About the Museum
"A walk through the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler brings with it a vivid presence of seafaring in both bygone years as well as today's present era. The exquisitely fashioned ship models, historic artifacts, nautical photographs and prints, and the host of corporate banners identifying exhibits of the respective steamship companies they represent gives the visitor a true sense of being at sea with those individuals who experienced life in the merchant marine or passenger cruise line industry.
The Fort Schuyler Museum is housed on the campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College at historic Fort Schuyler, The Bronx, New York. Four sides of the fort's irregular pentagon-shaped edifice face Long Island Sound and its juncture with the East River, and housed the heavy guns which formed the fort's original armament to protect this strategic water way. One of these sides has since been converted to a library. Two other sides, partially used as classrooms, are principally dedicated to the museum. Visitors to the museum enter through fort's sally port, cross St. Mary's pentagon, and enter the center bastion.
The center bastion is dedicated to the history of Fort Schuyler (completed 1856) and the Port of New York-New Jersey, both of which have played major roles in the development of the region's and the nation's commerce.
The museum was established in 1986 when Capt. Jeffrey Monroe, a former Associate Professor of Transportation at the Maritime College, with the help of Jack Hayes, a 1947 engineer graduate of the college. Since then, steamship lines, related companies in the maritime industry, and merchant marine history buffs donated objects and artifacts to supplement the museum collection.
Touring the museum is like strolling through passages of time. The museum offers one of the largest collections of maritime industry materials in the nation and is displayed chronologically. The main exhibit area located on the second floor is entitled "The Evolution of Seafaring" and encompasses the history of seafaring from the ancient Phoenicians to present day steamship companies and passenger ship lines. Exhibits in the area include paintings, models of early sailing vessels, clipper ships, turn of the century vessels up to and including the present day, as well as tools and navigational instruments of bygone days to modern times.
Exhibits provide information on the Clippership Period, such as the Lightning (1850-60s), for example, the fastest sailing ship. Displayed, also are famous naval battles fought in the United States during the 1700s and 1800s and the developing technology in ship building tools and navigational equipment used throughout different maritime eras.
The museum collection serves as a depository for maritime industry books, periodicals, documents, papers, prints, photographs, and old steamship company records.
c1995 F. J. Duffy
Presently the museum is located on two floors. The upper floor contains the merchant marine exhibits, while the lower level houses exhibits on the history of the school and its training ships, and passenger ship lines that made their mark principally during the twentieth century.
Included among its major exhibits is that of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which presents a pictorial overview of the role of the Port of New York and New Jersey in the bistate region's maritime industry, specifically, and economic development, generally.
There are also corporate exhibits featuring Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc., Exxon Corporation, Columbus Line, Itel and memorabilia gathered from prominent, but now defunct steamship companies such as United Fruit Company, Isthmian Steamship Company, United States Lines, and Grace line.
The Grace Line exhibit, for example, high lights its theme trumpeted during its best of times: "Largest Fleet Serving the Americas Exclusively." Its distinguished history of service is seen through an assortment of prints and memorabilia, including the uniform worn by Captain Richard E. Wills, a graduate of the college.
The beautifully crafted ship models of Frank Cronican, master model maker, are displayed in the corridor dedicated to the modern passenger ship era beginning with "RMS Titanic". This corridor also contains models of other famous passenger vessels and is enhanced with artifacts from the "Andrea Doria" the "United States", "Normandie", "Queen Mary" "Queen Elizabeth" "Independence" "Constitution" and others. The Captain's desk and chair from the "SS United States," used by U.S. Lines' Commodores Manning, Anderson, and Alexanderson, the only three permanent masters, all graduates of the school, draws the viewer's attention to a ship's master-at-work at sea.
September 9, 1934, is a day that greatly impacted on the cruise ship industry - the burning of the "Morro Castle" off the coast of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Vividly presented, the exhibit presents before and after photos of the vessel and accompanying artifacts that bear witness to its fate. Visually portrayed by this exhibit is the devastation of a vessel by fire. This tragic incident ultimately led to changes in United States law on use of fire retardant materials in ship building and in emergency equipment needed: life jackets and life boats.
By way of contrast, one of the most breathtakingly artistic exhibits is the beautifully constructed replica model of the Brooklyn Naval Yard During World War II, circa 1942-44. The exhibits theme, "A Day in the Life at the Brooklyn Naval Yard," portrays the scene exactly as it was 50 years ago. Built by Chief Yeoman Leo J. Spiegel, USN (ret.), the intricately designed and thoroughly detailed display took over eight years to complete.
Over 530 Victory ships were built toward the end of World War II. These vessels, in addition to seeing service in that war, were the predominant ships by the United States to supply our armed forces with cargo and materials during the Korean ad Vietnam conflicts. Victory Hall is dedicated to those vessels and the mariners who served on them. In addition to the many artifacts on view, the name of every Victory Ship is permanently displayed on a plaque on a wall. Mariners who served on any of the Victories are invited to sign their name in the special logbook located in Victory Hall.
The Museum's collections are constantly being enhanced by keeping its exhibits current and by the addition of new exhibits. These include the Frank Cronican collection of over 180 scratch built detailed scale models of cargo, passenger and naval ships, an eight foot by six foot scale model f the Port Authority's Port Newark Port Elizabeth Marine Terminal and an underwater exhibit of artifacts recovered from sunken vessels in the surrounding waters of New York harbor. On tap, are plans for a Ship Chandlers' Exhibit, a Shipbuilding Exhibit, a Freight Forwarder/Custom House Broker Exhibit, a Liberty Ship Exhibit and a Memorial Park to honor those men and women in the American Merchant Marine who have served this nation with distinction and valor in both peace and war.
If there is a bonafide case of "labor of love" for a worthwhile
endeavor, the Maritime Museum at Fort Schuyler must be recognized as a prime example. The
museum is funded, staffed, operated and maintained strictly though volunteer support and
monetary contributions. Many Maritime College cadets volunteer time to serve as museum
tour guides and provide exhibit construction and upkeep, while alumni participate in
periodic "work parties" to do their share
The museum's visiting hours are Monday through Saturday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Admission and parking are free. For additional details and specific information on group tours including Saturdays and Sundays, call (718)409-7218.
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