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300-Year-Old Ship Surfaces in Old Town Alexandria

While digging up the site of a new hotel, workers in Alexandria, Virginia unearthed a piece of maritime history: the bow of a ship dating back to the mid-to-late 18th century.

According to the Washington Post, the ship was found during the construction of a hotel near the Potomac River waterfront. (This area also recently yielded the foundations of a warehouse built in 1755, as well as several old privies filled with pottery, glass, bones, and shoes.) It’s nearly 50 feet long and still contains part of the ship's original hull’s keel, frame, stern, and flooring.

Archaeologists think the vessel once carried heavy cargo or served as a military ship. Colonists might have buried it to fill in a cove and sand flats at Port Lumley, an area where the Potomac’s waters extend towards the shore. It was scuttled sometime between 1775 and 1798, the paper notes.

The ship was a surprise to archaeologists because there are no known historical records of its existence. It’s also remarkably well preserved, thanks to the fact that it wasn’t touched by oxygen after it was buried.

“It’s very rare. This almost never happens,” Dan Baicy, an archaeologist overseeing the construction site, told the Post. “In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there’s so much disturbance.”

Naval archaeologists have also examined the ship and currently are in the process of removing it from the site. They’ll store it in tanks or a natural body of water until conservationists at a preservation lab can take a good look at it. Someday, it might go on display—although project officials say that would require special funding. To learn more about the find, watch the video above.

All images courtesy of YouTube 

[h/t Washington Post, GeoBeats News]

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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