Pennsylvania Nautical School

Independence Seaport Museum collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School material, 1795–2006.
14 boxes, multiple volumes, plus 1 oversize box, and 1 oversize folder (8.5 linear feet).

This is a collection of papers related to the Pennsylvania Nautical School and the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association, the Nautical School’s alumni association. Files on cadets include: photographs; correspondence from cadets to their families and from the school to families; itineraries; grade sheets; programs; class journals; diplomas and certificates; and ephemera. Files on ships include: photographs, negatives, and drawings of the various ships used by the School. General school materials include: an 1889 prospectus for the school; course materials compiled by Commander C. W. Densmore, U.S.N., Retired on various aspects of nautical engineering; a run of the Nautical School’s yearbook The Helm (1924-1946); and newspaper clippings. Material related to the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association include: The Log of the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association and The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships (1912-1915) a publication of the Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York alumni associations; menus; and photographs. Pennsylvania Schoolship Association materials include: invitations and programs; memorials; alumni directories; anniversary booklets; and a run of the Association’s newsletters, The Lookout (1956-2006).

About Pennsylvania Nautical School

An Act of Congress approved June 20, 1874 authorized the Secretary of the Navy to provide a suitable ship and assign a superintendent and officers for the purpose of training young men for the merchant marine at a nautical school at each of any of the ports of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk and San Francisco.
The provisions of the Act of April 17, 1889 and the appropriation of May 23, 1889 by the Pennsylvania Assembly established a nautical school in the port of Philadelphia aboard the 47 year-old 882 ton sailing ship USS Saratoga. The admission requirements to the school were for boys 16 and 19 years of age whose parents were citizens and residents of the state of Pennsylvania.
The schoolship Saratoga was operated as a nautical training school from 1890 to 1908 when the 65 year-old vessel was replaced by the Navy by the 32 year-old sail and steam-powered 1,400 ton USS Adams. The schoolships Saratoga and Adams were operated jointly by the State of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia.
The course of training was approximately two years which was dependent upon the capability of the ships to complete their training cruises within the specified time. The schoolship Adams ceased operations on February 16, 1914 when the Navy withheld its appropriation and withdrew the ship on account of local disagreement and the legislature’s failure to appropriate funds.
The provisions of an Act of Assembly approved July 8, 1919 reactivated the nautical school as the Pennsylvania State Nautical School under the administration of the Board of the Commissioners of Navigation for the Delaware River and Its Navigable Tributaries. The 23 year old 1,000 ton steam-powered USS Annapolis was assigned by the Navy in 1920 and continued in service for 20 years. Admission requirements were raised to high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 years and the school offered two separate courses either in deck or engineering. Students were instructed in dead reckoning; methods of finding latitude and longitude; the duties of an officer; theoretical and practical marine engineering; and in handling boats under oars and sail.
In 1940 the administration of the school was transferred to the United States Maritime Commission and renamed the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy, but this administration was discontinued in March 1942 and the cadets and officers were transferred to the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. to complete their training. The schoolship Annapolis was replaced in 1941 by the 33 year-old steam powered former Coast Guard cutter Senaca.
The state of Pennsylvania resumed administration of the school in September 1942 when the schoolship Seneca was returned to the state and renamed Keystone State. A shore base was established at Morrisville, Pennsylvania in 1945 to augment the shipboard training facilities. The schoolship Keystone State was replaced in 1946 by USS Selinur and renamed Keystone State II. With newer facilities there were plans for increasing the training program to a three-year course, with two practice cruises and a minimum of five hundred hours per year of classroom time . However, charges of poor management and newspaper allegations of “mutinous” behavior by cadets coupled with dwindling support in the State government, and a decline in applicants, resulted in the closing of the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy, on June 20, 1947.
There have been several alumni organizations associated with the Pennsylvania Nautical School. The first of these was the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association which was founded ca. 1905. Its newsletter, The Log of the P.N.S.A. was published for only a few issues (1912), before it was absorbed into The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships, which was published monthly by the Allied Associations of the Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania Merchant Training ships. (1913-1915).
The Pennsylvania Schoolship Association was established in 1955. It’s mission: “To provide a means for the maintenance of contacts with esteemed shipmates; to promote a spirit of enduring friendship between alumni; to preserve the venerable traditions and lore of the Pennsylvania’s Schoolships, and to further the interests of the American Merchant Marine.” The Association holds annual musters and memorial services, and publishes the Association’s newsletter, The Lookout (1956 to present). The Lookout features profiles and updates on alumni, reports of association meetings, as well as articles related to the merchant marine in general.

