Tag Archives: Nonfiction

Ballou, Maturin Murray (“Lieut. Murray,” “Frank Forester”)

[BALLOU, MATURIN MURRAY], “LIEUT. MURRAY,” “FRANK FORESTER” (1820-1895). An influential publisher of American periodicals, Maturin Murray Ballou was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He traveled extensively and entered the literary world by writing descriptive letters of his adventures for publication in Continue reading & text links

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Murphy, Robert Cushman

MURPHY, ROBERT CUSHMAN (1887-1973). Born in Brooklyn, Robert Cushman Murphy graduated from Brown University in 1911. The following year he married Grace E. Barstow and embarked on the whaler Daisy for the South Atlantic. A naturalist nominally in search of Continue reading & text links

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Mowat, Farley

MOWAT, FARLEY [MCGILL] (1921-2014). Farley Mowat is one of Canada’s more popular and controversial writers. Born 12 May 1921, in Belleview, Ontario, Mowat graduated from the University of Toronto in 1949. He spent two years during World War II as Continue reading & text links

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Peterson, Charles Jacob (“J. Thornton Randolph” or “Harry Danforth”)

[PETERSON, CHARLES JACOB], “HARRY DANFORTH,” “J. THORNTON RANDOLPH” (1819-1887). Charles Jacob Peterson was an editor, publisher, and historian, born in Philadelphia, where he worked all his life. Once he acquired an ample fortune, he and his wife purchased a mansion Continue reading & text links

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Perry, Commodore Matthew

PERRY, COMMODORE MATTHEW [CALBRAITH] (1794-1858). Commodore Matthew Perry served a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, which began in January 1809, when he was commissioned as a midshipman. Perry is best known for commanding an 1853 expedition of Continue reading & text links

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Safina, Carl

SAFINA, CARL (1955-). Carl Safina is a biologist, author, activist, and educator. Born on May 23, 1955, in Brooklyn, NY, Safina spent his childhood fishing, breeding pigeons, and playing music. In high school, he participated in a bird-banding survey on Continue reading & text links

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Warner, William W.

WARNER, WILLIAM W[HITESIDES]. (1920-2008). Naturalist-author William W. Warner was born in New York City. From 1944 to 1946, he served in the U.S. Navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, and was awarded a Navy Commendation Continue reading & text links

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Vollmann, William T.

VOLLMANN, WILLIAM T[ANNER]. (1959- ). William T. Vollmann’s very ambitious project is a seven-novel series entitled Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes, which interweaves history, myth and legend, imagination, illustrations, and personal travel experience to chronicle the “symbolic Continue reading & text links

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Vidal, Gore

VIDAL, GORE [EUGENE LUTHER] (1925-2012). Gore Vidal was born in West Point, New York, attended Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and served in the army during World War II. A novelist, playwright, and essayist, he occasionally employs maritime settings Continue reading & text links

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Theroux, Paul

THEROUX, PAUL [EDWARD] (1941- ). Paul Theroux was born in Medford, Massachusetts, and received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts in 1963. Having taught in Malawi, Uganda, and Singapore, he is a prolific novelist and travel writer who divides Continue reading & text links

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Steinbeck, John

by Susan F. Beegel (2000) STEINBECK, JOHN [ERNST] (1902-1968). John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in literature, was born in Salinas, California. As a child, he divided his time between his family’s home in the rich agricultural land of Continue reading & text links

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Sobel, Dava

By Marija Miklavčič (2020) SOBEL, DAVA (1947 – ). Dava Sobel grew up in the Bronx, NY, and received her college degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton. A journalist and science writer, Sobel has written six Continue reading & text links

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Snow, Edward Rowe

SNOW, EDWARD ROWE (1902-1982). A prolific producer of maritime history and lore for popular consumption, Edward Rowe Snow was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in history from Boston University. Among his Continue reading & text links

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Smith, John

SMITH, JOHN (1580-1631). Although born in Lincolnshire, England, Captain John Smith initiated many traditions in American literature, among them geography, autobiography, and history. A True Relation (1608), his earliest account of his experiences in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland Continue reading & text links

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Searls, Hank

SEARLS, HENRY HUNT “HANK,” JR. (1922-2017). Novelist and author of nonfiction and short fiction, Hank Searls was born in San Francisco 10 August 1922. Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944 with the wartime-accelerated class of 1945, he remained Continue reading & text links

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Santayana, George

SANTAYANA, GEORGE [JORGE AUGUSTIN NICOLAS RUIZ DE] (1863-1962). The Spanish-born American idealist-philosopher George Santayana drew on his frequent Atlantic crossings in forming concepts of the world and himself. He also used shipboard experience when developing abstract argument and inventing the Continue reading & text links

