WW II Liberty ship life preserver from the S.S. John P. Poe, named for John Prentiss Poe Sr., Democratic political power and Attorney General of Maryland from 1891 to 1895. Poe was father to six sons who all played football while at Princeton (referenced throughout posts on this blog), several being named as All-American. His sons took part in and made their mark in other sports as well, including lacrosse, hockey and wrestling.
When researching the history of the Liberty Ships, we found it to be an absolutely fascinating subject. At the beginning of the 1940s, there was a critical need for cargo vessels to carry troops, vehicles, guns and munitions and other war related cargo. An emergency program was put in place to build a fleet of ships following the general rules of mass production, and 2710 ships were built in this fashion from 1941 to 1945 (one burned during construction, or the total would be 2711).
The largest of the shipyards manufacturing these ships was the Bethlehem – Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, where the S.S. John P. Poe was built, launching on July 25, 1942, hull number 0054. The Poe was scraped in 1972, which was later than most.
Only three of the Liberty Ships still exist, most having been scraped. During the war over two hundred of these ships were lost. The majority of the records show that this was due to causes such as torpedoes, bombardment, kamikazes, explosions and wrecks.
A very unusual find, and a fitting addition to our collection, this life preserver was found in St. Petersburg, Florida and was identified simply as “Original Antique Life Maritime Life Preserver Baltimore” - we were lucky to have come across it.