About the collection

The Independence Seaport Collection of Pennsylvania Nautical School material documents the School and its alumni association the Pennsylvania Nautical Schoolship Association largely through photographs, class yearbooks, alumni newsletters, course materials, postcards, programs, and other ephemera. The collection spans the entire existence of the school, but the bulk of the materials are from the 1920’s to the 1940’s.
The Cadets series contains a variety of materials documenting the cadet experience. Of particular note is the photograph scrapbook of Cadet C.J. Anthony “Ants” Charlton (Class of 1941), which includes numerous photos of life aboard ship as well as training cruises which visited Havana, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. The Helm, which forms the bulk of the School Publications series, records graduates and underclassmen, faculty and staff, but also includes reports on cruises, dances, and sporting activities. Especially rich in terms of documenting cadets post Nautical School careers is a complete run of the Pennsylvania Schoolship Association’s newsletter, The Lookout, which contains updates on class members, individual profiles, and reports on the Association’s activities. Taken together these series help to form a picture of cadets as they moved from “Boots” to graduates entering the Merchant Marine.
The Course Materials series includes a number of copies of typed notes compiled by the School’s Chief Engineer, Commander C. W. Densmore, U.S.N., Retired related to all aspects of onboard engineering. Some of the subjects covered include Engineering Metals, Fuel and Combustion, and Engine Room Chemistry. Notes include diagrams and questionnaires. Also included in this series are several textbooks used by the cadets.
The School Ships series is composed almost entirely of photographs of the various ships used by the School as training vessels.
The Alumni Associations series contains materials related to the School’s two alumni associations, much of it in the form of newsletters. The first of these to be established was the Pennsylvania Nautical School Association. Its newsletter, The Log of the P.N.S.A. was published for only a few issues (1912), before it was absorbed into The Log of the American Merchant Training Ships, which was published monthly by the Allied Associations of the Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania Merchant Training ships. (1913-1915). The Pennsylvania Schoolship Association was established in 1955. Materials related to their activities include invitations, programs, and announcements of Association musters, member directories, and anniversary booklets. The Association’s newsletter, The Lookout (1956 to present), features profiles and updates on alumni, reports of association meetings, as well as articles related to the merchant marine in general.

  • Adams (Screw Bark)
  • Annapolis (Gunboat)
  • Keystone State (ex Seneca)
  • Keystone State II (ex Selinur)
  • Merchant marine — Study and teaching — United States.
  • Merchant marine–United States–Yearbooks.
  • Nautical training-schools — United States.
  • Saratoga (Sloop of War)
  • Seamanship–Study and teaching–Pennsylvania.
  • Selinur (Cargo ship: AKA-41)
  • Seneca (Cutter)
  • Training-ships–United States
Types of material
  • Clippings
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Diplomas
  • Ephemera
  • Newsletters
  • Photographs
Related collections
  • ISM: David S. Kloss papers
  • William McCoy papers
  • Edward Stoughton papers
  • Raymond Eisenberg papers
  • William Boyd papers
  • Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives. RG-41. Records of the NAVIGATION COMMISSION FOR THE DELAWARE RIVER AND ITS NAVIGABLE TRIBUTARIES, RG 41.48-41.55
Reference files
  • USS Annapolis, SSN 760 [is this the right Annapolis?]
  • Merchant Marine Traning
  • Pennsylvania, Nautical School Ship
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