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Samuels, Samuel

SAMUELS, SAMUEL (1823-1908). Samuel Samuels was the most famous of the packet-ship masters, eventually commanding the renowned Dreadnought (1853). Packets sailed on a set schedule, regardless of whether or not their cargo holds were full. Almost all that is known Continue reading & text links

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Rudloe, Jack

RUDLOE, JACK [J.] (1943- ). Born in New York, Jack Rudloe moved to Florida as a boy and began his self-education as a marine biologist. In 1964 he founded the Gulf Coast Specimen Company of Panacea, Florida, which collects marine Continue reading & text links

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Riesenberg, Felix

RIESENBERG, FELIX (1879-1939). Felix Riesenberg was one of the most important figures in American literature of the sea during the 1920s and 1930s; his literary contributions were preceded by many years of first-hand sea experience during the final transitional years Continue reading & text links

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Ricketts, Edward F.

RICKETTS, EDWARD F[LANDERS]. (1897-1948). Edward F. Ricketts, marine biologist and ecologist, was John Steinbeck’s collaborator on Sea of Cortez (1941) and the model for “Doc,” protagonist of Steinbeck’s Monterey novels Cannery Row (1945) and Sweet Thursday (1954), and for “Friend Continue reading & text links

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Ratigan, William O.

RATIGAN, WILLIAM 0. (1910-1984). Born to a Great Lakes steamboat engineer in Detroit and later adopted by an Ottawa tribe chief, William Ratigan called Michigan his home. This Great Lakes historian’s writings celebrate ordinary Americans who made big names for Continue reading & text links

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Kolbert, Elizabeth

KOLBERT, ELIZABETH (1961-) Born in New York City, Elizabeth Kolbert is a preeminent literary journalist and author. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in literature in 1983, Kolbert studied at the Universität Hamburg in Germany on a Fulbright Continue reading & text links

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Nelson, James L.

NELSON, JAMES L. (1962- ). Born in Lewiston, Maine, James L. Nelson, a former professional square-rig sailor, traces his love of the sea to his earliest memories when he chose boats and model ships for boyhood toys. In college Nelson Continue reading & text links

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Morrell, Benjamin

MORRELL, BENJAMIN (1795-1839). Benjamin Morrell, sealing captain and explorer, was born in Rye, New York, the son of a shipbuilder. His early experiences included being twice captured by the British during the War of 1812 and spending over two and Continue reading & text links

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Mitchell, Joseph

MITCHELL, JOSEPH (1908-1996). Joseph Mitchell grew up in Fairmont, North Carolina, a farming town in the state’s coastal plains. In 1929 Mitchell moved to New York City and began his career working as a crime reporter and feature writer for Continue reading & text links

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McPhee, John

McPHEE, JOHN [ANGUS] (1931- ). John McPhee, master craftsman of nonfiction prose in more than twenty books and New Yorker articles beyond count, turned his attention to the sea in Looking for a Ship (1990). The subject is actually multiple: Continue reading & text links

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Sleeper, John Sherburne (“Hawser Martingale”)

[SLEEPER, JOHN SHERBURNE], “HAWSER MARTINGALE” (1794-1878). An author and journalist from New England, John Sherburne Sleeper first went to sea in 1809 as a cabin boy and assumed his first command in 1821. By 1825 he was captain of an Continue reading & text links

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Mayo, William S.

MAYO, WILLIAM S[TARBUCK] (1811-1895). Born in Ogdensburg, New York, William S. Mayo was a successful physician and author of popular adventure fiction. His mother’s family had been in the whaling industry for generations, and his father served in the merchant Continue reading & text links

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Maury, Matthew Fontaine

MAURY, MATTHEW FONTAINE (1806-1873). The 1855 publication of Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Physical Geography of the Sea inaugurated the distinct discipline of oceanography, but earlier essays under the pseudonym “Harry Bluff” helped shape reform of the antebellum U.S. Navy. Born in Continue reading & text links

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Matthiessen, Peter

MATTHIESSEN, PETER (1927-2014). New York-born Peter Matthiessen has borne the double titles of author and naturalist since the beginning of his professional writing career. Son of an architect father who was also a trustee of the National Audubon Society, Matthiessen Continue reading & text links

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Mason, Arthur

MASON, ARTHUR (1876-1955). Born in Ireland, Mason went to sea at age seventeen to embark on a career that would last twenty-four years. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1899. For much of his career he Continue reading & text links

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London, Jack

LONDON, JACK (1876-1916). Born John Griffith Chaney in San Francisco in 1876, Jack London was deserted by his father and raised in Oakland by his mother and his stepfather, whose surname he adopted. London worked at many jobs as a Continue reading & text links

