News Press Releases

18th Annual International Sea Glass Festival

18th Annual International Sea Glass Festival 

Saturday, July 27–Sunday, July 28 

Mystic, CT — The 18th Annual International Sea Glass Festival, the premier sea and beach glass event in the country celebrating the history and beauty of genuine sea and beach glass, returns for a second year to Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut, on July 27–28, 2024. This two-day festival features artisans, speakers, a sea glass contest, and more!  

“We are thrilled to be able to present artisans creating one-of-a-kind pieces made from some of the most beautiful sea glass from around the world,” says César Williams-Padín, President of the International Sea Glass Association. “We invite visitors to discover unique treasures and support artists as they showcase their one-of-a-kind pieces. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a curious enthusiast, there’s something for everyone at this two-day event. We’d like to thank the Mystic Seaport Museum and the entire Mystic community for welcoming us back to celebrate the fun, beauty, and history of sea glass in this coastal setting.” 

Every year, sea glass collectors and artists come together to immerse themselves in a world of exquisite sea glass creations crafted by talented artists, while gaining insights into the captivating world of sea and beach glass from industry experts. Sea and beach glass collectors will show off their beachcombing collections and share their knowledge in the Collectors Showcase. Speakers will share their expertise and experiences in a lecture series in the Tom Clagett Boat Shed. Visitors are invited to bring their sea glass finds for identification and to enter the annual Sea Glass Contest. On Sunday, winners, including the “Find of the Year” award, will be announced. Over 50 sea glass artisans, craftspeople, and authors from around the world will be selling their sea and beach glass related products all weekend. 

“Mystic Seaport Museum is thrilled to host the annual International Sea Glass Festival for the second year in a row,” said Margaret Milnes, Vice President of Visitor Journey at Mystic Seaport Museum. “With 40+ vendors, talks, and a sea glass contest, this unique event offers a rare opportunity to explore the beauty and artistry of sea glass, each piece telling a story of its own. We invite the community to join us in celebrating these ocean treasures and to learn more about the International Sea Glass Association and their mission!” 

This family-friendly event is included in Museum admission and free for Museum Members. Tickets can be validated for entrance on the second day. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit the Museum’s website. 

The International Sea Glass Association (ISGA), a non-profit organization established in 2005, is dedicated to championing sea and beach glass collectors and fostering community engagement. Their mission is to educate collectors, consumers, and retailers on the intrinsic value of genuine, unaltered sea and beach glass, while advocating for the preservation and restoration of global waterways and coastlines. 


News Press Releases

Wells Boat Hall


New Wells Boat Hall to Be Unveiled in 2025, Pieter Nicholson Roos Appointed Curator, Generous Support Provided By Stan and Nancy Wells 

Mystic, CT. [June 28, 2024]Mystic Seaport Museum is pleased to announce the establishment of the Wells Boat Hall to exhibit the American Watercraft Collection, an estimated $15 million renovation to convert a section of the historic Rossie Mill—currently used as a storage facility—into a dynamic, publicly accessible, exhibition hall highlighting the Museum’s collection of historic small boats. The exhibition, curated by longtime cultural institutional leader Pieter Nicholson Roos, will capture the progression of American nautical innovation, showcasing the unique social history of each vessel and revealing the scope of the extensive collection to the public for the first time.   

“We are delighted to bring the American Watercraft Collection out of storage and into the public eye for our visitors and supporters,” says Peter Armstrong, President and CEO of Mystic Seaport Museum. “This renovation not only increases the size of our accessible campus but also allows us to unravel the stories that lie within these amazing vessels.” 

The Wells Boat Hall will exhibit over 100 vessels, seldom seen by the public in the last 40 years. Estimated to be the largest and the most diverse small craft and engine collection in the world, the exhibition will feature the first vessel acquired by the Museum, Annie, a 1931 sandbagger, and will span 182 years from an indigenous dugout canoe to a modern-day Mini Transat racer. The public will be invited to engage in the stories of vessels in the collection from labor to leisure, from adventure to commerce, and beyond. Stories will include the Analuisa, a fishing boat used by Cuban refugees to escape to Florida in the summer of 1994, and Tango, the first boat pedaled across the Atlantic and holding the record as the fastest human-powered transatlantic crossing, completed in 40 days, pedaled by Connecticut resident Dwight Collins. 

