May 18, 2010

A Mutiny in 1916 -- Over Hardtack and Pie

I came across this article in the New York Times Archive Database. I was originally looking for a recipe for naval hardbread. I was unsuccessful in finding the recipe but I came across a fun little article: I think the subheading says it all "Kitchen Ga-ley Resounded with Death Threat Over Slice of Pie." The article tells of what was probably a small incident but it is covered it as though it were a romanticized, full fledged Mutiny. The article is charming and picturesque, it gives images of angry sailors storming the deck with belaying pins (those wooden clubs on the inside edge of old ships, used to tie the ropes to,) and sailors chanting the old sea shanty "Leave Her, Johnny," while the captain stands aloft with his pretty daughter.  It's so rainy today, grab a cup of hot chocolate and a cozy blanket and read a newspaper clipping, that is probably older than your grandma.
This article was so cute I couldn't help but post on it, and since the article is really hard to read a typed version can be read below:

Fued Rages Between Fidor, the Cook and Seamen as the Mashona Reaches Port.
Magistrate Told How Kitchen Ga-ley Resounded with Death Threat Over Slice of Pie.

Four able seamen, Anton Vaneik, Alexander Lemberg, John Andersen, and John Paulton, were arrested yester-day afternoon on board the four-masted bark Mashona. Incoming from Buenos Aires. They were locked up in the Stapleton Police station on warrants sworn out by Ernest W. Fidor, the cook, who charged that they had threatened him with bodily harm after the vessel had arrived inside the three-mile limit and was under the jurisdiction of the United States. The seamen said they were glad to be brought ashore and in-carcerated, because they would have a chance to get some food fit to eat, which they had not experienced for the last seventy-five days, they told the Police Lieutenant.
            When the Mashona arrived in Quar-antine yesterday forenon with 3,4000 tons of linseed from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Captain Gunderson told the Health Officer that four of his crew were mutinous and had given him a great deal of trouble on the voyage. He wanted a police boat to come and take them off, he said. After the bark had anchored off Stapleton a police patrol boat went alongside and two of the Harbor Squad went on board to look the situation over. The vessel was flying the Uruguay flag and had a Scandinavian crew of twenty men for-ward nad [sic] a Captain, two mates, car-penter, sail maker, and cook aft.
            When the police officers climbed on deck they found that the Mashona was in a state of siege, but there was no signs of violence. The Captain and his mates stood on the poop shouting to the men that they were “a bunch of beachcombers” and other unkind things, while the crew stood in a group around the capstan on the foc’sle head growling out the old sailor chant, “It’s Time for Us to Leave Her.” With the Captain on the poop stood his fair-haired, tall daughter, Ggatha.
            The sailors told the police that they all had their certificates for ability in their duties. What they complained of, they said, was bad food. Fidor, the man who was doing the cooking, they declared, did not know how to cook salt water. The beans were so mouldy, they added, and the biscuits were so full of weevils, the seamen said, that they had to be nailed down to prevent them running all over the deck. Weevil steeplechasing was their only sport the men said.  The bark was seventy-five days on the voyage, and they did not get any meat fit to eat until the vessel was within four days of Sandy Hook.
            Captain Gunderson said the men had not attempted any violence, but that they had threatened him at various times, and Earnest Fidor, the cook, who said he hailed from Milwaukee, declared that one of the able seamen had threat-ened to slice his liver out if he did not give him a piece of pie. After listening to both sides the police told Captain Gunderson they could not take any action and suggested that he should go on shore and search New York City to find the Consul for Uraguay.
            When the Captain and his daughter had gone ashore, Fidor, the cook, took a boat and landed at Stapleton, where he went to the police station and asked for a warrant for four of the crew, who had threatened him. He said that these men had pretended to be ill a month ago, and when the Captain and his mates went forward with the carpenter and sailmaker to carry them to the hospital, where they could give them more attention, the rest of the crew, armed with belaying pins and sheath knives had showed fight, and forced the captain and his officers to retreat aft.
            Fidor was taken to Ninth Branch Detective Bureau at St. George’s Ferry House, after  swearing before Magistrate Hanry at Stapleton that the four seamen had threatened to kill him after the bark had passed inside Sandy Hook. The detectives said goodbye to their families and looked well to their revol-vers, expecting to have to deal with a piratical crew, on board the Mashona, but they have had no trouble in taking the men ashore.
            The cook said that even when the Captain had three pigs killed on Sunday, the crew had complained that the porkers were too fat to eat. He told the reporters that he was the only American on board and that in 1900, for a wager, he had rowed alone in a lifebzoat [sic] from Galveston to San Juan, Porto Rico, which took him three months, but he would not allow that to appear in the uapers [papers.] He disliked publicity, the cook said.
            Fidor told the Magistrate that he would hace Captain Gunderson in court this morning to appear against the four seamen. The skipper and his daughter were reported to still be looking for the Consul to Uruguay when the sun sank below the horizon last night. The men cannot sue the Captain under Uruguay’s laws for giving them bad food, as they could if the vessel was sailing under the American Flag."       
I love the song that is mentioned in the article, Leave Her Johnny. I actually love sea shanties and naval music. A few really good "sailor music" cd's are Roast Beef of Old England (Traditional Sailor Songs), Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea, and Shanties & Songs of the Sea. The last cd is sung by a man named Johnny Collins who is 70+ and still singing! He has a very unique voice that is perfect for his music. It is worth looking into. Thanks for reading! 


  1. Hi Steph, I think my original comment disappeared. Anyway, this post reminded me of the movie "Master and Commander". It's a good story.

  2. Yes, thanks. Andy and I were wondering if we were getting together this week? We haven't seen you in forever.

  3. Steph, so sorry - was hoping to, but some stuff has come up with my mom, plus I have a root canal at 5pm tonight. Are you guys doing anything for Memorial Day? Our church has a big old-fashioned picnic with games, cake baking contest, etc. We go every year and you're welcome to join us if you like.

    This has been a crazy time for us, but I hope we can get together soon, 'cause we miss you guys as well. Are you home tomorrow? I'd like to give you a call on your cell to catch up.

  4. I'm sorry about your teeth. Ouch. We aren't sure about Memorial Day, although it sounds fun, we both probably have to work. We miss you guys too. I should be home tomorrow, any time before 3, I would love to hear from you.

  5. I like the part about the hard tack running away. I like this Post.


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