Memorabilia on exhibit

Burton K. Janes
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Unique items mark history of famous explorer Capt. Bob Bartlett

If 2010 is John Guy’s year, then 2009 belonged to Capt. Robert A. (Bob) Bartlett. The current celebrations in Cupids (originally Cupers Cove) have overshadowed what’s going on at Hawthorne Cottage, Captain Bob’s home in neighbouring Brigus.

About 100 visitors daily have toured the Cupids Legacy Centre since June 14, with a total of 4,000 visitors in its first two months. By contrast, the Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site in Brigus has had about 80 visitors daily.

Last year’s celebrations in Brigus focused on events in the frenetic life and career of Captain Bob. The Newfoundland navigator and Arctic explorer was touted for his many and varied accomplishments.

For example, he was applauded for his decisive leadership in the doomed Karluk Expedition of 1914.

On a downside, another explorer, Robert E. Peary, refused to share with Captain Bob the glory of being the first to reach the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909. Captain Bob stoically accepted the supreme disappointment.

Now that the Cupids celebrations are winding down, with the Cupids Cove Soiree only a memory, a trip to Brigus may be in order.

There are currently on exhibit at Hawthorne Cottage several items worthy of observation, adding to the overall portrait of Captain Bob.

The exhibition in the Green Room features models of Captain Bob’s most famous vessels. Varrick Cox, a model shipwright in St. John’s, crafted the schooner Effie M. Morrissey and the SS Roosevelt.

“They have been created in the same scale, so one can compare the relative size of the two ships,” said Catherine Dempsey, former executive director of the province’s Historic Sites Association. “They ... give us a great look at two vessels that helped to open up the Arctic.”

An added appeal is an original piece of wood from the Morrissey.

“The (Schooner) Ernestina-Morrissey Association (in New Bedford, Massachusetts) were so disappointed that the ship was not in good enough condition to take part in celebrating Bartlett last year and, when going through refit, they sent me an original piece of wood that had been taken out during refit,” explained Dempsey.

"They have been created in the same scale, so one can compare the relative size of the two ships. They ... give us a great look at two vessels that helped to open up the Artic." Catherine Dempsey, former executive director of the province's Historic Sites Association

Another unique item on exhibit is tied to Wheaties, which has been advertised as “the breakfast of champions” for over 70 years.

“The Wheaties card is another story,” Dempsey said. “We have known for years that Captain Bob was featured on the Wheaties box. Unfortunately, nobody had seen it.”

The box, which hit cereal shelves around 1935, isn’t even included in an archival collection at General Mills, the manufacturer.

Dempsey went on eBay and typed in “Bartlett” and “Wheaties.”

To her delight, the Bartlett trading card appeared on the screen. The owner was asking $500. Dempsey offered $5, but got the item for $10.

Later, another collector, Dean Williams, tracked down and purchased the whole side of the Wheaties box, which displays several Bartlett images.

“It’s the Holy Grail of Wheaties boxes,” Dempsey told Debbie Hanlon, a St. John’s councillor, who is also interested in tracking down Bartlett memoribilia. Having a picture of the famed cereal packaging is an indication of the interest explorers and northern expeditions once garnered, Dempsey added.

Bartlett memorabilia continues to circulate. Evidently there is a second trading card, this one from cigarette packaging, as well as artifacts from people who perished on the Karluk.


The Compass

Organizations: Wheaties, Cupids Legacy Centre, Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site Historic Sites Association Ernestina-Morrissey Association General Mills EBay

Geographic location: Brigus, Arctic, Newfoundland North Pole New Bedford, Massachusetts

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Recent comments

  • Don
    September 01, 2010 - 08:45

    I must object to Burton K. James statement in his article in which he refers to Cupids as being originally Cuper's Cove. That statement is published as though it is an historical fact which it is not. Cupids is not the location of Cuper's Cove. Neither John Guy, Percival Willoughby nor Henry Crout ever mentioned a place called Cupids in their letters and journals. I challenge Burton K. Janes to produce any evidence which he has to support his statement that Cupids was originally Cuper's Cove. If he cannot support his claim then he should refrain from publishing it as a fact. Why is this important you may ask? Assigning historical significance to Cupids which is not supported by historical documentation amounts to a blatant distortion of Newfoundland history. I am astonished that for over one hundred years nobody has ever challenged the claims regarding Cupids as being the location of Cuper's Cove. There is ample historical evidence which clearly shows that Cupids is not the site of Cuper's Cove. It appears that Academics and Journalists in Newfoundland simply refuse to publish the facts about Cuper's Cove. I have seen historical documents regarding Cuperre's Cove published which had major portions of important historical fact simply left out or intentionally distorted. Why were these documents not published in their entirety? Why were the documents edited to slant what readers were exposed to? Incidentally, the name Cuper's Cove was promoted to anglicize the name and obscure the fact that the actual place was named Cuperre's Cove which was FRENCH in origin. It appears that it would be embarrassing to the Government to promote the BIRTHPLACE OF ENGLISH CANADA as having occurred in a place with a FRENCH name! The involvement of Cupids as the so called site of Cuper's Cove was first promoted by Judge Prowse in his 19th century book called A History of Newfoundland. Prowse got it wrong, he provided no evidence to prove that Cupids was Cuperre's Cove, ignored historical documents which showed that Cupids was not the site of Cuperre's Cove and merely promoted a claim that Cupids was the site which has no basis in historical fact. If Burton K. Janes has any evidence to prove that Cupids is Cuper's Cove he should publish it or refrain from publishing incorrect historical information. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador promoted Cupids as Cuper's Cove and did so without any evidence to support that claim. Journalists who publish incorrect information which will be absorbed by the readers as fact should be required to publish the source of their incorrect assumptions for review and correction. The mere publishing of a false claim over and over does not make it the truth and never will.