Located on the corner of Rossie Pentway and Greenmanville Avenue, and directly opposite the Museum’s Thompson Exhibition Building, the Wells Boat Hall will be housed in the historic Rossie Mill, built in 1898 as a velvet factory and once the largest employer in Mystic. The 35,000 square-foot warehouse will be renovated to include a new and ADA-compliant visitor entrance with a columned canopy, a new roof reflecting design typical of New England mill towers, and a fully integrated exhibition space. The renovation will allow the Museum to care for and exhibit the watercraft and related artifacts in an environment that showcases their importance and maintains their legacy while maintaining this historic building. The Wells Boat Hall will also double as a flexible community space for lectures and presentations, as well as new educational programs initiated by the American Institute of Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport Museum.   

Pieter Nicholson Roos has been appointed the Wells Boat Hall Exhibition Curator and will curate the exhibit. Roos, the former director of the Mark Twain House and Museum and a strategic advisor on climate change, will provide his decades of experience in preservation and maritime expertise. 

“It’s with great excitement that I join Mystic Seaport Museum in unveiling its cherished collection to the public after years in storage,” shared Roos. “With the launch of the Wells Boat Hall, we will allow visitors to embark on a journey through time, finding their own connections to the array of stories on view and ensuring that these historic boats are preserved and remain in our contemporary consciousness.” 

The American Watercraft Collection will be housed in the Wells Boat Hall, named after local residents and longtime Museum Trustee Stan Wells and his wife Nancy Wells. It is scheduled to open to the public in the fall of 2025.

About Mystic Seaport Museum   

Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship CHARLES W. MORGAN. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on Facebook, X, YouTube, and Instagram.  


Media Contacts:   

For images, further background or interviews, please contact:  

Katrina Stewart  

Senior Account Coordinator, Visual Arts  

Blue Medium  

T: +1-212-675-1800  



Sophia Matsas  

Vice President of Marketing & Communications
Mystic Seaport Museum
T: +1-860-572-5317  


News Press Releases

2024 Artists in Residence

Artist-in-Residence Program at Mystic Seaport Museum, hosted in collaboration with the Center for American Marine Art

Mystic Seaport Museum welcomes four artists in residence this summer. Visitors are invited to visit each artist to learn more about their unique techniques and processes as they work in Clift Block in the Seaport Village. Much of the artwork on view is available for sale.

Joyful Enriquez, June 7–21, 2024

Joyful Enriquez is a marine wildlife artist specializing in paintings of the underwater world. Her energetic oil paintings capture the essence of life underwater and its unique lighting, atmosphere, and movement. Joyful will be at the Museum daily June 7 through 21 in Clift Block in the Museum’s Seaport Village.

Tom Swimm, July 9–16, 2024

A self-taught artist who has been painting since childhood, Tom Swimm’s work conveys a remarkable realism that gives one a sense of “being there.” Upon first viewing, people frequently comment that his paintings look almost photographic, but after studying them, his work reveals properties that are distinctly impressionistic. Tom will be at the Museum daily July 9 through 16 in Clift Block in the Museum’s Seaport Village.

Brechin Morgan, July 16-August 4, 2024

Renowned maritime artist Brechin Morgan lived many a sailor’s dream when he sailed his 27-foot cutter rigged sailboat Otter around the world, visiting 32 countries and traveling 32,000 miles. He has been painting from the 18 watercolor sketchbooks he filled on the voyage, the ten-volume journal, logs, memory, and boxes of reference photos. Summer sailing trips in New England waters and the vista here at Mystic Seaport Museum provide continued inspiration. Brechin will be at the Museum daily July 16 through August 4 in Clift Block in the Museum’s Seaport Village.

Serena Bates, August 6–10 and 13–17

Sculptor Serena Bates studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art and considers herself to be a storyteller. A representational artist, she has an affinity for portraits and animals. She primarily works in clay, bronze, and stone. Serena will be at the Museum daily August 6 through 10 and August 13 through 17 in Clift Block in the Museum’s Seaport Village.

