Tag Archives: T.A. Scott

Counting Wrecks: Visualizing T.A. Scott’s salvage work, 1879-1902

This summer I updated my database of T.A. Scott’s rescue and salvage work for the period between 1879 and 1902. After not thinking much about this data set for three years, I plunged back into historical newspaper databases (much expanded and improved in just a couple of years) and added more than 50 events to the database. I’m sure there are more Scott salvage jobs still hiding in obscure newspapers, but I’m feeling pretty confident I found the vast majority. All told, the database includes 247 separate rescue or salvage events. It’s not clear how many he personally supervised (contemporaries often seemed to conflate Scott the man with Scott the salvage company), but I think it safe to say he was personally involved in most. The database includes the month, year, type of vessel involved in the incident, the vessel’s name, the type of wreck (founding, stranding, ice, fire, damaged), and whether or not it was recovered or repaired. After cleaning up the database with OpenRefine, I used Excel and Tableau Public to create the initial visualizations below. I’m working up some fancier ways to display this data… look for those soon.

The first two graphs show the annual and seasonal variation in Scott’s salvage work. Marine salvage was anything but steady and the wide variation in salvage work belies just how important non-salvage activities must have been to the T.A. Scott Company. Winter and spring were his busiest salvage seasons. Summer activity was slower because there were fewer wrecks and because he focused resources on lucrative (and relatively steady) marine construction jobs. I want to plot Scott’s work against the number of reported incidents in eastern Long Island Sound to see if there is any correlation between number of wrecks/incidents and his salvage activity.


Other trends emerge as we dig into the data. Most notably, the bulk of Scott’s salvage work involved stranded schooners. Steamers and barges were tied for a distant second and an eclectic mix 13 other vessel types took up the remainder. Second, we have large gaps in the data — we do not know, for example, the “type” of wreck for 67 incidents. Possibly with further research we’ll be able to fill in these blanks. (to explore the graphs click here and here.)


More to come soon…

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Summer in New London: T.A. Scott and the New London Maritime Society

Fall is here; classes have begun. But I’m certainly not ready to give up summer, and so we’ll reminisce. Two months ago I gave a pair of talks at the New London Custom House for the New London Maritime Society. My time there got off to a fantastic start — lunch at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock. Not only was the lobster roll divine (maybe I have been too south for too long), but I also met a direct descendant of Captain Thomas A. Scott, the Dock’s namesake and the topic of my first talk: Chasing Scott: Researching New London’s ‘Master Wrecker.’ There was a great turnout for a mid-week afternoon talk and an overwhelming interest in the man I’ve been researching for a long, long time. I think a biography would be great fun…

After making plans to connect with Scott’s heir during the New London off-season, I whiled away the afternoon in the Maritime Society’s wonderful archive. Susan Tamulevich, the director, was a wonderful host, and I look forward to going back and spending some serious research hours in their library. I also had the pleasure of meeting David Zapatka. Zapatka was taking down his amazing photography exhibit “Stars and Lighthouses”–a collection of wondrous non-Photoshopped images of lighthouses lit at night with stars in the background. I’ve looked at a whole lot of lighthouse photographs and I’ve never seen any like these.  Check them out — I’m saving up for a print.

The evening talk had another nice audience and a great discussion. I jabbered about my current book project, which I’m now tentatively calling Shipwrecks and the Making of the Modern Beach. The talk was an opportunity for me to take that difficult step back and try to give a coherent overview of the project. It was a difficult, but invaluable and has helped me immensely as I put together the book proposal.

In the next post, I’ll share some of the research and graphics I finished up this summer on the illustrious Captain Thomas A. Scott.

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Salvage Yard Lithograph ca. 1912

”]It’s amazing what you can find these days on the internet! The amount of historical materials on the web continues to explode; it’s gotten to the point where you have to re-search topics every few weeks. Take my current research target–T.A. Scott. I’ve been researching him on and off for almost seven years (I know, hard to believe). I’ve done more internet searches than I care to count, visited archives upon archives and endured mountains of microfilm. But just yesterday, while trolling for images to help me write the introduction to Scott’s chapter, I came across this lithograph. I’ve never seen before–pretty sweet!

The original is held at Mystic Seaport. Here is the object description from cthistoryonline.org:

View of the T.A. Scott Company complex, New London. Docks and wharf buildings can be seen, including a building with the nameboards [quarterboards] of wrecked vessels, visible at center right. Signs on buildings fronting on the street to the left read, from left to right: “TASCO/MEAT AND GROCERIES,” “TASCO” and “THE T.A. SCOTT COMPANY.” Automobiles and and a wagon are visible in the road. The Neptune Line sidewheel steamer Rhode Island can be seen at dock behind the buildings to the left. Other vessels visible in the water in the vicinity of the yard include tugboats, floating derricks, a schooner and dredges. New London Harbor and Thames River water traffic can be seen in the background. A vignette portrait of Capt. Thomas A. Scott is visible at upper left. Printed at bottom “PLANT AT NEW LONDON, CONN” and “THE T. A.SCOTT COMPANY/ FOUNDED 1872/ WRECKERS and CONTRACTORS”, and lower left “NEW LONDON, / CONN.” and lower right “BOSTON, MASS.”

The 21.5″ by 29″ lithograph was probably published soon after the T.A. Scott Company acquired the Boston Tow Boat Company in 1911. Important features not mentioned in the above description include the 200′ wireless antenna and the large coal bunker at the end of the main dock (Scott had been selling coal since the 1870s). Here are closeups of my favorite vessels.

dump scow and pile driver

seagoing steam derricks


wrecking steamer Tasco

For more on Thomas A. Scott and turn-of-the-century marine salvage see this post).


Filed under Dissertation Digest, Source of the Week

Salvage Yards and Postcards

Old school dissertation research has stalled for a few days as I finish up a book review (more on that next week). This is worrisome–we all know how brief stalls can lead to deadly tailspins, which I’m hoping to avoid. So what better way to keep up momentum than rummaging the internet at all hours of the night? Here’s what I stumbled across relevant to my current research focus, Captain T. A. Scott of New London, Connecticut. [For other posts on Scott look here and here.]

Historic postcards, like the two above, are fantastic sources for “seeing” the past. Continue reading

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