Searsport Sea Captains

This collection of 284 photographs of sea captains from Searsport was compiled by Colonel Frederick Frazier Black, USA (1876-1953). Accompanying each photograph is a brief biographical sketch, including the names of ships commanded.

Searsport produced more shipmasters than any town of its size in the world, and was once home to one-tenth of the deepwater ship’s captains in the American Merchant Marine. The lives of the captains included in this collection span from the late 1700s to the mid-twentieth century.

The son of Joshua W. and Esther (Bickmore) Black, Col. Black was born September 26, 1876, in Searsport. He began his education in Searsport schools and attended the University of Maine as a member of the class of 1896. He graduated from West Point in 1902 and spent his career in the U.S. Army, serving in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Black later served at Fort Andrews and Fort Strong in Boston Harbor, then commanded the Army Reserve Corps in Bangor. Later he was assigned as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the University of Vermont at Burlington, and commanded the 5th Infantry at Fort Williams, Portland Harbor, Maine. His final assignment was as Officer in Charge of Reserve Affairs, New England District, Boston.

Upon retirement, he returned to Searsport, where Penobscot Marine Museum asked him to collect information about the town’s sea captains, along with photographs or other pictures of as many as possible. Black spent the next nine years in diligent research to ensure the accuracy of the records he collected. In addition to interviews with Searsport and other area residents, his sources included:

  • obituaries in the files of the Belfast Republican Journal
  • American Merchant Ships by Frederick C. Matthews
  • The Sailing Ships of New England by John Robinson and George Francis Dow
  • The Down Easters by Basil Lubbock
  • Sailing Days on the Penobscot by George S. Wasson and Lincoln Colcord
  • American Lloyd’s List of Sailing Vessels
  • Penobscot Marine Museum archives
  • Carver Memorial Library
  • U. S. Censuses of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880
  • cemeteries in Searsport
  • numerous family genealogies and personal scrapbooks

Colonel Black’s collection was published as the book Searsport Sea Captains.

Gatherings of Searsport Ship Masters in the 1920s, from the book Searsport Sea Captains by Col. Frederick F. Black.