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St. Mary's Schoolship Records, 1853-1958

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CA-RG1-0001

Scope and Contents

The schoolship St. Mary's, a square-rigged sloop-of war was used by the New York Nautical School from 1874-1908 to train young men for careers in the Merchant Marines and the Naval Reserves. Materials in the collection include letters and documents regarding the creation of the New York Nautical School and the transfer of the St. Mary's to the New York City Board of Education. Also included are administrative documents regarding the running of the school; cruise itineraries; student log books and graduation certificates; various historical letters and data; alumni letters and recollections; as well as news clippings and photographs of the schoolship.


  • 1853 - 1958


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Historical Note

The New York Nautical School (now SUNY Maritime College) was created in 1874 to train young men for the United States Merchant Marines. At this time the U.S.S. St. Mary's was acquired from the United States Navy for use as the school’s base of operations and training ship. The St. Mary's was an old sloop-of-war built in 1844 with a long history in the Navy including active duty in the Mexican and Civil Wars. It was a square-rigged vessel with no engines.

In January 1875, 26 boys became the first class of the Schoolship St. Mary's. The two year training program took place entirely aboard the St. Mary’s with room and board also provided on the ship. The ship was berthed in Manhattan and made cruises each summer into the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Mary's was used by the New York Nautical School as a training ship until 1908 when it was replaced by the U.S.S. Newport. At this time, despite efforts by alumni to preserve the ship as a museum, The St. Mary’s was sold to the Thomas Butler Company for scrap. The ship was then brought to Boston, dismantled and burned. The New York Nautical School, now known as the SUNY Maritime College is the oldest maritime academy in the nation and the model used for subsequent maritime academies.

School Name Time Line

1873 – 1913: New York Nautical School
1913 – 1929: New York State Nautical School
1929 – 1941: New York State Merchant Marine Academy
1941 – 1949: New York State Maritime Academy
1949 – Present: State University of New York Maritime College


3.77 Linear Feet (3 standard archival document boxes and 3 custom book boxes.)

Arrangement of Materials

Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by subject/topic. If several files contain materials on the same subject these files are then arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were collected from various sources over the years, including faculty, staff, and alumni. Unfortunately, deeds of gift or transfer documentation has not been located for most of the items. Reproductions were also obtained by the librarian from other institutions, such as the National Archives, and interspersed with original documents. See Processing Information for additional context.

Related Materials

Frederick S. McMurray Papers, 1890-1958 Identifier: AP-0003

Arthur M. Tode Papers, 1908-1975 Identifier: AP-0005

Louis E. Weickum Papers, 1900-1960 Identifier: AP-0004

Maritime College Photograph Collection, circa 1874-1999 Identifier: CA-RG14-0001


Williams, Joseph A. (2013). Four years before the mast: A history of New York's maritime college. Bronx, NY: Fort Schuyler Press.

Processing Information

In 1974, in conjunction with the college’s centennial, Carol Finerman, a graduate student in the Palmer School of Library Science, was hired to organize the Maritime College archives held at the Luce Library. According to a report by Finerman, “all the items that accumulated came in separately; none were deposited as a series of records from the offices of origin.” This is not necessarily surprising given that the school did not have a land base until Fort Schuyler was dedicated in 1938, or a professional librarian on staff until 1946.

From the late 1940s through the 1970s, librarians such as Terrance Hoveter, Filomena Magavero, and Richard Corson actively solicited alumni, faculty, and staff for materials documenting the school’s early history. However, these materials remained largely unorganized until 1974, when Finerman was hired.

Because the provenance of much of the material was unclear, and the records had not been transferred from administrative units, Finerman elected to create an alphanumeric classification scheme for the collection. Within this scheme, the records pertaining to the St. Mary’s schoolship were organized under the letters A (St. Mary’s-Institutional) and B (St. Mary’s-Students). Container lists for these records were part of an Institutional Records inventory that eventually ballooned into a 300 page+ word document.

In 2017 the library embarked on a project to bring the college archives into the 21st century, creating a new organizational scheme and finding aids for the records in ArchivesSpace. As part of this project, the archivist re-processed the St. Mary’s records, rehousing the materials for preservation and bringing intellectual clarity to the arrangement. Given that the provenance and original order of the materials had already been disrupted, the archivist imposed her own arrangement based on the content of the items. Proper archival description, in adherence with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), was also created for the first time.

Some items were obtained from other institutions, such as the National Archives, as part of efforts by the early librarians to document the school's history, and mixed in with the original documents. During re-processing, the archivist elected to leave reproductions in folders, as separating them would have been a tricky and time consuming process.

Carol Finerman's report "The Organization of the Archives at State University of New York Maritime College," 1975, provided much of the background information for this processing note.


This project was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department. The collection was processed by Project Archivist Jannette D'Esposito under the supervision of Archivist Annie Tummino.

St. Mary's Schoolship Records, 1853-1958
Jannette L. D'Esposito
September, 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen B. Luce Library Repository

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Bronx NY 10465 United States
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