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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Robert R. Newell (b. 1906) was an advertising executive and continued to serve as chairman of the board of the firm Cunningham & Walsh of New York after his retirement in 1961. He became interested in whaling in the 1940s and began to collect artifacts and to research this subject. Newell established a museum in his home in Norwalk, Connecticut to display his collection of paintings, prints, rare books, scrimshaw, etc. He also established his own art work and to publish works of maritime interest. After his retirement, he began to paint vessels and whaling scenes in the style of the noted marine artist Benjamin Russell. Newell had several of Russell's paintings in his collection which he studied to perfect his own painting technique. Also prior to painting a vessel, Newell would research the vessel to insure accuracy in his depiction of it and a noted feature in his works were the correct owner's private signal flags and ship's name pennants flying from the masthead. His paintings are represented in several collections both public and private.
Papers for Robert R. Newell consist primarily of research materials and publication drafts on signal flags of whalers and their owners, predominantly for the New Bedford customs district.
His research material, ca. 1960-1977, includes lists of vessels with their ports and agents which he was researching. It also contains notes from publications on signal flags as well as copies from these works. There are rough sketches of the flags and notes for their proper colors and identification.
Newell wanted to properly record each of the signal flags that he had identified. As he was an artist, he drew accurate representations of each of them and compiled them in scrapbooks. He also compiled a complete list of the flags he had identified; this list acted as an index to the scrapbook.
Newell's first scrapbook deals solely with the owners' signal flags. This volume is arranged by port and then by shape design and color of the flag. Pots included in this volume are New Bedford, Fairhaven, Dartmouth, Westport, Marion, Falmouth, Wareham, Edgartown, Tisbury, Holmes Hole, Provincetown, Boston, and Salem.
The second volume is primarily ship's signal flags with the exception of a few owner's flags for Nantucket, New London, and New York ports. These are arranged by port and then by shape, design, and color of the flags. Ports included in his volume are Nantucket, New Bedford, New London, Sag Harbor, Greenport, and San Francisco. there is also a page of New Bedford harbor signals at the end of the volume.
The third volume combines all the ship's and owners' signal flags which Newell had identified to 1972. It is arranged in two parts: the first is the house or owners' flags and the second is the ships' flags. Each part is arranged by port and then by shape, design, and color of the flags. The flags are shaped as squares, with or without a tab, swallowtails or pennants. Ports included in this work are Nantucket, New Bedford, Fairhaven, Dartmouth, Westport, Marion, Wareham, Falmouth, Provincetown, Edgartown, Boston, Salem, New London, Sag Harbor, New York, and San Francisco.
Arrangement of Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 89, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Mrs. Robert R. Newell on 21 March 1983
Processed by: Judith M. Downey, 21 October 1988
Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 10 January 2012
Newell, Robert R., b. 1906
Signals and signaling