Historical American Ship Master's Certificate of Competency 1867
Maritime Relic Has Been Sold. Thank you!
HISTORICAL ANTIQUE AMERICAN SHIP MASTER'S CERTIFICATE
OF COMPETENCY 1867
This is a fine quality official
America's early maritime history awarded to a Civil War veteran Union
captain. It is perfect for the serious collector of nautical documents.
PICTURES WERE TAKEN THROUGH
Framed size 15 3/" x 12
Viewable area 13 1/2" x 9 7/8"
is a rare document awarded to a
prominent ship captain attesting to his competency. It is only the
second of its type we have come across since 2005. Then engraved document, has a chain link border
with hawse pipe at the top two corners. "American Ship Master's Association " is engraved on the upper portion of the certificate
with the Serial No. 4129 in the upper left. Below, on the right, is an engraving of a full-rigged ship under
storm canvas to the right, New York. May 22nd, 1867. New York was home of the Association and site of the professional
examinations which are recorded sideways on the left side. Centered is the name of the Spiro V. Bennis over AN APPROVED
SHIP MASTER. The signature of the certificate holder was required, as were the signatures of various officials of
the society. In this case, the certification of passing the exam on May 22, 1865 signed by B.A. Sheldon, Examiner in
Nautical Science, and countersigned by W.W. Story, Examiner in Seamanship. Under the word "COUNCIL", there are there partially
legible signatures across the center, and below what is believed to be signatures of Ambrose Snow and Geo. W. Blunt
and below those of P.H. Upton, Sec and J.D Hones, Pres. (George W Blunt was the founder and owner of the famous nautical instrument
and publishing company which bore his name). There are four beautifully engraved pictures interspersed around the signature
fields, three of which depict sailors at various work, and one a resting female with trident.
certificate showing intricate engraving and council officers
CAPTAIN SPIRO V BENNIS
was a Civil War Navy veteran and sea captain who saw
service in the Civil War as acting master of the USS Antona, USS
Aroostook & USS Stockdale, all of which operated mostly in
Mobile Bay. He also took part in the Fish River expedition of 1864.
Afterwards he served as captain of the New
York & Cuba Mail Steamship Co's., SS
Niagara before she was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy to serve
in the Spanish American War. In August 1985,Captain Bennis rescued
the crew of the German Bark Caroline Suzanne during a violent storm off
the coast of Florida. He was awarded a gold watch by Emperor William for
his heroic serviced. After this he was put in charge
of building two steamships for the
Ward Line in Delaware.
The NY&CSC was a subsidiary
of the Ward Line whose operations dated
back from 1840 to 1954.
He died in 1892 in California.
good overall condition with some discoloration to the paper and
fading of the ink. The engraving is sharp and clear and the signatures vary in
clarity because of differences in penmanship. However, most
of the officials are well documented and can be identified from the
associations records. penmanship. An unframed photocopy of the framed picture
as as shown below is included.
size sections of certificate showing details and signature
unframed copy of this picture of Captain Spiro V. Bennis is included
The American Ship masters'
Association was organized in 1861 to improve the American Mercantile
Marine Service and the general skill and moral character of those
attached to the seaman's profession. Licenses had been issued
intermittently by the United States Steamboat Inspection Service, but no
continuous effort had been made to insure the skill and character of
ship masters until John D. Hones, one of the signatories on the above
certificate, called together maritime insurers, shipbuilders,
government officials and maritime experts to form the American
Ship masters' Association in 1861. The ASA began issuing certificates to
qualified mates and masters of sailing vessels even before its
incorporation in 1862, receiving the first application from Captain
Isaiah Pratt in September 1861. To receive a certificate, seamen had to
meet rigorous requirements, including six years experience at sea and a
high score on the nautical science and seaman ship examinations
administered by the ASA. Applicants also had to produce testimonials to
their good character. Ship masters whose qualifications were exceptional
were designated "extra matters." Each certificate was valid for one year
and could be renewed annually. Seamen retained their ASA numbers for
life; no number was ever reissued to another man. The engravings and ornamentation varied throughout the years that
these Certificates were issued.
While ASA certificates were not officially required of ship masters, they did serve
as recommendations to ship-owners. A vessel with an ASA-certified master was more likely to find favorable insurance coverage
than one whose master was not listed in the ASA's Register of Approved Ship masters. The ASA continued its program of certification
until 1900, by which time Federal law required that most ship masters be licensed by the federal government of the United
States. It then became known as the American Bureau of Shipping which is still in existence.
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