The Center for American Marine Art

The Center for American Marine Art is dedicated to bringing endangered historic American marine art to the forefront of our identity as a country through documenting and imaging works using the most advanced cultural heritage technology and techniques. They are creating a free database featuring high-resolution 3D images for use by museums, scholars, and the public, and developing virtual and national traveling exhibitions.


Sailors Ditty Box Returned to Antarctica for Historic Anniversary

Suzana Machado D’Oliveira, Expedition Director, Abercrombie & Kent and Alexander Bulazel, Trustee, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut  (Photo credit: Christopher Ian McGregor)

Two hundred and three years ago Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, American seal hunter, explorer, sailing captain, and ship designer sailed down to Marguerite Bay below the Antarctic Circle to discover what became known as Stonington Island, named after Palmer’s hometown of Stonington, Connecticut. The Island would eventually accommodate US and British Antarctic bases. This voyage was Palmer’s farthest point south during his historic explorations of the continent from 1819 to 1831. In 1820 Palmer was credited with the sighting of the Antarctic mainland peninsula from a hilltop on Deception Island while anchored in Whalers Bay. A portion of the peninsula now bears the name Palmer Land. 

Sailors ditty box from Palmer’s 1820 voyage.

A ditty box from the Mystic-built sloop Hero, sailed by Palmer to Deception Island, is part of the Mystic Seaport Museum collections and is the oldest known artifact to exist from the Antarctic age of discovery, along with Palmer’s logbook housed in the Library of Congress. This 7″ x 3″ wooden ditty box from Hero was donated to the Museum in 1950. It is ornately carved and has the inscription, “L.B. Stonington Slp. Hero.” It is believed that the L. B. likely stands for Stanton L. Burdick a 17-year-old crew member who sailed with Palmer in the 1819-20 season to Deception Island and again in 1821.

Mystic Seaport Museum celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of Palmer’s sighting of the Antarctic mainland with the return of the ditty box to Deception Island’s Whalers Bay in January 2020, months ahead of the 200th anniversary. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the second historic bicentennial celebration of Captain Palmer’s farthest drive south to Stonington Island, Antarctica, for Mystic Seaport Museum and the community of Stonington, Connecticut; however, on January 25 of this year Alexander Bulazel, Trustee and Chair of the Exhibitions Committee for Mystic Seaport Museum, in association with luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, once again returned the ditty box to Stonington Island, Antarctica, for the historic anniversary celebration of Palmer’s exploratory voyage over two hundred and three years ago. 

News about the 2020 return of the ditty box to Deception Island can be read at https://mysticseaport.org/news/sailors-ditty-box-returns-to-antarctica-200-years-later/. 


New Ticketing System Set to Enhance Your Museum Experience

We’re excited to share that over the past eight months the Museum staff has been working diligently to implement a new ticketing and online order system that will significantly improve your interactions with the Museum. This system will elevate your user experience by providing a quicker and smoother checkout processes, streamlined communication, and a reduction in our environmental footprint. 

In order to activate these benefits, you will need to create a new online account. The process is simple and should only require a few minutes of your time. 

Follow these steps to create your account:  

  1. Click on this link 

  2. Enter your email and set your password.

  3. Complete your account information.

  4. Select your interests. This will help us to provide the information that is most relevant to you!


  6. A confirmation will be sent to the email provided. 

For members, follow these steps to create your account:  

  1. Click on this link.

  2. Enter your email address in the email field. 

  3. You will receive an email with a link to reset your password.

  4. Create your new password

Once your account is created, you will have the ability to update your account and preferences, see your upcoming events and get access to your e-tickets. For members, you will also have access to relevant member information.


Mystic Seaport Museum Magazine | Spring 2023

Spring/Summer 2023

This issue of the Mystic Seaport Museum Magazine features our newest exhibition, Alexis Rockman: Oceanus, and articles on Blue Technology, the Blue Economy, and introduced species, highlighting a shift in perspective at the Museum to raise awareness and inspire conversations around the critical global issues that face our oceans due to the impacts of maritime activities as part of our collective cultural, social, and economic heritage. Also included is news from the Shipyard on the L.A. Dunton and Coronet projects, Sabino’s return to the water, and much more!

