Vernay Seminar Image
Book Cover: A Great and Rising Nation, by Michael Verney.

2023 NMHS Seminar Series Schedule: Online & In-Person

The NMHS Seminar Series was founded in 1992 under the auspices of the National Maritime Historical Society to build greater awareness of the rich maritime heritage of the Hudson River Valley and the world at large, and to create a constituency to advocate for our maritime legacy.  Through its monthly lecture series and annual outreach events, the NMHS Seminar Series provides educational programs about our waters and the great community of people who love ships and mariners, the sea, rivers, and bays.  Members of the general public are encouraged to join us!

Seminars are free to attend, with a suggested $10 Seminar Guest donation.  For more information or to register, email or call 914 737-7878 x 0.



Photo: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Port Newark and the Origins of Container Shipping
Zoom Seminar with New York Times Bestselling Author Angus Kress Gillespie
Saturday, 28 January 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET

Join us for the first NMHS Seminar Series of 2023 featuring Professor Angus Kress Gillespie and his new book, Port Newark and the Origins of the Container Ship.

Container shipping is a vital part of the global economy.  Goods from all around the world are placed in large metal containers which are transported across the ocean in ships, then loaded onto tractor-trailers and railroad flatbeds.  But when and where did this world-changing invention get started? This fascinating talk will trace the birth of containerization to Port Newark in New Jersey, in 1956, when trucker Malcom McLean thought of a brilliant new way to transport cargo.

Professor Gillespie will discuss how Port Newark grew rapidly as McLean’s idea was backed by both New York banks and the US military, who used containerization to ship supplies to troops in Vietnam. He will also take us behind the scenes of today’s active container shipping operations in Port Newark.  When writing his book he spoke to the pilots who guide the ships into port, the Coast Guard personnel who help manage the massive shipping traffic, the crews who unload the containers, and even the chaplains who counsel and support the mariners. Port Newark shines a spotlight on the unsung men and women who help this complex global shipping operation run smoothly.

Solar Eclipse, 1851 by Bengt Nordenberg. Photo: National Museum Stockholm.

The Adventures of an Eclipse Chaser
Zoom Seminar with Meteorologist and News 12 Westchester Science Editor Joe Rao
Saturday, 25 February 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET

Join us for a presentation with meteorologist and science editor Joe Rao as he presents The Adventures of an Eclipse Chaser in person and simultaneously live-streamed from Hendrick Hudson Library in Montrose, New York.

To witness a total eclipse of the Sun is a privilege that comes to few—many live and die without ever beholding one. Once seen, however, it is a phenomenon never to be forgotten.  The incredible panoply of phenomena that occur when the Sun becomes completely covered by the Moon—the radiance of the pearly corona of the Sun which can be seen at no other time; the scarlet tongues of hydrogen gas rising from the surface of the darkened to heights of many thousands of miles; the unaccustomed presence of the brighter stars and planets in the daytime; the darkness of twilight and sudden fall of temperature—all remain indelibly planted in our memory for a lifetime. Expeditions and tours have been sent halfway around the world to observe total eclipses.  On 8 April 2024, those who live in the Northeastern United States will have one delivered to their doors.

You won’t want to miss this exciting seminar with Joe Rao, who was the Chief Meteorologist and Science Editor at News 12 Westchester, and who over the last 50 years has chased 13 eclipses around the globe by land, sea, and air.  A fabulous storyteller, he will detail the interesting, funny, and poignant occurrences that he has experienced in his efforts to briefly bask in the shadow of the Moon.

Black Baller Passing the Battery in 1829 by Gordon Grant.  Photo: Seamen’s Bank for Savings Collection, South Street Seaport Museum.

A Great and Rising Nation: Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic
Zoom Seminar with Historian and Writer Michael A. Verney
Saturday, 25 March 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET

Conventional wisdom holds that, until the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States was a feeble player on the world stage, with an international presence rooted in commerce rather than military might. Michael A. Verney’s A Great and Rising Nation flips this notion on its head, arguing that early US naval expeditions, often characterized as merely scientific, were in fact deeply imperialist. Circling the globe from the Mediterranean to South America and the Arctic, these voyages reflected the diverse imperial aspirations of the new republic, including commercial dominance in the Pacific World, religious empire in the Holy Land, proslavery expansion in South America, and diplomatic prestige in Europe.  As Verney makes clear, the United States had global imperial aspirations far earlier than is commonly thought.

Michael A. Verney is assistant professor of History at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. He specializes in the global history of the early US republic with a focus on maritime and naval expansion and global encounters. He earned his B.A. in 2008 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his Ph.D. in History from the University of New Hampshire in 2016.

American Brig Yankee Hero and the British Frigate Milford Off Cape Ann,7 June 1776 by John Bentham Dinsdale.

Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution
In-Person and Live-Streamed Seminar with
Best-Selling Author & Historian Eric Jay Dolin 
Saturday, 22 July 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET
Hendrick Hudson Free Library · 185 Kings Ferry Road, Montrose, NY

The heroic story of the founding of the US Navy during the Revolution has been told before, yet missing from most maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels, from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, that truly revealed the new nation’s character―above all, its ambition and entrepreneurial ethos. In Rebels at Sea, best-selling author and historian Eric Jay Dolin corrects that significant omission, and contends that privateers, though often seen as profiteers at best and pirates at worst, were in fact critical to the Revolution’s outcome. Armed with cannons, swivel guns, muskets, and pikes―as well as government documents granting them the right to seize enemy ships―thousands of privateers tormented the British on the broad Atlantic and in bays and harbors on both sides of the ocean. Abounding with tales of daring maneuvers and deadly encounters, Rebels at Sea presents the American Revolution as we have rarely seen it before.

Eric Jay Dolin is the author of fifteen books, including Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, and also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for US Maritime History. His most recent book before Rebels at Sea is A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes, which was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Booklist, Library Journal, and the editors at Amazon. It was also selected as a “Must Read” book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book for 2020.

A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his PhD in environmental policy, Eric Jay Dolin lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his family. For more information, please visit

Oneonta sidewheeler on Columbia River, 1867. Photo: Oregon Historical Society.

Battle for the Columbia River: The Rise of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company
Zoom Seminar with Author and Sea History Contributor Mychal Ostler
Saturday, 23 September 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET

Join us for this special seminar with author Mychal Ostler on a journey through the history of the 1860-incorporated Oregon Steam Navigation Company, the Pacific Northwest’s first modern capitalistic corporation and owner of the largest fleet of river vessels north of California. Mychal will discuss the company’s formation, management, financial performance, operations and marine engineering within the context of both regional and national maritime history.

Mychal Ostler grew up on the Columbia River and spent most of his life working on the river and studying Pacific Northwest maritime history. He has written several articles on Northwest steam navigation, including for Columbia Magazine and Sea History (See his latest article “From Pilot to President: Captain John Ainsworth & the Oregon Steam Navigation Company” in Sea History 179/Summer 2022.) Mychal’s first book, Battle For The Columbia River: The Rise of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company will be released in the summer of 2023 by The History Press.


HMS Surprise (ex”HMS” Rose). Photo by Jerry Soto as featured on the cover of Sea History 166/Spring 2019.

All Hands on Deck:
A Modern-Day High Seas Adventure to the Far Side of the World
Zoom Seminar with Author and Sea History Contributor Will Sofrin
Saturday, 18 November 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET

Join us for this special event with author Will Sofrin as he presents his book, All Hands on Deck: A Modern-Day High Seas Adventure to the Far Side of the World. It’s an exciting maritime adventure memoir that follows a crew of misfits hired to sail the Rose, an eighteenth-century replica warship thousands of miles from Newport, Rhode Island, to Hollywood to star in the upcoming film Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.

In the late 1990s, Patrick O’Brian’s multimillion-copy-selling historical novel series—the Aubrey–Maturin series, which was set during the Napoleonic Wars—seemed destined for film. With Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin, the production only needed a ship that could stand in for Lucky Jack’s HMS Surprise, with historical accuracy paramount. The filmmakers found the Rose, a replica of an 18th-century ship that would work perfectly. Only there was one problem: the Rose was in Newport, Rhode Island, not in Southern California, where they would be filming. Enter a ragtag crew of thirty oddballs who stepped up for the task, including Will Sofrin, at the time a 21-year-old wooden-boat builder and yacht racer, who joined as the ship’s carpenter.

All Hands on Deck is Sofrin’s memoir of the epic adventure delivering the Rose to Hollywood. It’s a story of reinvention, of hard work on the high seas, of love, and of survival. The Rose was an example of the most cutting-edge technology of her era, but in the 21st century, barely anyone had experience sailing it. The crew effectively went back in time, brought to life the old ways of a forgotten world, and barely lived to tell the tale. Just a few days in, a terrifying hurricane-strength storm nearly sank the Rose, and later, a rogue wave caused a nearly fatal dismasting. And the ups and downs weren’t limited to the waves—with the crew split into factions, making peace between warring camps became necessary, too, as did avoiding pirates and braving the temptations of shore leave. All Hands on Deck is a gripping story of an unforgettable journey and a must-read for fans who adore O’Brian’s novels and the dramatic film adaptation of Master and Commander.

All Hands on Deck: A Modern-Day High Seas Adventure to the Far Side of the World will be released on 18 April 2023.  Visit here to pre-order a signed copy.


“YOU BET I’M GOING BACK TO SEA” World War II Posters, Compiled 1942 – 1945, National Archives.

My Time in The US Merchant Marines
40 Years of Change and Innovation
In-Person and Live Streamed Seminar with Captain Robert N. Anderson

Saturday, 9 December 2023: Welcome & Lecture at 11:00 AM ET
Cortlandt Yacht Club · 238 Kings Ferry Road, Montrose, NY 10548

Don’t miss the chance to join us for a discussion with Captain Bob N. Anderson, a veteran of the merchant marine industry for over 40 years. Captain Anderson witnessed the industry evolve significantly, including the introduction of containerization and GPS navigation, as well as a trend towards larger ships with smaller crews. Get unique insights into these developments and their impact on the industry’s future from one of the most experienced professionals in the field.

Stay for our annual holiday lunch!

For more information or to register for the NMHS Seminar Series,
please email