This insurance giveaway
Insurance companies have been giving away calendars for a long time, but this one is a real beauty. When M.M. Collis of Portsmouth, NH wanted to impress his clients in 1900, he handed out this colorful gold-painted one. It features the sinking of four famous ships, starting with our friend John Paul Jones.
Each of the four calendar pages features a famous American sea battle and its commander. While readers were focused on the dramatic and costly battle scene, the advertising reminds them that Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance of Hartford, CT paid out millions of dollars in claims last year.
We thought these pictures were so gorgeous that they deserve to be revived for Millennium readers. The text attached is from the backs of the cards - part of the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society collection. --- JDR
1900 PHOENIX MUTUAL
Materials courtesy of the Portsmouth Historical Society
BONHOMME VS SERAPIS
A Scottish-American Naval Adventurer. PAUL JONES came to America at the commencement of the Revolution, and in 1775, under the assumed name of Jones (his proper name was John Paul), was appointed First Lieutenant of the "Alfred," a 30-gun frigate, in the American Navy. He soon proved himself one of the best seamen and one of the most unconquerable fighters that ever sailed the sea. In 1777 he commanded the Ranger, a new 2o-gun frigate, scouring the English and Irish coasts, a terror to the sea and land.
In 1779 Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard, and on September 23d fell in with the Serapis, 44 guns, and Countess of Scarborough. The battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis was one of the greatest naval engagements in history. Jones, after finding no other chance for victory, ran alongside of the Serapis and lashed the two ships together. The battle lasted two hours and resulted in the surrender of the Serapis to the Bonhornme Richard, which was so badly cut to pieces that Jones, after a vain effort to take her into port, transferred his men to the Serapis, leaving his own ship to sink. He was awarded a gold medal by Congress for his successful services. He afterwards entered the French and later the Russian Navy-
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DESTRUCTION OF THE PHILADELPHIA (1804)
STEPHEN DECATUR served in the navy under Dale, Preble, Morris and Barry. For the gallant exploit of capturing and burning the frigate Philadelphia, in the harbor of Tripoli, he was made post-captain.
In 1803 Commander Preble received the news that the frigate Philadelphia, under Captain Bainbridge, had gone upon a reef while pursuing a vessel into the harbor of Tripoli, and captured by the enemy. This greatly weakened our forces and also helped the enemy, who succeeded in getting the Philadelphia off the rocks and safely anchored her under the guns of the forts. Stephen Decatur, a young lieutenant in command of the Enterprise, offered to enter the harbor and destroy the Philadelphia. After considerable delay Preble gave orders to Decatur for which he had volunteered. A small Tripolitan vessel, known as a Ketch, had been captured, and named the Intrepid, was assigned to him for the work at hand.
Severe gales for nearly a week kept the vessel from entering the harbor, but on February 16th, 1804, Decatur determined to go in. The Philadelphia, with forty guns mounted, double shotted and ready for firing, manned by a full complement of men, was moored within half gun shot of the Bashaw's castle, and a dozen batteries, mounting together to one hundred and fifteen guns; some Tripolitan cruisers, galleys and gunboats lay between the Philadelphia and the shore.
Decatur had to enter into the midst of this powerful fleet with his small vessel of sixty tons, carrying four small guns and seventy-five men. As they approached the Philadelphia, with his crew well hidden, he arrived within twenty yards of the frigate, without arousing the suspicion of the enemy, who were informed that the Intrepid had lost her anchors and wanted to ride past the frigate. The Intrepid was made fast to the Philadelphia, and it was not until then did the suspicions of the Tripolitans awake. Decatur and his brave men leaped aboard. The Tripolitan crew fled in their boats to the shore; the Americans set fire to the Philadelphia. The flames broke out in all parts of the ship at once; they retreated to the Intrepid and made good their escape. The guns from the forts opened on them at once, yet the Intrepid, with her daring crew, sailed out of the harbor without losing a man.
