FHS Teams up with “REAL Pirates”!
by Holly Hurd
A few months back, Trustee Guy Blanchard asked the Portland Science Center to donate tickets for their new exhibit “Real Pirates” to the Gala auction. Guy mentioned that the Sales & Marketing front man Matt Stone would love to work with FHS on a project. Enter the amazing pirate collaboration!
Freeport has a pirate history through our privateer the Dash, commissioned by President James Madison to “subdue, seize and take” British vessels during the War of 1812. Dash was adept at doing just that. One of the war’s most successful legal pirating vessels, she holds the record for capturing six prizes in just 3 weeks!
Dash was built at Porter’s Landing in Freeport by Master Builder James Brewer for Seward, Samuel and William Porter in 1812. A fast topsail schooner, later modified to a hermaphrodite brig with a special ringtail sail, Dash made several runs to the West Indies exchanging lumber and other local products for profitable cargoes, in addition to her pirating ventures.
Freeport Historical Society cares for and displays a set of British Naval issue cutlasses and their scabbards captured by Dash. The privateer discovered the dismasted British vessel Thinks I To Myself in a cove near Wiscasset when the fog lifted. Some of Dash’s gunports were outfitted with logs painted black to fool the British into believing the brigantine was more heavily armed than it was. Consequently, Thinks I To Myself quickly surrendered, and Dash carried its prize and the sloop’s crew to Portland in October of 1814.
Owner of the cutlasses and scabbards Philip C. Means inherited them from his great, great grandfather Joseph Porter, and has graciously loaned them for display near our unique Hawk’s Nest model of the famous privateer since 2004. Phil is now living in Arkansas, and when I contacted him to ask permission to display his family heirlooms at the Science Center as part of their “Real Pirates” exhibit, he happily agreed. Not only that, he enthusiastically plans to attend the exhibit in late September when he visits the area, and mentioned that he is “ready to officially gift them to FHS.” A treasure for our growing collections to be sure!
Meanwhile, the precious booty is on display at the Portland Science Center through October 29, proudly telling the story of legal pirating, amongst the treasure found in the shipwreck of the slave ship turned pirate the Whydah. The exhibit is fantastic, and FHS is honored to share in the interpretive history of this era of plunder on the high seas.