CHARLES W. MORGAN
The “crown jewel” of the Mystic Seaport collection, the Charles W. Morgan, has outlived all others of her kind. Built in 1841 at the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman in New Bedford, MA, the Morgan is America’s last surviving wooden whaleship and a precious piece of maritime history.
After her whaling days ended in 1921, the Morgan was preserved by Whaling Enshrined, Inc. and exhibited at Colonel Edward H.R. Green’s estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, MA, until 1941. In November of that year, the Morgan came to Mystic Seaport where she has dominated the waterfront at Chubb’s Wharf. The vessel was formally designated a National Historic Landmark by order of the Secretary of the Interior in 1966.
The Morgan‘s overall length is 113 feet, with a 27-foot 6-inch beam and depth of 17 feet 6 inches. Her main truck is 110 feet above the deck; fully-rigged, and she is capable of carrying approximately 13,000 square feet of sail. The huge try-pots used for converting blubber into whale oil are forward; below are the cramped quarters in which her officers and men lived for years at a time.
At the Museum the Morgan has been given a new lease on life; however, her future vitality depends on continual preservation. A major program of restoration and preservation was begun in 1968 to repair her structurally, and during the course of this work, it was decided to restore her to the rig of a double-topsail bark, which she carried from the early 1880s through the end of her whaling career. She appears as she was during most of her active career.
In January 1974, after removal from her former sand and mud berth, she was hauled out on the lift dock in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard for inspection and hull work as needed. Her hull proved to be in remarkably good condition, with only a new false keel, shoe and some planking being required.
In the fall of 2008, the Morgan returned to the Museum’s shipyard for a multi-year restoration. The project has renewed areas of the vessel from the waterline down to her keel and also addressed the bow and stern. The Morgan will be launched July 21, 2013 and in the late spring of 2014 will embark on her 38th Voyage to historic ports in New England. When she returns to Mystic Seaport in August 2014, the Morgan will return to her berth at Chubb’s Wharf and resume her role as an exhibit and flagship of the Museum.