Monday, November 10, 2014

Historical Occupational Shaving Mug: Steamboat "Granite State"

John M. Cowin - Granite State Steamboat - Occupational Shaving Mug

This unique occupational shaving mug shows a steamboat with the name "Granite State" on the side. The name in gilt on the mug is "John M. Cowin". From the documented sources below, I date the mug no later than 1883. Please note the exceptional detail: there are nine minutely painted human figures on the various levels of the boat. Additionally, I found a postcard of the Granite State from the Library of Congress that reveals remarkable accuracy in the depiction on the mug: the stern paddle wheel, the pilot house and stacks. According the New Orleans Public Library and A History of the Connecticut River by Wick Griswold, the Granite State was constructed in 1879 and sank from a fire in 1883.

There is a rich and fascinating history connected with the steamboat on this shaving mug: not only did the Granite State tour the Connecticut, Hudson and Ohio Rivers, but it was attacked by an angry lynch mob; involved in the rescue of survivors of another steamboat's catching fire; and finally, caught fire herself and sank at Goodspeed's Landing in Connecticut.

The Granite State - source

John M. Cowin - Granite State Steamboat - Occupational Shaving Mug

The Granite State is, of course, the nickname for New Hampshire. The Connecticut River runs through New Hampshire and supported a bustling Steamboat Business in the mid to late 1800s. In the Rising Tide: Steamboat Workers on the Connecticut River by Steve Thornton, the Granite State is mentioned as "an excursion boat that toured points on the Hudson River":

"From the Mississippi River to the Connecticut River, steamboats played a major role in building 19th-century America. In Hartford, people would wait for the State of New York to pull up to the river landing stocked with goods from other parts of the nation and around the world. Others boarded the Granite State, an excursion boat that toured points on the Hudson River. But the men who made the steamboats of the Hartford Line run—the deck hands, stevedores, and firemen—found little glamour in the work which normally meant 18-hour days, dangerous conditions, and lousy food." [emphasis mine]

Ticket for the Steamer Granite State

John M. Cowin - Granite State Steamboat - Occupational Shaving Mug

Another reference to the Granite State is found on Georgetown Steamboats Page: Pitt and Cin Packet Line:

"In Nov 1878 the nation was beginning to recover from the Long Depression which started with the Panic of 1873.  One of the causes of the severe nationwide economic decline was the extreme overbuilding of the nation’s railway system.  The post Civil War period was one of unregulated growth with the government playing no role in curbing banking and manufacturing abuses.  In addition to the ruined fortunes of many American families, it was also the origin of bitter animosity between workers and banking and business leaders.   This financial depression marked the second term of Grant’s Presidency. It was in this unquiet atmosphere, that the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line was organized.  The packets comprising the first fleet follow: 
Fleet in 1879
Packet              Depart Pittsburgh    Depart Cincinnati
Katie Stockdale Mon                                    Thu
Emma Graham Wed                                    Sat
Granite State       Fri                                      Sun

John M. Cowin - Granite State Steamboat - Occupational Shaving Mug

In a Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky for the years 1882-83, there are extensive mentions of the steamboat, Granite State. This is certainly the same boat depicted on the shaving mug. The report is a fascinating window into the times and worth quoting at length [emphasis mine]:

"Since my last official report, that is to say from January, 1882, to and including February of the present year, much service has been performed by the State Guard - three separate expeditions having been sent to Eastern Kentucky.  A shocking crime, no less than the brutal murder of two young and innocent girls, and a harmless crippled little boy was committed in or near Ashland in Boyd county. 
Other alleged beastly acts accompanied the murder, and the people, in the immediate vicinity and for that matter all over the State, were impatient for the summary execution of persons suspected and accused. Under these conditions the Presiding judge of the Sixteenth judicial District Hon. George N. Brown applied to the Chief Executive for a sufficient military force to maintain the peace, and insure a trial under the forms of law. 
By special order dated January 6. 1882 the Third Battalion composed of three Companies of Infantry was ordered to proceed to Catlettsburg in Boyd county, and there to report to judge Brown; but from information dispatched by him it was feared the three persons in arrest would be summarily dealt with, and orders were therefore telegraphed on 4th January, 1882 to Captain A. C. Respess at Maysville to proceed immediately by steamer to the point indicated. 
In compliance with the order he left Maysville that night with his Company - Mason County Guards - by the first passing steamboat, and near Portsmouth on the Ohio river met one steamer conveying the prisoners and their guard hotly pursued by another with an excited and enraged party of men alleged to be a mob. Captain Respess took charge of the prisoners, and conducted them to Maysville where the other Companies of the Battalion were assembled on the 10th of February and was moved thence, under command of Major John R. Allen, to Catlettsburg, reporting with the prisoners, Neal, Craft and Ellis to Judge Brown. 
Again on the 26th October 1882, Major Allen,  with his Battalion, then consisting of four Companies, together with Nuckols Guards - unattached - one Company of the First Regiment, and one section of the Louisville Light Artillery was ordered into active service and reported to Judge Brown at Catlettsburg on the 30th of that month. On the 2d day of November Major Allen having been directed by an order of the court to have the prisoners conveyed to Lexington for safekeeping was waited upon by a committee or pretended committee, claiming to represent a large armed force and demanding that the prisoners be turned over and delivered to them.  Major Allen replied in terms characteristic of a good soldier, he of course, refused to comply with their request, and advised the people to refrain from any unlawful act or attempt to take the prisoners by force and violence, and that he would defend them and the law to the last extremity. 
It appears that a large number of persons had assembled, who were highly excited and inflamed, and that they had determined to lynch the prisoners at all hazards.  To avoid a conflict if possible, Major Allen prudently embarked his command and the persons in charge on board the steamer Granite State, an Ohio river packet, and started from Catlcttsburg down the Big Sandy and thence on the Ohio to Maysville. 
Not to be foiled of their purpose, however, the mob, as it has been called, and I suppose properly, seized an engine and some flat-cars, running upon a railroad track parallel with the river to Ashland. It is said a sort of desultory fire was opened by those on the cars, but as the shots fell short of the boat, and were harmless it was not responded to. This however, was but a prelude to the fearful tragedy so soon to follow.  On arriving at Ashland, the mob, elated with impunity, and led on by misguided men, seized a ferryboat lying at the wharf, and rushing aboard with hostile gestures and demonstrations, they directed its course against the Granite State.  Major Allen disposed his force judiciously and awaited the attack.  Himself and men were not kept long in suspense, as the assaulting party soon opened fire-at Erst harmless, but as they approached nearer their shots began to tell. Seeing a number of men wounded, the Major gave the command to commence firing. The conflict was brief and decisive. The ferryboat was disabled and became unmanageable from the effects of the State Guard musketry fire. Some men were killed and a much larger number wounded; and leaving them, the Granite State having never stopped for a moment, proceeded on down the river.  
[...] The owners of the steamer Granite State claim that she was damaged very considerably by the fire of the mob, and I am well satisfied that the amount of damage and loss of business resulting from direct injury and ill will of her former patrons was not much exaggerated, if at all. Their claim on that account is $500, no part of which has been paid, as the Auditor decided and no doubt correctly, that he had no authority under the law for paying damages.

