A new book by John R.H. Kimball
Contact: author | webmaster

Disasters &c.
The Maritime World of Marblehead 1815-1865
by John R. H. Kimball

The book is a lovely hardcover, 10 1/4" x 7 1/4" x 7/8". Click here to order a copy!
Click here to read the press release. [PDF - requires Adobe Reader]

Tongues and sounds for dinner: Click here to read a recently-found 1838 fishing log. [PDF - requires Adobe Reader]

Marblehead, Massachusetts, was for two centuries the principal codfishing port of the new world, and at the same time raised large numbers of ship captains who set standards of skill and perseverance throughout the world's oceans. Yet little was known of this insular town by outsiders during the 18th and 19th centuries - a town that, in our day, has became a famous yachting center. Those outsiders that did visit Marblehead briefly and commented on it, criticized it for being backward, dirty, and immoral.

This book describes what Marblehead seafarers were really like, and how the pervasive maritime life of the town created a class of fishermen and shipmasters with unique character, ability, and success. The fishermen were more productive than any other town's; the seamanship standards of the town are exemplified by the Marblehead captain of the clipper ship Flying Cloud and his Marblehead navigator wife, who set records of speed under sail that only recently were exceeded; and Joseph Story as a Supreme Court Justice established maritime law in the United States based on his experience growing up in Marblehead.

The book uses 19th century sources and the careers of individuals to describe Marbleheaders' "peculiar" character: their "indifference to the show and splendor of wealth," their generosity, bravery, and hardihood. It explains the workings of the codfishery and the shipping industry through business practices and legal decisions. The story is set against the backdrop of the final rise and fall of the town's fishing industry between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, and the explosive rise and fall of the shipping business known as the clipper ship era.

For reviews of the book see...

Nautical Magazine, Glasgow, January 2006, pp.39-40.

Midwest Book Review, February 2006:
"Disasters Etc. is an informed and informative regional history of a place, time and people that substantially contributed to the development of the American nation. Highly recommended reading!"   Full review: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ibw/feb_06.htm#amhistory

Soundings, the Nation's Boating Newspaper, September, 2005:
"In 'Disasters Etc.,' author Kimball uses the town's characters to draw a picture of Marblehead in the time between the War of 1812 and the Civil War...."

Salem News, August, 2005:
"'Marblehead captains got along very well with their crews,' Kimball said. 'They were very successful.' Along with firsthand accounts, Kimball's book includes photos, illustrations, paintings and even models."

Lincoln (MA) Journal, August 11, 2005:
"Kimball 'started to resent the reputation given to Marbleheaders as immoral... "This negative reputation may have been due to the insularity of Marblehead....Locals kept to themselves, partly because Marblehead was an un-Puritan town surrounded by Puritan towns." Contrary to this negative reputation, Kimball began to discover the many positive aspects of its shipping culture....He simply found real people and followed the stories of their lives and their ships."

Wooden Boat, November/December 2005, p. 100:
"A portrait of the great seafaring town during the mid-19th century."

"Kimball...delivers an engaging narrative along with historical quotes, pictures, charts and other period documents...Character profiles, anecdotes and stories add color to the book."
John R.H. Kimball is a descendant of Marbleheaders and a lifelong pleasure sailor. He had a long career as a financial lawyer, and lives in Lincoln when not aboard a boat.
Click here to email the author.Click here to email the webmaster.