As the embedded video (containing only audio) begins, the host says: “Monday through Friday at this time, the Columbia Broadcasting System presents Service Time. Every Tuesday afternoon, this program is devoted to the men who sail the ships of the United States Merchant Marine. In cooperation with The War Shipping Administration, Columbia brings you… It’s Maritime!”

A segment devoted to Herman Melville runs about 3:25-8:06. There’s some information about his life, including some brief reenactments by actors. The segment began and ended with the host saying:

One of America’s most famous writers of stories about the sea was born in New York City in 1819. He was of Scotch and Dutch descent, one of eight children. At the age of fifteen he was a bank clerk, but two years later destiny finally caught up with him on a dock in New York harbor. […]

The seamen he had sailed with turned up as characters in his books. Dick Green became Toby in Typee, the whale Mocha Dick became the monster whale Moby Dick, and Melville’s literary works helped to improve conditions aboard ship for all seamen who sail on whalers. Today Herman Melville is recognized as America’s great maritime novelist, famous for authentic tales of heroism and adventure based upon his experiences on American merchant ships.

Starting at about 9:50, the host conducts an interview with Mazie Baird Culbertson regarding the American Merchant Marine Library Association regarding “the public library of the high seas” and how the public can help supply shipboard and port libraries. Ms. Culbertson acknowledged that sailors enjoyed detective novels as the host thought they might, but “their real favorites are westerns and books about the sea, books by Conrad and Melville.” She tells an incredible story of a ship that went to sea without having stocked its library, and one sailor tossing a bottle overboard with a note requesting that they be supplied with one by air at a port they would later reach. According to her, the bottle washed up in Florida, made it to the right people, and they were in fact able to supply a library.

Later in the broadcast there’s a short drama depicting men adrift at sea on a lifeboat. One of them realizes he has in his pocket a copy of Treasure Island bought at the ship’s library, and two of them take turns reading it to each other to keep their minds off their desperate situation. The third resolves to learn to read once rescued, so he can appreciate reading the book himself.

Records of the United States Maritime Commission, including recordings of It’s Maritime, are held at the National Archives.

The “Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2007” (which mentions It’s Maritime) can be read at https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006816004


For other library-related posts and pages see:

Herman Melville in Prison: Captive and other audiences

Speigletown Library and Garden Club

Playground Libraries

Troy Public Library Lansingburgh Branch

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