Undoubtedly, the first image that pops into your head when you hear the word “cowboy” is a rugged man on a horse sporting a wide-brimmed hat and leather chaps, herding cattle somewhere in the West.
What do cowboys have to do with Mystic Seaport, you ask? Well, they have plenty to do with the exhibit found on the 2nd floor of the Stillman Building: Endangered Species: The Commercial Fishermen of Point Judith, Rhode Island.
Markham Starr, accomplished photographer and shipwright, has described the Point Judith fisherman as “the ocean’s version of a true cowboy – independent, resourceful and dedicated.”
In 2005, Mystic Seaport began restoration of Point Judith’s Roann, one of the last wooden commercial fishing vessels of her kind. Starr, a photographer and shipwright who worked on the Roann project in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, recognized a vanishing legacy and sought to capture the spirit of these men and women for whom fishing is more than just a job, but rather, a way of life. His portraits, seascapes and action shots capture the full spectrum of life in the fisheries trade, perfectly illustrating that the daily life of a commercial fisherman is tough work — there is no “easy button.”
While at the exhibit, be sure to watch the films that tell the stories of whaling, cod fishing and fish and oyster processing. It’s history in an oyster shell (excuse the pun). By the way, did you know that in the 1800s oysters were America’s first snack food from the sea? Add that to your trivia bank!
Speaking of trivia, what fish is nicknamed an “eating machine?” Take a look at the fearsome dude in the glass case. No wonder he camouflages himself!
Also, don’t forget to check out the interesting pictures relating to the natural sponge market. Today we primarily have synthetic sponges, but in 1849, Key West, FL, was a bustling market for natural sponges.
Don’t short-change the Stillman Building when you visit Mystic Seaport. Allow enough time to take in all three floors. We think you’ll agree – they are quite impressive!
Log onto www.mysticseaport.org for daily updates on Museum events.