News The Sea Connects Us

Beads and Water

How My Internship at Mystic Seaport Museum Brought Me Closer to My Tribe’s Beading Heritage

By Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe (Ojibwe)

Photo by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe. At Tomaquag Museum. Wampum and beaded medallions on a belt. Ca. 2000s

I was born in New London, raised in Groton, and have been coming to Mystic Seaport Museum since I was three. It’s always been a special place for me, so when I heard of the Museum’s internship program that was centered on the theme of Reimagining New England Histories, with the goal of including diverse narratives in the museum, I jumped at the chance to be involved. As a Native American woman, I have rarely seen this done, and I felt that this was something that I needed to be a part of. The experience has been far more impactful than I could have realized. During the internship, I had the opportunity to work with a Mystic Seaport Museum community partner, Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. This museum is a Native American-run space that does not have specific ties to any one tribe. The Tomaquag Museum tells a cohesive story of the local tribes of New England. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding and staffing, their collection hadn’t been inventoried in over 40 years. During the summer, my intern team and I were able to inventory their entire collection of belongings (The term belonging is used when describing artifacts in a collection to acknowledge personal connection of the people and communities who created and cared for them.

While doing this inventory, I was able to experience many amazing belongings. Working in a small room I got to know the beadwork intimately. Though not alive, the presence of the beaders that had stitched and worn the beadwork was still there. The beadwork has a life of its own, it opens a window into the thoughts and feelings of the beader. With every box I took off the shelves, opening and unwrapping the beadwork, I always felt my heartbeat get a little faster. While reflecting on this experience, I realized that the beaded makizin (Anishinaabek for moccasins) that I worked with were the first I had handled that were not mass-produced. While wearing protective gloves to prevent oils from my skin from getting onto the beadwork, I would run my hand over the beads softly, admiring their craftsmanship and how the beads caught the light and reflected patterns. The buckskin that these moccasins were made out of was almost always dried out from age, and the horsewoman in me wanted to use saddle soap to rehydrate them (though that would not have been a good idea).  With the contribution of my research to accompany these belongings, I hope the presence of these past beaders can shine through all the brighter.

As I inventoried the belongings, I felt a strong connection to the beadwork of the northeastern coastal tribes; although I am an Anishinaabe of the White Earth reservation in Minnesota. Minnesota is referred to as the land of ten thousand lakes, and while over 5,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the people have their own connection to water and waterways. My grandmother was raised by her grandparents and grew up on our reservation near Elbow Lake. Her grandparents raised her after her mother died at a young age from tuberculosis. They taught her the traditional ways of their ancestors. This included learning the language, making her a fluent speaker of Anishinaabek. (A note to the reader: Anishinaabe, Anishinaaba, and Anishinaabek are used interchangeably for the tribe depending on the region. Generally Anishinaabek is used in reference to the language). At the age of eight, her father moved her off the reservation causing her to lose much of her knowledge about our language and culture. Because of this, my mom and I did not get the chance to connect to the reservation or our heritage in the same way my grandmother was able to. My grandmother was never taught beadwork, so I was never able to learn beading from her or my mother, the traditional way of learning to bead. The year before my internship at Mystic Seaport Museum I bought an earring beading kit from another Native beader and began my own beadwork journey to connect with my Anishinaabe heritage.

During the first part of my internship, we were encouraged to go to the Educational Powwow at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Going to this powwow allowed me to see more contemporary beadwork that people were wearing. This is how I met a Shinnecock beader. We struck up a conversation over the beadwork that she had for sale and was working on. I am known by many to be a very shy person, but my ancestors must have given me some courage that day. Talking with her I told her about how I was learning to bead but was not very good. And she encouraged me to keep beading. Through beading, I made a new friend.

Gratefully, after the summer internship at Mystic Seaport Museum concluded, I was able to extend my work through the fall to work more with the beadwork at the Tomaquag Museum. My research was originally focused on what in the collection are Anishinaabe belongings or belongings inspired by Anishinaabe art and tools. My first step was to make a list of what I thought was or could be connected to one of these two categories. As I researched, I realized that what I knew most about and was connected to the deepest was the beadwork. In order to truly understand the difference between Anishinaabe beadwork and other tribes’ beadwork I needed to research the unique characteristics of each. The Anishinaabe are known for floral beadwork designs. As I studied and researched this beadwork, I observed that Anishinaabe traditional beadwork is fluid, circular, and flows, with lots of vines that were often made with opaque white beads. It is often stitched on black or red velvet, and occasionally on a mixture of buckskin and velvet. Flowers tend to be outlined in a different color than the flowers themselves. The petals tend to be oval in shape, and the beadwork is balanced but not mirrored and has S-curve motifs. The Anishinaabe are a woodland tribe. Though different from the woodland tribes of Connecticut and Rhode Island, the Anishinaabe share the use of floral patterns in their beadwork.

