Annotated Bibliography SS Portland Online Exhibit

Bachelder, Peter Dow, and Mason Philip Smith. Four Short Blasts: The Gale of 1898 and the Loss of the Steamer Portland. Portland, ME: The Provincial Press, 2003.

This book is a complete source for information about SS Portland disaster and the great gale of November 26th 1898. The authors provide detailed information about the recently created Weather Bureau, the bureau’s weather forecast the day of the storm, and the meteorological conditions that developed into the Portland Gale. The authors describe the specifications of the SS Portland. Biographical information regarding Captain Blanchard is provided. The significant damage to New England as a result of the storm is discussed. The particular devastation to the city of Portland’s African-American community as a result of the Portland disaster is presented. The book includes bibliographical references.


Baxter, Sylvester. “The Great November Storm of 1898.” Scribner’s Magazine. No. 5: Vol. XXVI (November, 1899): 515-525

This article, which includes illustrations by H.W. Ditzer, describes the severe damage to coastal communities as a result of the Portland Gale. The destruction done to Provincetown Harbor by the storm is very well documented. The author states that a side-wheeled steamer, like the Portland, was ill-suited for open ocean passages.


Berman, Bruce D. Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks. Boston MA: The Mariners Press. Inc., 1972.

This book lists 13,000 shipwrecks in American territorial waters. The author lists wrecks from the pre-revolutionary era to the early 1970s. The wrecks are listed alphabetically and are separated into six geographic regions. Unidentified wrecks are compiled in a separate chapter. There is an entry for the SS Portland.


Blackington, Alton H. Yankee Yarns. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1954: 219-243

The author, Alton Blackington, was a prolific New England historian whose weekly radio program, “Yankee Yarns,” was a staple of WBZ radio in Boston for over twenty years. In this book Blackington has compiled many of the stories from his radio shows. The final chapter, titled “Steamer Portland,” tells the story of three brave journalists from Boston that first broke the news of the Portland disaster. Charles Ward’s harrowing journey from Hyannis to Boston to convey the first news that the Portland’s wreckage was washing ashore on Cape Cod is of particular interest.


Bolster, W. Jeffrey. Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998

The topic of this book is African American sailors, both free men and slaves, who sailed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The author shows that black sailors of the eighteenth century played a particularly important role in passing on information to blacks living in different regions of the world. In doing so, these sailors helped form a pan-Atlantic African culture. Bolster asserts that black mariners often rose to high positions within their communities because they had steady work that paid relatively well. These earnings allowed black sailors to provide for their families ashore which in turn provided these men with a sense of self-worth and personal pride. This relates to the SS Portland tragedy as it explains why such a large proportion of the ship’s crew was African American.


Chase, Virginia. “Shipwreck: The Portland Disaster.” Downeast IV, No. 4 (January 1958): 16-18+.

This article provides fascinating details about some of the Portland’s crew and passengers including their occupations and reason for sailing aboard the Portland on November 26th 1898. The steamers specifications and interior decorations are richly described. The author presents, in detail, how the Portland Gale paralyzed the entire New England region by cutting off communications and transportation.


Freitas, Fred, and Dave Ball. Warnings Ignored!: The Story of the Portland Gale – November 1898. 5th ed. Scituate, MA: Converpage, 1995

This well researched book focuses on the impact of the Portland Gale on Massachusetts’ South Shore. The authors describe how daily life, specifically transportation and recreation, in the United States was changing at the end of the 19th Century. A brief history of the Life Saving Service is presented as is the heroism of the many Surfmen who patrolled the South Shore beaches during the Portland Gale. The authors discuss many of the major shipwrecks and damage to individual communities on the South Shore as a result of the storm. The chapter devoted to the SS Portland presents a summary of the steamer’s final voyage, but lacks the in-depth examination exhibited in the book’s other chapters.


Kittredge, Henry C. Mooncussers of Cape Cod. Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press. 1937: 71, 114 – 119

The general topic of this book is the wreckers and beachcombers who patrolled Cape Cod beaches to salvage the cargo and timbers of wrecked vessels. Kittredge discusses the discovery of four ships’ wheels on Cape Cod beaches attributed to the Portland. The author also describes the other wreckage washed ashore from the Portland in the weeks following the storm including keys from the steamer’s piano.


Lawrence, Mathew. “Lost and Found: The Search for the Portland.” Sea History. No. 107 (Spring/Summer 2004): 19-21

This article begins by discussing various unsuccessful attempts to locate the wreck of the Portland including an expedition sponsored by the Boston Globe just two weeks after the vessel sank. The search for the Portland, and its eventual discovery in the fall of 1989 by the Historical Maritime Group of New England, is presented. The 2002 expedition to the wreck site, conducted jointly by the Stellwagon Bank Maritime Sanctuary and the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut, which finally authenticated and photographed the wreckage of the Portland, is described. The article includes several underwater images of the Portland’s wreckage and an excellent chart, compiled by John P. Fish, which shows where debris from the wreckage washed ashore following the ship’s sinking.