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SINKING OF THE ALBEMARLE (1864)
DURING the early part of 1864 great anxiety was felt by the government regarding the Albemarle, a formidable Confederate ironclad ram. She was built purposely to operate against Federal fleets and troops. Her destructive power was enormous. Lieutenant Cushing designed a torpedo launch expressly for the destruction of the Albemarle. After a number of trials in the North River, New York, Cushing sailed for the North Carolina coast.
The Albemarle was moored some eight miles from the mouth of the Roanoke River, at the wharves of Plymouth. On the night of October 24, 1864, a pitch-dark rainy night, Cushing slipped away from the blockading fleet on his perilous and desperate errand. Cushing went up-stream with the utmost caution, as the success depended upon silence and surprise. By good luck he passed unnoticed a Confederate lookout below the ram. The Albemarle was protected by a great boom of logs thrown out about thirty feet from her, on purpose. to prevent such an attack as Cushing had in view. Feeling his way cautiously he finally made out the boom of the Albemarle, and at once drove at her. But as they neared the landing the barking of a dog aroused the sentry. The shots were singing around him, as he stood erect guiding his launch. The noise of the great guns could be heard as they were made ready.
The second attempt to reach the ram was successful. As the boat slid forward over the boom he brought the torpedo full against the side of the powerful ram, and instantly exploded it, within ten feet of the muzzle of the hundred-pounder, which was depressed as rapidly as possible to blow Cushing and his boat out of the water. The explosion and the discharge of the Albemarle's gun was simultaneous. The ram at once settled, and the launch sinking at the same moment, Cushing and his men threw off their coats and plunged into the water, striking out for the middle of the river. From river to swamp and woods, and finally swimming besides a small, square-ended boat out of the sound into the sea, when coming within the hailing of our ships, Cushing gave the "ship ahoy," and was picked up by the Valley City. Cushing's whole career shows him as a man of great courage and energy and, as Admiral Farragut said, " While no navy has braver officers than ours, young Cushing was the hero of the war."
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SINKING OF THE MERRIMAC (1898)
Admiral Sampson called for volunteers to run the Merrimac in the channel and sink her, a host of sailors eagerly volunteered. The command of this perilous feat was given to Lieutenant Richmond Pearson Hobson, a Naval Constructor, who had won many honors as a naval technician. The channel just beyond Santiago's Morro Castle was selected to sink the collier Merrimac, in order "to cork up" Cervera's fleet beyond doubt.
Lieutenant Hobson and his crew of seven volunteers arrived at the harbor's entrance about 3.20 on the morning of June 3d. The Merrimac was carried under heavy fire from the enemy's forts almost to the point selected and sunk. The Merrimac was caught stealing into the channel by a patrol boat, which fired several shots at her from a three-pounder. One of these shells carried away the Merrimac's rudder. When the Merrimac was in the desired position and the attempt was made to throw" her across the channel, the loss of the rudder was discovered. It was not possible, therefore, to do this, but anchors were thrown out, and the tide swung her so that she blocked three-quarters of the channel's passageway. As the anchors were dropped a catamaran was launched, and when Hobson touched the button only three torpedoes exploded; shells rained over the men who were hugging close to the deck and waiting for daylight. At that same moment two torpedoes, fired by the Reina Mercedes, struck the Merrimac amidships and in the combined shock the collier was lifted out of the water and almost rent asunder.
As the Merrimac sank the Spaniards sent up a cheer, believing they had sunk some large war vessel. Hobson and his crew with much difficulty reached the capsized catamaran, clinging to it with only their heads above water. Admiral Cervera assisted in the capture of Hobson and crew, who received Hobson with a ceremonious Spanish kiss, in honor of his valor. Hobson and his brave companions were exchanged on July 6th. They were enthusiastically cheered by the Cowboys and the whole army on their re-entering the American lines.
The PHOENIX MUTUAL, LIFE INSURANCE CO. of Hartford, Conn., writes its
business without the use of exaggerated estimates or delusive promises.
-- From 1900s advertising calendar
Materials courtesy of the Portsmouth Historical Society
Design and introduction
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