Photo by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe. Parts from an Anishinaabe-style beaded moccasin. Tomaquag Museum collection, ca. early-mid 1900s.

Beadwork from the tribes in Connecticut and Rhode Island is different from Anishinaabe beadwork, as it incorporates wampum as well as the pan-Indian style of beading. Wampum are purple and white beads made out of the quahog (hard shell) clam. Traditionally these beads were used as gifts and to document agreements. Wampum belts are highly prized. When the Dutch arrived on Turtle Island (Turtle Island, the Native American name for North America, comes from the creation story about North America being on the back of a turtle.) they saw how prized wampum were and soon started to use it as currency, though wampum is not a currency in Native American culture. Coming into its own in the early 1900s, pan-Indian beadwork is a cohesive style that incorporates the styles of tribes across the United States in distinctive more geometric and western-themed depictions.

Photo by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe .  Broken quahog shells, ca. 2023.

Beading existed on Turtle Island long before the arrival of Europeans but this arrival marked a big change in beadwork. Before Europeans, beads were made out of seeds, animal bones, animal teeth, shells, and stones. The Anishinaabe are still renowned for the use of the natural material of porcupine quills. With European arrival came glass seed beads from Italy which brought a variety of colors to the beadwork of Native Americans. This portion of Native American beading history was discussed in Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass which closed on February 27. The beaded top hat embellished with wampum pictured below was on loan from the Tomaquag Museum. Also on loan was a necklace constructed from wampum and beads. These belongings are modern so color usage and style are different from older beadwork pieces. Historically, the harder the color was to achieve the more valuable the bead was. The value of beads would also change from tribe to tribe as different tribes valued different colors. But across all tribes, the color that was highly prized was sky blue as it was not something that was achievable in dyes that were available on Turtle Island.

(left) Beaded top hat by Yolanda Smith, Seaconke Wampanoag. (right) Trade bead necklace by Dan Loudfoot Simonds, Mashantucket Pequot (not recognized). Sargent, Whistler & Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano. Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum.
Photo by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe. Beaded top hat by Yolanda Smith, Seaconke Wampanoag. Top view of hat.

When I first started beading I was making earrings either fringe or powwow style. Beading anything but earrings was intimidating to me as it was so much more time and work. This feeling changed when working with the beadwork at Tomaquag. To feel them, to see them up close, I was inspired by the familiarity of these new beading techniques. Fringe requires only one needle, beads, and thread. While powwow style earrings require the two-needle method, where one thread holds the beads and the other tacks them down onto the backing every two or three beads. The two-needle method is used on larger pieces of beadwork for intricate designs. While the two-needle method sounds more complicated it is in fact just as easy as the fringe earrings. The process of making both these styles of earrings is different, but both are equally important to Native American culture. Another method, one I have yet to try, called lazy or lain stitch is used to cover a larger piece, like makizin, at a faster rate. To do this the beads are stitched down every seven to eight beads in line.  There is also loom beading which requires a special loom to weave the beads into one piece. This can be used to make necklaces, bracelets, and lines of beadwork that can be attached to clothes. While there are many other styles of beadwork as well, the ones that I have studied at Tomaquag are lazy/lain stitch, two-needle, and loom beading. The different styles of beading can be overwhelming, but they each are used to achieve a different goal in a beader’s work.

Photo and beading by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy, White Earth Anishinaabe. In progress loom-beaded belt, ca. 2022-2023 Colors inspired by Anishinaabe beading pattern from Beads To Buckskin Volume Two.

As the summer progressed, I gained more confidence.  I never imagined I would attempt to stitch a larger floral beaded design. These are what many imagine when they think of Anishinabek beading. I created the floral work you see in the image for the shoulder pad of a bag for my fiance, my biggest cheerleader. As he saw me growing, he made me a larger bead loom so I could create larger beadwork. I decided I wanted to make a belt. I used a pattern from Beads To Buckskins Volume Two by Peggy Sue Henry. This pattern is in the pan-Indian style, but the colors are inspired by my Anishinabek heritage.

