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Jenny Lind and the Clipper Nightingale Figurehead

: $35.00
Publisher / Author: Portsmouth Marine Society
ISBN: 0915819279

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No. 27 - Jenny Lind and the Clipper Nightingale Figurehead

By: Karl-Eric Svardskog

The Piscataqua built clipper Nightingale is perhaps the most beautiful and famous sailing ship ever launched into these local waters. Built by the Hanscoms of Eliot, Maine, the ship first slid into the water on June 16, 1851. After builder Samuel Hanscom heard famed soprano Jenny Lind perform, he named his new ship for the “Swedish Nightingale”. The ships figurehead was a ¾ life size carving of Jenny Lind.

For much of its first decade, the Nightingale was a record setting tea clipper, carrying cargos primarily from England to Pacific ports in China, Indonesia and Australia. In the late 1850’s however, the ship became infamous as a carrier of African slaves. Early in the Civil War, the Nightingale was captured by a Union ship and later joined other vessels blockading Confederate ports.

After the war, the ship was sold several times, finally to a Norwegian captain who renovated her as a freighter. The Nightingale, carrying a load of lumber was abandoned in the North Atlantic in 1893.

Here the story of the Nightingale seemed to end, but about a hundred years later, a Swedish antiques dealer happened upon a remarkable object: a beautifully carved ship’s figurehead covered in dust and dirt in the back of a barn. Once used as a scarecrow, the figurehead was retired because its lifelike appearance scared people as well as birds.

Author Karl-Eric Svardskog spent much of the next six years researching his find, eventually determining that the figurehead had once graced the bow of the Nightingale.

Portsmouth Marine Society

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