Kenneth R. Martin
Distributed for Jackson A. Parker
9 x 11, 216 pages, photographs, color illustrations
". . . a story well-told, insightful details that support bold ideas, and copious illustrations that bring the story to life. Informed without being dull, Martin's treatment of Gardiner S. Deering of Bath, Maine, and the ships he and his partners and family built gives us a glimpse of what wooden shipbuilding and operating businesses were like in the declining decades of commercial sailing vessels."
"Martin has drawn from numerous sources and collections to tell this story. The book is lavishly illustrated with vintage photographs and ephemera and is a treasure for historians and ship enthusiasts. There is more between the covers than just the biography of a man; this is also the story of a town and a trade."
—Maine Antique Digest
". . . Kenneth Martin's fitting tribute to a dedicated and forward-thinking Maine shipbuilder . . . this is a smart, attractive, and colorful history of Maine shipbuilding using a well-crafted blend of sharp, entertaining narrative and fabulous period photographs of Maine's magnificent maritime heritage."
In the years following the American Civil War, Yankee sailing ships and shipyards were threatened by foreign competition and modernizing technology. Despite decades of stiff competition, a few builders in Bath, Maine, the "City of Ships," persisted in building wooden schooners, modifying and enlarging them to meet the changing times.
Gardiner G. Deering (1833-1921) was one of these diehards. Genial and unaffected but driven to succeed, he started at the bottom of the trade and worked himself to the top, building ninety-nine vessels over his long life, dozens of which he personally managed. As this spirited, absorbing study reveals, Deering prospered in the face of ferocious competition and economic gyrations. Through thick and thin, he seemed to enjoy himself immensely.
Deering schooners were built for hard use in America's coastwise trade, filling a vital need as the nation modernized and urbanized. Their construction was precisely timed. They were fast. And they made money. Although rooted in archaic sailingvessel traditions, they grew ever larger: four-, then five-masters, using size, speed, structural innovation, and ease of operation to hold their own against the future. Many led short lives, falling victim to storms, shoals, structural strain, and even submarine warfare. Some set records for earnings and high performance.
By about 1910 the heyday of coastwise schooners seemed to be over. But the onset of the First World War gave these giant windjammers a new lease on life, during which they earned prodigious profits hauling cargoes to ever more distant ports. Deering, who by then had become the Grand Old Man of his trade, was at last well rewarded. And then, suddenly, it was over. When Gardiner Deering died in 1921, he was widely acknowledged as the last of his breed, the "Patriarch of Maine Shipbuilding."
The history of Deering's fleet mixes traditional New England values, sharp business sense, occupational dangers, and outright disasters, including the mystery of the schooner Carroll A. Deering, whose bizarre demise has never been fully explained. This book is the first to tell the full story of Gardiner Deering and the exploits of his many vessels. The salty tale is richly illustrated with dozens of evocative period photographs and paintings.
In his earlier life, Ken Martin was a college history professor and a museum director. Since then he has written or co-written more than fifteen books, most of them on maritime history. He lives on the Kennebec River two miles north of the old Gardiner Deering shipyard sites.
Tilbury House, Publishers
103 Brunswick Avenue
Gardiner, Maine 04345