For a long time, I have wanted to bead a pair of makizins that belonged to my grandmother. After her passing in 2012 from cancer I was given her makizins (we both had big feet and I am the only one in the family they fit). While they were not handmade, they belonged to my grandmother and still hold a great connection to her.  I think of her when I wear them. Before the work I did at Tomaquag, I was nervous about doing anything with her makizins, as I felt I didn’t know the first thing about beading them. When working with all the beautifully decorated makizins at Tomaquag it was clear, I had to learn to bead my grandmother’s makizins. After nearly a year on this challenging journey, today, when I hold the pair of moccasins from my grandmother, and I eye the blank canvas of the empty hide on top yearning for color and light … I have a feeling I might be ready.

I am so grateful for all that I was able to learn and want to say a big miigwetch (Thank you) to the staff at Mystic Seaport Museum, the staff at Tomaquag Museum, and of course my supportive fiancé.

Photo and beading by Cheyenne Morning Song Tracy,White Earth Anishinaabe. Beaded shoulder pad for a messenger bag, ca. 2022, owned by Antonio C. Pereira.

Visit Cheyenne’s art online at Morning Song Beading.


Barkwell, Lawrence J. “Characteristics of Metis Beadwork.” The Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture, September 11, 2013. https://www.metismuseum.ca/.

“Beadwork.” Crafting Idaho, 2012. https://crafting.idahohistory.org/beadwork/.

D’Alleva, Anne. Native American Arts & Cultures. Davis Arts & Cultures Series. Worcester, Mass.: Davis Publications, 1993.

Dean, David. Beading in the Native American Tradition. Interweave Press. Loveland, Colorado, 2002.

Densmore, Frances. Chippewa Customs, 1929.

Henry, Peggy Sue. Beads To Buckskins: Volume Two. Jayhwak Tock and FurShop. Hill City, Kansas, 1989.

Smith, Monte and Michele VanSickle. Traditional Indian Beading and Leather Crafts. Eagle’s View Publishing. Liberty, UT.

Thao, Susan. “Worn Within: What is the difference between Dakota & Ojibwe beadwork?” TPT Originals. 2021.

News The Sea Connects Us

Joe Carstairs: The Fastest Woman on Water

1920’s Queer Speedboat Racer Joe Carstairs: Dubbed “The Fastest Woman on Water”

By Elizabeth Ferrara

In 1920, Joe Carstairs was racing against American Gar Wood for the Harmsworth British International Motor-boat Trophy. Joe was in the lead when, “without warning, her boat leaped into the air and plunged nose first into the water throwing both Miss Carstairs and her mechanic out …” (Summerscale, 106) Disaster and loss aside, “in her average of 64.089 miles, she made a new record for England, scoring the fastest time of any British contestant.” (Sabine 41)

Marion Barbara “Joe” Carstairs was born in London on February 1, 1900, to Frances Evelyn Bostwick and Captain Albert Carstairs. Evelyn Bostwick was from a family of Standard Oil heirs and Captain Carstairs, a Scotsman, was part of the Royal Irish Rifles. From her mother’s side, Joe inherited enough money to fund her love of boats, support her racing friends, and let her become the “Queen” of her own island when she purchased Whale Cay in the Bahamas. She usually dressed as a man, had tattooed arms, and loved machines. Throughout her ninety-three years, Joe lived a life full of thrills, adventure, and speed.  

Joe’s father left the family after her parents’ divorce when she was a baby. Her mother had problems with drugs and alcohol which put a strain on their mother-daughter relationship and led to their estrangement. At age eleven, Joe was sent by her mother on an ocean liner from Southampton, England, to New York – over 3,000 miles – to attend an all-girls boarding school in Stamford, Connecticut. Joe showed her strength and resilience by not giving up or letting her mother’s temperament or judgment get in her way. In fact, her trip across the ocean is what inspired Joe to pursue a career in ambulance driving, speed boat racing, and many more adventures.  

