On the Water

Shipbuilder's Half Hull Model, Whaleship Jireh Swift

Half hull ship models were carved by shipwrights to a shape negotiated with the future owners of the ship. Once finished, the builder lifted the curved shape of the outer hull off the model and scaled it up to the dimensions of the full-sized ship on the floor of the molding loft. Then the ship’s timbers were cut to fit the lines drawn on the floor and lifted into position in the ship’s framework.

African American shipwright and former slave John Mashow built the whaler Jireh Swift in 1853 at Dartmouth, Mass. near New Bedford. The vessel measured 122 feet in length and 454 tons. Its first voyage was to the northern Pacific and lasted nearly four years. The ship collected 45 barrels of sperm oil, 2,719 barrels of whale oil and 14,900 lbs of whalebone. Swift’s second voyage, to the same grounds, lasted more than four years and netted much more oil and bone for her owners. Nearly three years into her third voyage, on 22 June 1865 she was captured in the Arctic by the Confederate raider Shenandoah and burned, for a loss of more than $40,000.

ID Number:
Mashow, John
Place Made:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
15 1/2 in x 71 1/2 in x 7 1/2 in; 39.37 cm x 181.61 cm x 19.05 cm
Gift of White & Allen, New Bedford