Marx, Deborah. “Forbidden to Sail: The Steamship Portland, 1890-1898.” Sea History. No. 107 (Spring/Summer 2004): 16-18

This article provides information regarding the Portland’s specifications and includes an excellent description of the vessel’s interior decorations. The author notes that the city of Portland’s African-American community was particularly impacted by the disaster due to the large number of black crew and passengers who lost their lives aboard the Portland. The article concludes with the discovery of the wreck of the Portland by the Historical Maritime Group of New England in 1989 and the ensuing expeditions to the site of the wreck by the Stellwagen Bank National Maritime Sanctuary and National Undersea Research Center to capture underwater images of the wreck.


Melton, Mary. Lost With all Hands: A Family Forever Changed, the Portland Gale of 1898. Penobscot, ME: Penobscot Press, 1998.

This book recounts the Portland Gale as seen through the eyes of a family of Downeast sailing captains. The author provides details regarding everyday life in coastal Maine during the late 19th century. Although this book is catalogued as non-fiction, the author has taken literary license with events and dialogue.


Quinn, William P. Shipwrecks Around Maine. Orleans, MA: The Lower Cape Publishing Co., 1983. 26-29

The short section of this book regarding the SS Portland includes several photographs and an artist’s conception of what the ship’s final moments may have looked like. Quinn briefly covers the storm’s region wide damage. Also discussed is Edward Rowe Snow’s 1945 attempt to ascertain the Portland’s final resting place.


Richardson, John M., and Thomas Harrison Eames. Steamboat Lore of the Penobscot. 3rd ed. Augusta, ME: Kennebec Journal Print Shop. 1945. 148-154

The final chapter of this book is titled “The Wreck of the Steamer Portland” and is written by Thomas Harrison Eames. The author describes the ship’s specifications, her departure from Boston Harbor the evening of November 26th 1898, and the various sightings of the Portland that night by other ships in the region. The author presents a compelling description of what the ship’s passengers must have experienced aboard the SS Portland that night. The chapter concludes with a description of how the sinking of the Portland directly contributed to design changes for all later Maine coastal steamers including the replacement of paddle wheels with screw propellers.


Rousmaniere, John. After the Storm: True Stories of Disaster and Recovery at Sea. Camden, ME: International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2002. 107-136

One chapter of this book is devoted to the Portland disaster. The chapter, titled “The Loss of the Portland, Massachusetts Bay, 1898,” aptly describes the way in which Portland’s African American community was particularly affected by the loss of so many of its members aboard the SS Portland. The author discusses New England maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow and his involvement in extensive research regarding the SS Portland. A possible timeline of the Portland’s final voyage, based on sightings by other ships in the area, is presented. The author concludes by appropriately describing the many factors that led to the Portland tragedy.


Small, Isaac M. Shipwrecks on Cape Cod: Highlands-Coast of Cape Cod Massachusetts. Old Greenwich, CT: The Chatham Press, 1928. 27-31

Isaac M. Small was for sixty years the marine reporting agent for the Boston Chamber of Commerce. It was his job to notify the Boston office, via telegraph, which ships were passing Highland Light in Truro on their way to Boston. The author’s short chapter on the SS Portland disaster provides a first person account of the storm, the wreckage that washed ashore, and the difficulty that the Life Savers encountered in pulling the Portland’s passenger’s lifeless bodies from the surf.


Snow, Edward Rowe. Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast. Boston MA: The Yankee Publishing Company, 1943. 285-321

Edward Rowe Snow was considered, during his lifetime, to be the most well known historian of New England maritime history. This book recounts the events of many of New England’s most dire maritime tragedies. The chapter regarding the SS Portland includes many interviews conducted by the author with individuals who lived through the events of November 26th and 27th. Some of the people interviewed by Snow include men from the Life Saving Service who first discovered the wreckage of the Portland and various Captains of ships that sighted the Portland during her ill fated final voyage.


Snow, Edward Rowe. Storms and Shipwrecks of New England. 1943. Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions., 2003

This edition of Snow’s classic Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast has been reissued to mark the centennial of Snow’s birth. Although the title has been abridged, the book has been updated by Jeremy D’Entremont to reflect new information and findings unavailable to Snow at the time of the books original publication. This new information includes the discovery of the Portland’s wreckage in 1989 and the ship’s certain identification in 2002.


“Ghost Ship of New England, The DVD.” Deep Sea Detectives. Produced and Written by Neil Laird. Executive Producer Vincent Kralyevich. The History Channel, 2008.

This DVD, available from The History Chanel, is an excellent source of current information regarding the sinking of the SS Portland as well as the discovery and authentication of the ship’s wreck in 2002. An excellent resource for teachers, the program includes interviews with Mason Philip Smith, co-author of Four Short Blasts, John Rousmaniere, author of After The Storm, and Dave Ball, author of Warnings Ignored. The program combines computer animation with archival photographs and modern underwater video.