Joe sometimes stayed with her grandmother, Nellie Bostwick, in New York during holidays. In 1916, at age sixteen, with her grandmother’s permission, she left for Paris to drive an ambulance during World War I. It was with a woman in Paris that Joe had her first romantic experience. “‘I said, “My God, what a marvelous thing.” I found it a great pity I’d waited so long.” (Summerscale, 26) After WWI, Joe joined other women volunteering to relieve male drivers who drove British officers in northern France. Besides driving, the women also had to clear battlefields, supervise prisoners of war, and aid in the hospitals. In 1918, to ensure access to her inheritance, Joe married her childhood friend, Count Jacque de Pret. When her mother died in 1921, Joe got her marriage annulled due to non-consummation. Using her acquired funds, Joe and her female friends opened a women’s only garage, the “X-Garage” in London. They taxied families around London and served as limo drivers for their businessmen clientele.

Joe spent her time and money on other hobbies as well. In 1925, she used her money to commission a motorboat. Gwen, named after friend and lover Gwen Farrar, was a 17-foot, 1.5-litre hydroplane. During a test run Gwen capsized and when she resurfaced Joe renamed the boat Newg (Gwen backwards).  This was just the first of many motorboats Joe Carstairs owned and raced.  In 1927, Joe commissioned the same man who built Newg to build three more boats, all hydroplanes, and named them Estelle I, Estelle II, and Estelle III. 

Joe had many lovers, including Hollywood actresses Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, Gwen Farrar, Marlene Dietrich, as well as Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly Wilde. The most impactful and influential of Joe’s girlfriends was Ruth Baldwin. While on a skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps, Ruth gave Joe a leather man-doll, just over a foot tall. Joe named the doll Lord Tod Wadley and cherished him for the rest of her life. Joe and Ruth lived together in a house, bought by Joe, in Mulberry Walk, off King’s Road in Chelsea, London. “Joe mounted a plaque which read: ‘Marion Barbara Carstairs and Lord Tod Wadley.’ The plaque played with the idea that it might be more acceptable that Miss Carstairs be partnered by a fictional aristocrat than a live girl.” (Summerscale, 82) Ruth Baldwin collapsed at a party and later died in her room at Mulberry Walk on August 31, 1937. 

In 1934, Joe bought an island that she had seen for sale in an American Newspaper advertisement the year before. Whale Cay, in the West Indies, is about 1,000 acres and nine miles long. Joe worked alongside others to build roadways (26 miles in all), a lighthouse, power plant, schoolhouse, church, radio station, and a museum. “The island granary, chock-full of corn and guinea corn as well as coconuts, was among the biggest in the Bahamas. Joe experimented with canning fish, with kippering the goggle (herring), and with making fertiliser from fish by-products.” (Summerscale, 130) 

Joe Carstairs also dabbled in poetry, privately printing books of her work in 1940 and 1941. She published them under the pen name, Hans Jacob Berstein. In her poems, she touches on topics such as emotions, hurricanes, homosexuality, feminism, and the death of a woman, most likely about Ruth Baldwin. 

In 1975, Joe sold Whale Cay for just under $1 million, due to declining health.  From 1976-1990 she lived in Florida. On December 18th, 1993, Joe fell into a coma and died peacefully with Lord Tod Wadley in her arms. Joe and Wadley were cremated together. “Their ashes, with those of Ruth Baldwin, were taken from Florida to Long Island, where a memorial service was held in a Presbyterian whalers’ church.” (Summerscale, 234) The remains of the three were placed in a tomb by the sea. 

Why is it important to continue telling Joe Carstairs’ life story? As a young queer person living in the 21st century, I believe it is important that people know that queer people and the LGBTQ+ community are ever present, throughout time and space. In a sport that has been and still is predominantly male dominated, it is especially important to know that there are women, past and present, that enjoy the speed and competition of racing.

