seen in our online catalog at or on our Blog, Adventures of Maritime History.

1. Alaska and the U.S. Cutter Revenue Service 1867-1915. / Truman R. Strobridge and Dennis L. Noble.

2. Faces of War: The Untold Stories of Edward Steichen’s World War II Photographers. / Mark D. Faram.

3. Our America : A Hispanic History of the United States. / Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.

4. The Way of the Ship: America’s Maritime History Reenvisioned 1600-1800. / Alex Roland, W. Jeffrey Bolster, Alexander Keyssar.

5. Shipwright 2013. The International Annual of Maritime History and Ship Model Making. / Edited by John Bowen and Jean Hood.

6. U.S. Navy Uniforms and Insignia, 1943-1946. / Jeff Warner.

7. Challenging the Deep. / Hans Hass.

8. Aboard the Fabre Line to Providence: Immigration to Rhode Island. / William J. Jennings & Patrick T. Conley.

9. The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New World. / Greg Grandin.

10. I Cover the Waterfront. / Max Miller.

11. The Panama Route, 1848-1869. / John Haskell Kemble.

12. A Voyage to California, the Sandwich Islands and Around the World in the Years 1826-1829. / Auguste Duhaut-Cilly.

African-American Maritime History

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Highlights from African-American Maritime History with a broad range of books on American History, these are portraits of African American heroes of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Highlights from African-American Maritime History with a broad range of books on American History, these are portraits of African American heroes of the 19th and 20th centuries.


From left to right in the image: Robert Smalls (1839-1915), Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), and Matthew Henson (1866-1955) are just four of many, many heroes in history from just before the Civil War into the early twentieth Century. for more information on book titles that cover this period, see the Library’s online catalog for books in our collections .