A map of East Haddam, CT and Goodspeed's Landing 1880 - source
There are three steamboats in the image. 

In A History of the Connecticut River  by Wick Griswold, there is a definitive remark upon the Granite State's demise:
"Goodspeed's Landing was the site of another steamboat tragedy in 1883. The Granite State caught fire after an engine room explosion. Its captain managed to get it close to the dock, and passengers on the starboard side were able to get ashore over some lumber hastily tossed to the flaming boat. Those on the port side were trapped by the flames. Many escaped by jumping into the water, and some were taken off by the East Haddam ferry. One particular rotund passenger had more than one escape that night. She was put into a rowboat that immediately sank beneath her considerable weight. She was then hoisted into another rescue craft, which sank twice before onlookers were able to heave her ashore. Legend has it that she lost most of her clothing in the struggle to get to land but was able to salvage all of her jewelry. The quick reaction of the captain in grounding the vessel, coupled with the coordinated efforts of the volunteers in ferries and small craft, kept the casualty list low. The Granite State's crew did an excellent job of rousing the passengers and leading them to safety. The proud old steamer was a total loss. It was towed out into the river and burned down to the waterline."

John M. Cowin - Granite State Steamboat - Occupational Shaving Mug

Just three years before, in June of 1880, the Granite State was involved in another steamboat burning, the Seawanhaka. Here is an account of the from GenDisasters: New York, NY Steamboat SEAWANHAKA Disaster, Jun 1880:

Another shocking steam-boat disaster was added to the already long list yesterday afternoon. The steam-boat Seawanhaka, plying between this City, Sands Point, Glen Cove, Sea Cliff, and Roslyn, Long Island, took fire from an explosion forward, the origin of which nobody seems to know, at 4:55 o'clock on her afternoon trip outward. She was then between Hell Gate and Little Hell Gate. A puff of black smoke and a flash of flame out of the smokestack followed the dull thud of the explosion, and an instant afterward a huge volume of fire enveloped the forward part of the boat. 
Capt. Smith, who was at the wheel, realized the danger at once, but was unable to turn either to the right or left for several minutes on account of the steamer Granite State which was running outside of her, and several schooners which were between her and the shore. Jets of flame darted up the chain-holes, cutting off communication with the engineer, and burning the helmsman's hands so that he was compelled to make quick snatches at the spokes of the wheel, being forced to drop them instantly again. With consummate bravery he held the burning vessel on her course between the obstructing vessels, while his hands and face slowly blistered, and when he had succeeded in passing them, turned her nose sharply about and headed her direct for the sunken meadow that lies between Ward's and Randall's Islands. [...]
Meantime the greatest consternation prevailed among the passengers, and long before she struck they began to drop overboard. Those who remained were quickly driven to follow their example, and eye-witnesses describe the appearance of the surrounding water as similar to that of Rockaway Beach on a warm Sunday, so thickly was it dotted with heads. A few lingered, burning their bodies and rendering them comparatively helpless, so that nearly all in this condition were drowned. There is only too much reason to believe that several were unable to make the attempt to save themselves, and perished miserably, the steamer's hull. The Granite State stopped her engines and lowered five boats to the rescue. 

As a sort of speculative coda, there is a curious, perhaps coincidental, reference in  "The Corwin genealogy : (Curwin, Curwen, Corwine) in the United States" found on

He removed to New- York City with his father in 1824 ; became ferry-master at the Canal street (Hoboken) ferry in 1826, which position he retained for twelve years; then became a contractor, especially of wharves and bridges, building some of the largest docks, and most of the ferries about New- York City, prior to 1850. He also engaged in the steamboat business, being one third owner of the steamboat Napoleon, plying between New-York and Albany, in 1839, and several years thereafter. In the spring of 1847, he removed to Jersey City, having contracted to build the Cunard Docks, in that place, for the British steamers. 

However, this in reference to Edward Callwell, perhaps a distant relative: Callwell and Cowin having some genealogical relation.