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Little, George

Life on the Ocean, or Twenty Years at Sea (1843) Continue reading & text links

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Lindbergh, Anne Morrow

LINDBERGH, ANNE MORROW (1906-2001). Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born in 1906 in Englewood, New Jersey. Her father, Dwight Whitney Morrow, was ambassador to Mexico when Charles Lindbergh visited Mexico City in 1928, soon after he had completed his famous solo Continue reading & text links

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Larcom, Lucy

LARCOM, LUCY (1824-1893). Lucy Larcom was a prolific and highly regarded writer of descriptive and religious verse, short fiction, and inspirational prose in the second half of the nineteenth century. Born on the Massachusetts North Shore in Beverly, she lived Continue reading & text links

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Laing, Alexander

LAING, ALEXANDER [KINNAN] (1903-1976). Alexander Laing was the author of over twenty books of nautical fiction and history and a longtime librarian at Dartmouth College. Laing grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York, entered Dartmouth in 1921, and Continue reading & text links

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Kent, Rockwell

KENT, ROCKWELL (1882-1971). Rockwell Kent, painter, writer, adventurer, graphic artist, and political activist, was born in Tarrytown Heights, New Jersey. He trained as an architect at Columbia University and studied painting under William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, Abbott Thayer, and Continue reading & text links

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Jones, John Paul

JONES, JOHN PAUL (1747-1792). Born in Scotland, John Paul went to sea as an apprentice at age twelve. After inheriting property in Virginia, he added “Jones” to his name and became a lieutenant in the Continental navy in 1775. His Continue reading & text links

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Johnson, Irving

JOHNSON, IRVING [McCLURE] (1905-1991). Irving Johnson grew up on a farm in the Connecticut River valley of Massachusetts. Inspired by Jack London’s novels, he had an unswerving desire to go to sea and work with his hands. Johnson spent summers Continue reading & text links

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Johnson, Electa [Exy] Search

JOHNSON, ELECTA [EXY] SEARCH (1909-2004). Exy Johnson was born in Rochester, New York, in 1909. She attended Smith College, graduating after three years in 1929, and went on to the University of California, Berkeley, for a year of study in Continue reading & text links

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Jewitt, John Rodgers

JEWITT, JOHN RODGERS (1783-1821). An Englishman who served aboard the American merchant vessel Boston, John Jewitt became famous as a “captive” of the Indians of Nootka Sound, off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, when he survived the destruction Continue reading & text links

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Jennings Jr., John Edward (“Bates Baldwin”)

[JENNINGS, JOHN EDWARD, JR], “BATES BALDWIN” (1906-1973). John Edward Jennings Jr., historical novelist, was born in Brooklyn, New York. The son of a surgeon, he began his seafaring in 1925 as a foremast hand aboard a tramp steamer traveling in Continue reading & text links

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James, Henry

JAMES, HENRY (1843-1916). Henry James made nineteen Atlantic crossings and lived for much of his life in seacoast cities and villages. In his longer fiction, scenes near the English Channel in What Maisie Knew (1897) and in Venice in The Continue reading & text links

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Irving, Washington

IRVING, WASHINGTON (1783-1859). The first American to succeed as a professional author, Washington Irving was born in New York City in the last year of the American Revolution. Although he is best known today as the author of “Rip Van Continue reading & text links

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Ingraham, Joseph Holt

INGRAHAM, JOSEPH HOLT (1809-1860). Born in Portland, Maine, Joseph Holt Ingraham was a teacher, minister, and popular writer who produced more than 100 novels, 25 in 1845 alone at the peak of his career. Until the late 1840s Ingraham wrote Continue reading & text links

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Hough, Henry Beetle

HOUGH, HENRY BEETLE (1896-1985). Editor of the Vineyard Gazette on the island of Martha’s Vineyard from 1920 almost until his death, Henry Beetle Hough was the grandson of a sea captain. He was born and raised in the whaling city Continue reading & text links

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Hemingway, Ernest Miller

HEMINGWAY, ERNEST MILLER (1899-1961). Ernest Hemingway, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction (1952) and the Nobel Prize in literature (1954), grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. Except when rough water forced them to go by train, he and his Continue reading & text links

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Hart, Joseph C.

HART, JOSEPH C. (1798-1855). A New Yorker whose mother’s family came from Nantucket Island, Joseph C. Hart is known today as the author of Miriam Coffin, or The Whale-Fishermen (1834), a novel that was an important source for Moby-Dick (1851). Continue reading & text links

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Hale, Edward Everett

HALE, EDWARD EVERETT (1822-1909). Born in Boston, Edward Everett Hale belonged to an old New England family. His great-uncle, Captain Nathan Hale, uttered the memorable cry, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” Continue reading & text links

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Gould, John W.

GOULD, JOHN W. (1814-1838). John W. Gould was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the seventh son of influential judge and educator James Gould. He was christened “John Gould” but added the middle initial “W.” in 1835 to avoid confusion. Gould’s health Continue reading & text links

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