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Published on Feb 7, 2008
Of all the exhibits at Mystic Seaport, the most treasured is the wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan. Built in 1841 at the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman in New Bedford, Massachusetts, she has outlived all others of her kind.
After her whaling days ended in 1921, the Morgan was preserved by Whaling Enshrined, Inc. and exhibited at Colonel Edward H.R. Green's estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts until 1941. In November of that year the Morgan came to Mystic Seaport where she dominates the waterfront at Chubb's Wharf. In overall length 113 feet, with a 27-foot 6-inch beam and depth of 17 feet 6 inches, the Morgan's main truck is 110 feet above the deck; fully-rigged, she is capable of carrying approximately 13,000 square feet of sail. The huge try-pots used for converting blubber into whale oil are forward; below are the cramped quarters in which her officers and men lived for years at a time.
At the Museum, the Morgan has been given a new lease on life; however, her future vitality depends on continual preservation. A major program of restoration and preservation was begun in 1968 to repair her structurally, and during the course of this work, it was decided to restore her to the rig of a double-topsail bark, which she carried from the early 1880s through the end of her whaling career. She appears as she was during most of her active career.
In January 1974, after removal from her former sand and mud berth, she was hauled out on the lift dock in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard for inspection and hull work as needed. Her hull proved to be in remarkably good condition, with only a new false keel, shoe and some planking being required. She is now a floating exhibit with her living spaces and hold open for the visitor to see.
The Charles W. Morgan was formally designated a National Historic Landmark by order of the Secretary of the Interior on November 11, 1966.