inside of the charles mallory sail loft at mystic seaport museumCharles Mallory came to Mystic in 1816, having just completed his apprenticeship to a sailmaker in New London. Charles Mallory prospered as whaling and shipbuilding grew in the village and by the 1860s he was one of the state’s most prosperous ship owners. This sail loft was originally located downriver from the Greenman shipyard where the Museum now stands, but it was brought here by barge in 1951.

Beginning in the 1870s, blueprints which included the sail area were supplied by a ship’s designer. Prior to that time (and frequently even after that date), sailmakers were of necessity their own patternmakers. After measuring the masts and yards of the ship, the sailmaker made a paper pattern, generally using 1/8″ to the foot as a scale, and then sketched in the outline on the floor of the loft. In order to have as much uninterrupted working space as possible, even the stove was suspended from the ceiling rather than have it sit on the floor.

charles mallory sail loft on a snowy dayAfter the canvas was cut to the pattern on the floor, it was sewn together and bolt rope was stitched on the edges. Fittings for attaching the sail to the yard or mast were then added. Stitching the pieces of cloth together could be done by machine beginning around the middle of the 19th century, but adding the bolt rope and fittings continues to be handwork on canvas sails.

charles mallory sail loft at mystic seaport museumThe exhibit includes essential tools with such intriguing names as palms, fids, and commanders, as well as awls and marlinspikes. Maintenance work on the Museum’s sails and the building of new sails for our exhibit vessels still take place in this sail loft.