You will find more information and see objects relating to Joe Carstairs by visiting the Classic Boat Museum Gallery and the Cowes Maritime Museum, both in Cowes, England. The Classic Boat Museum Gallery holds a wealth of information about Joe’s time on the Isle of Wight, including trophies, albums, press cutting books and many photographs. Archival photographs such as the two shown below can be found with many others, in the Rosenfeld Collection at the Mystic Seaport Museum. If you would like to learn more about Joe’s life, Kate Summerscale’s biography The Queen of Whale Cay: The Extraordinary Life of “Joe” Carstairs, the Fastest Woman on Water is a great read. It is on her website here


The human touch

Is often disappointing

Although I cannot say

I’ve suffered much

I still maintain

That friendship

Should be true and loyal

And rare

And so

I’ve chosen one 

Whose brown-eyed stare

Is straight

And deceptive

He is always 

On my side

Although he doesn’t 

‘Yes’ me

His quiet

And unobtrusive ways 

Are such 

That boredom

Never enters in

My praise of him

Is such 

That if I ever

Dared begin

To phrase

Its echo

Would not cease

To ring

And so

To cut this story short

I’ll tell you all 

He’s only 13 inches tall

Half doll

Half boy 

Half real 

Half toy

My mascot

Lord Tod Wadley 

            M.B Carstairs, circa 1955

 Perversities of Mankind


The man 



A skirt


The girl



A shirt





To fly 

Wonder why?


Mystic Seaport Museum Magazine: Fall 2022

In this Issue

This issue of the Mystic Seaport Museum Magazine celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Henry B. du Pont Preservation Shipyard, the first shipyard built specifically for preservation in the United States, and possibly the world. We also explore the digitization process at our Collection Research Center, the launch of MAINSHEET, a biannual peer-reviewed interdisciplinary publication and more.


Public Parking & Shuttle to Downtown Mystic at Mystic Seaport Museum

Everything You Need To Know About The Public Parking & Shuttle Service at the Museum

Laz Parking at Mystic Seaport MuseumacParking in downtown Mystic has been a growing challenge and the Museum is now working Laz Parking to alleviate traffic and parking issues during the peak tourist season. The south half of the Museum’s South Lot, located along Route 27 will be available to downtown visitors for $10 per day (Museum members and visitors will continue to enjoy free parking).

Laz Parking at Mystic Seaport MuseumacThis fee includes a free shuttle bus service to downtown Mystic which will run from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and may be adjusted as demand is established over the course of the season. Downtown Mystic visitors will be prompted through parking lot signage to pay via the Laz Parking App or through Text to Donate. Proof of payment will be required to gain shuttle access.

Parking for Museum members and visitors will remain free in the north half of the south lot as well as the in the North Parking lot, located across from the Thompson Exhibition Building. Guests of Latitude 41 will also continue to benefit from free parking in the North Parking Lot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why paid parking at Mystic Seaport Museum?

In partnership with the Town of Stonington, Mystic Seaport Museum is working as a community partner to alleviate traffic congestion and lack of parking options in downtown Mystic.

Laz Parking will provide a paid parking option and shuttle bus to downtown. 

Where do I park if I want to visit downtown Mystic?

Paid parking for downtown Mystic is available in the southern half of the south lot at Mystic Seaport Museum. Follow street signs for Laz Parking and take the traffic light at the tug boat. When you enter the parking lot, follow signs and turn to the right for paid parking.

Do I need to pay to park if I am visiting the Museum?

Parking for Museum visitors and members is free!
If you are visiting the Museum as a member or visitor, please park in the north lot, or the northern half of the south lot (follow signs).

Only the southern half of the South Lot is reserved for paid parking for those visiting downtown Mystic.

What is the cost?

The fee is $10/day which allows you access to the shuttle bus.

How do I pay?

Signage in the lot will provide a QR code to scan for payment. Signage will also provide information on a text to pay option. If you are a frequent user, you can download the Laz Parking app.

What time does the shuttle bus run?

Right now, the plan is to run 10am-6pm and we will announce extended hours if we see that there is later demand. Shuttle wait time is less than 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Board at the shuttle bus stop in the South Lot. The shuttle run is about 2 minutes and drops off near the flagpole in downtown Mystic. You can pick it up in the same location to return to the Museum. You can leave your car in the lot past 6pm, but you will need to walk back from downtown Mystic once the shuttle bus stops running. It is less than half a mile from the Museum’s parking lot to downtown Mystic.

Is the shuttle bus handicapped accessible?


Do I need to display my payment receipt?

No, when you register, you enter your license plate which can be checked for payment verification.

You need to show proof of payment on your mobile device to board the shuttle bus.