Southold Historical Society Director Geoffrey K. Fleming (standing, left), Charles Reichert of the Reichert Family Foundation (seated, left), Ted Webb, President, Brecknock Hall Foundation (standing, right), and Robert Syron, President and CEO of Peconic Landing, are shown with some of the Floyd whaling log books and papers.
September 11, 2014
“Rare Whaling Artifacts Return to the North Fork of Long Island”
SOUTHOLD, NY. Whaling artifacts related to the history of Long Island are a fairly rare item today. When they do appear on the market, collectors fight hard to acquire them. Items specifically related to Greenport – one of Long Island’s active whaling ports during the 19th century – are even harder to find. So what to do when a group of items relating to one of Greenport’s most prominent whaling families hits the auction block? Collaborate.
“It seemed like a no-brainer,” stated Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director of the Southold Historical Society, “to try and bring together a couple of groups that together might be able to acquire these items,” he continued.
The items in question were a collection of papers, account books, log books, and even a Walrus Tusk relating to the 19th century whaling activities of David Gelston Floyd of Greenport, builder and owner of the well-known stone mansion, Brecknock Hall. Fleming discovered just by chance that the items were being offered for sale at auction by a Floyd descendant. “I emailed the auction house in New Hampshire about something else and they happened to mention in passing that they had these items coming up – I was stunned.” Fleming immediately recognized the importance of the items, having just written a history of the Floyd family and Brecknock Hall for the Brecknock Hall Foundation, where Fleming serves on the board. He began talking with some of his contacts at the foundation, along with Peconic Landing, who owns the hall today.
“Everyone was very excited, so we arranged a meeting to strategize what we should do, with only a few days before the auction was set to happen,” stated Ted Webb, President of the Brecknock Hall Foundation. “I thought this is an opportunity we should not pass up,” stated Bob Syron, President and CEO of Peconic Landing. In the end, everyone pledged a certain amount of money towards trying to acquire the papers. Additional monies were secured through a donation from the Reichert Family Foundation.
The auction itself was a bit harrowing. “I was bidding by phone for the group, and there was a great deal of interest during the sale in the items we wanted,” stated Fleming. Nearly all of the items went quickly past their estimates. But in the end, the group succeeded in getting all the lots they were interested in. Among the more important items acquired were the partial account book of the whaling ships "Italy" and "Pioneer," 1844-1852; the account book of the whaling ship "Prudent," 1856-1859; and the log books of the whale ships “Prudent,” 1856-1859, and “Italy,” 1854-1859, all of which sailed form Greenport during the 1840s and 1850s.
“We were very pleased with the result of this effort,” continued Webb. “It just goes to show that while none of us alone could have hoped to acquire these materials and bring them back to the North Fork, together it became possible,” continued Syron. The Items will be jointly owned by the Brecknock Hall Foundation and the Southold Historical Society and will be housed at the Society’s archive in Southold, where they will be made available to researchers.
For further information on this release, please contact the Southold Historical Society at (631) 765-5500 or view our website at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org