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Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey archives collection

Identifier: MC-163

Scope and Contents

the collection is divided into four series: (1) ship documents; (2) newspaper clippings and collected records; (3) photographs; (4) oversized newspaper articles/photographs, and video collections The content in this collection details the ships long and illustrious history.


  • 1894 - 2011


Biographical / Historical

Built in four months at a cost of $16,000 and launched on February 1, 1894 at the James & Tarr shipyard in Essex MA, Effie M. Morrissey (now Ernestina) was owned by Captain William E. Morrissey and the John F. Wonson, Co. of Gloucester, MA. The vessel was named after Captain Morrissey’s daughter. The ship’s illustrious career began that same year, when the 156-foot-long schooner carried Gloucester fishermen to the Grand Banks, Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland in search of cod, haddock, hake, halibut, Pollock, and other species and to carry freight. In 1926, Capt. Robert A. ‘Bob’ Bartlett, a Newfoundland-born Arctic explorer and companion of Robert E. Peary, purchased Effie M. Morrissey. Bartlett, who navigated Peary and Matthew Henson to the North Pole in 1909, was considered the greatest ice captain of the 20th Century. Under Bartlett, “the little Morrissey”, along with students and scientists, made 20 regular voyages to document the frozen North’s flora and fauna, and its people for patrons including the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the American Indian, and others. He was the first Arctic explorer to place science ahead of exploration. During World War II, the ship’s black hull was painted grey and entered into U.S. Naval service conducting hydrographic work of Greenland’s waters and serving as a supply ship to U.S. bases there and in the Arctic. She even made a voyage to the Soviet Union port of Murmansk. Following Cap’n Bob’s 1946 death, the schooner was sold to two brothers in New York City who painted her white and intended to sail her to the South Seas. However, in November 1947, a fire below decks damaged Morrissey, which sank under the steady stream of water from the New York City Fire Department. Captain Henrique Mendes purchased Morrissey and renamed her Ernestina, after his daughter, and sailed the vessel as a packet, carrying immigrants and goods to and from Cape Verde Islands and the United States from 1948 until 1965. Among her captains were Ricardo Lima Barros, Joao Baptista Jr., Arnaldo Mendes, and Valentin Lucas. Ernestina was the last sailing ship, in regular service, to carry immigrants across the Atlantic to the United States, and the last of a series of Cape Verde packets to carry on this trade in the middle years of the 20th Century. Since the late 1960s, there had been growing interest in the United States in saving the historic vessel, among a diverse group of persons and organizations representing her diverse history. The combination of her rich North American history and her transatlantic heritage was and is unique. Approaches were made to acquire her for the South Street Seaport Museum and later for the Bartlett Exploration Association of Philadelphia. Henrique Mendes had always hoped that she would return with honor to the land of her birth. On June 11, 1976, she set sail from the port of Mindelo, captained by Marcos Lopes. Engine trouble developed about 13 miles off the coast. That incident led to a six-year campaign to restore Ernestina, both here and in Cape Verde. Cape Verde spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the restoration. Local Friends groups and hundreds of volunteers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Philadelphia raised funds to support the restoration, expanding the base of support and interest joined the National Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey, co-led by Laura Pires-Hester and Michael Platzer and formed at the National Maritime Historical Society. In 1982, the Republic of Cape Verde restored Ernestina and presented her to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a gift to the people of the United States, returning her to the land of her construction. When Ernestina received U.S. Coast Guard certification in 1987, she plied the waters as a sail training ship, living history museum, and goodwill ambassador. Between 1988 and 1989, Ernestina visited ports up and down the eastern seaboard and northeast into Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, returning to her former homeports while educating a new generation of seafarers. From 1990 through 2004, Ernestina sailed regularly from spring to autumn conducting an extensive range of educational opportunities, spanning from dockside programs during port visits to day sails, and extended sails of up to two weeks in length. A joint effort with the New Bedford National Whaling Historical Park and the Historical American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record HABS/HAER is underway to create a historic structures report to document the historical and architectural significance of the schooner, including historical narrative, line drawings, and photographic documentation, completed in September 2008.


13 Linear Feet (20 manuscript boxes, 2 video boxes, 1 small box, 2 oversized boxes, and 1 medium box )

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association, June 17, 2011, accession # 11-29.

Processing Information

Processed in 2015 by Taylor Newton ’16

MC 163, Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey archives collection
Taylor Newton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
English and Portuguese

Repository Details

Part of the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Repository

285 Old Westport Rd.
N. Dartmouth MA 02747 USA