Friends of Merrymeeting Bay’s (FOMB) sixth presentation of their 20th annual Winter Speaker Series, The King’s Broad Arrow: Maine’s Mast Trade, features Harper Batsford of the Tate House Museum. The event, takes place at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Wednesday March 8th at 7pm.
From 1691 to 1729 numerous Acts of Parliament laid claim to the white pines of Britain’s New England Colonies. The island of Great Britain, seat of the eighteenth century world’s strongest naval empire, was itself nearly bare of large trees necessary for masts on navy and merchant vessels.
The old pine forests of northern New England were a much sought after resource, spurring the growth of a bustling mast trade in the province of Maine, established by Colonel Thomas Westbrook. Even today our roads and waterways bear evidence of one of Maine’s earliest timber-based industries. This interactive presentation will introduce the people, places, and legacy of Maine’s mast trade.
Batsford’s presentation will largely echo that of Sam Manning, author of The King’s Broad Arrow who brought to life a period in history which makes this book valuable, but not simply because you will understand how the shipbuilding industry worked from the 1600s – 1800s. Manning shows what governments were doing, why, and how it directly parallels the twentieth- and twenty-first century policies of nations spending blood and treasure to ensure they can control the supply of natural resources for their national security.
With 1600s Europe unable to supply the big tall masts needed for their navies, Great Britain established a policy of marking trees in New England which were specifically the Crown’s, to be cut, processed, and shipped back to England. Without proper masts, the navy could not carry sails to propel their ships–much like the need for oil today.
Harper Batsford is Museum Assistant at the Tate House in Portland (www.tatehouse.org), historic home of George Tate, Senior Mast Agent for the Royal Navy in the 1700’s. Batsford received his bachelor’s degree in history from University of Southern Maine in 2015 and has a passion for engaging the public in local history. His work at the museum focuses on collections, restoration, and development and he has been at the museum six years.
FOMB hosts their Winter Speaker Series October-May, the second Wednesday of each month. The April 12th presentation, Cougar Recovery in Eastern North features Chris Spatz, president of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation. This 7pm presentation will be at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.
Speaker Series presentations are free, open to the public and supported by Patagonia, Inc. in Freeport. Visit www.fomb.org to see speaker biographies, full event schedules, become a member, and learn more about how you can help protect beautiful Merrymeeting Bay.