Capt. Bob Bartlett memorabilia on exhibit
If 2010 is John Guy’s year, then 2009 belonged to Capt. Robert A. (Bob) Bartlett.
The current celebrations in Cupids (originally Cupers Cove) have overshadowed what’s going on at Hawthorne Cottage, Captain Bob’s home in neighbouring Brigus.
About 100 visitors daily have toured the Cupids Legacy Centre since June 14, with a total of 4,000 visitors in its first two months. By contrast, the Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site in Brigus has had about 80 visitors daily.
Last year’s celebrations in Brigus focused on events in the frenetic life and career of Captain Bob. The Newfoundland navigator and Arctic explorer was touted for his many and varied accomplishments.
For example, he was applauded for his decisive leadership in the doomed Karluk Expedition of 1914.
On a downside, another explorer, Robert E. Peary, refused to share with Captain Bob the glory of being the first to reach the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909. Captain Bob stoically accepted the supreme disappointment.
Now that the Cupids celebrations are winding down, with the Cupids Cove Soiree only a memory, a trip to Brigus may be in order.
There are currently on exhibit at Hawthorne Cottage several items worthy of observation, adding to the overall portrait of Captain Bob.
The exhibition in the Green Room features models of Captain Bob’s most famous vessels. Varrick Cox, a model shipwright in St. John’s, crafted the schooner Effie M. Morrissey and the S.S. Roosevelt.
“ They have been created in the same scale, so one can compare the relative size of the two ships,” said Catherine Dempsey, former executive director of the province’s Historic Sites Association. “ They ... give us a great look at two vessels that helped to open up the Arctic.”
An added appeal is an original piece of wood from the Morrissey.
“ The (Schooner) Ernestina-Morrissey Association (in New Bedford, Massachusetts) were so disappointed that the ship was not in good enough condition to take part in celebrating Bartlett last year and, when going through refit, they sent me an original piece of wood that had been taken out during refit,” explained Dempsey.
Another unique item on exhibit is tied to Wheaties, which has been advertised as “the breakfast of champions” for over 70 years.
“ The Wheaties card is another story,” Dempsey said. “ We have known for years that Captain Bob was featured on the Wheaties box. Unfortunately, nobody had seen it!”
The box, which hit cereal shelves around 1935, isn’t even included in an archival collection at General Mills, the manufacturer.
Dempsey went on eBay and typed in “Bartlett” and “ Wheaties.”
To her delight, the Bartlett trading card appeared on the screen. The owner was asking $500. Dempsey offered $5, but got the item for $10.
Later, another collector, Dean Williams, tracked down and purchased the whole side of the Wheaties box, which displays several Bartlett images.
“It’s the Holy Grail of Wheaties boxes,” Dempsey told Debbie Hanlon, a St. John’s councillor. Having a picture on the famed cereal packaging is an indication of the interest explorers and northern expeditions once garnered, Dempsey added.
Bartlett memorabilia continues to circulate. Evidently there is a second trading card, this one from cigarette packaging, as well as artifacts from people who perished on the Karluk.
Eighteen-year-old Nakita Ryan, a summer interpreter at Hawthorne Cottage, points to a model of the Effie M. Morrissey, created by Varrick F. Cox.
The Wheaties cereal box with images of Captain Bob Bartlett, the Brigus-born explorer.
Left: An original piece of wood from the Effie M. Morrissey, one of Captain Bob’s most famous vessels, on display in Hawthorne Cottage’s Green Room. Below: A model of the S.S. Roosevelt, crafted for Hawthorne Cottage by Varrick F. Cox.
The Wheaties cereal collector’s trading card devoted to Captain Bob is on exhibit in Hawthorne Cottage, Brigus.