The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Today in History

Stumbled on this little document while browsing Harvard Library's fantastic Mirador Viewer: a receipt for $10 paid to Samuel Bartoll on May 25, 1804, for "painting the [Marblehead] Custom house boat including oars, mast, etc.

Using some white-pages search websites, there was no "Bartoll" or "Bartol" currently listed in Marblehead, Salem, or Lynn.

This could be him—born 12/24/1786 in Marblehead, thus 17 years old when this job was done; more likely it was his father, "Samuel Bartol Drummer 1776 W 6 Painter," 39 years old at that time.

Let's stop now before going farther down the geneological rabbit-hole. A road-trip to Marblehead's cemeteries would be interesting.

Marblehead Harbor Master
Using blogmate Lemuel's favorite conversion tool, Measuring Worth, the current value of that $10 paid to Samuel in 1804 ranges from $195 to $364,000(!). From my ignorance of things economic, it looks like the "labor value" applies, "using the unskilled wage"—$2,730 in 2017 dollars.

Given the scale of the Marblehead Harbor Master's current boat, that doesn't sound unreasonable.

FYI: Here is Harvard's fascinating cache of "customs documents, correspondence, and United States Treasury Department circulars sent to the Marblehead Custom House, dated from 1789 to 1878."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Latest News from the Feejees - 10

50,000,000 Shades of Grey fans can't be wrong...

Edited 10/23/2018 to add final votes.
MDM regulars will recognize Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, making the case for Moby-Dick as the "best-loved book" in The Great American Read on PBS. An experienced sailor, Melville scholar, and a pillar of MDMs at the Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport, Ms. Bercaw Edwards knows whereof she speaks.

The 2-hour broadcast can be streamed on the program's home page. Skip to time 56:00 to hear why M-D is that fabled "great American novel."

It would be petty to gripe that this whole "list & vote" thing is a meaningless popularity contest skewed by the whims of ill-informed adolescents and political/religious zealots, so let's ignore that. No "Top x" list can satisfy everyone. (Where the dickens is Joyce's Ulysses?) Still, taken for what it is, this list might point you to a good read, and might point some wanderer to Moby-Dick.
10/23/18 - This just in: Moby-Dick ranked as #46 (higher than I would have predicted).
To Kill a Mockingbird was voted #1.