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Catalog Number 0000.060
Description Deadeye Recovered from the James Rolph Schooner, c. 1899-1910. Hand-carved solid wood deadeye, used for running sailing rigging or line, is cylindrical in shape with three holes extending all the way through the bottom and sides from flat end to flat end. The outer edge is indented or notched everywhere expect beneath the bottom hole. The top edges of all the holes on both sides (with exception of one that is on one side) is worn where the ropes have rubbed it. There is a knot hole in top center. From the schooner "James Rolph."
Object Name Deadeye
Collection 3D - Water Transportation Equipment
Title Deadeye Recovered from the James Rolph Schooner, c. 1899-1910
Date c. 1899-1910
Inscription Text none
Notes Historic Resources Study for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Mateo County: San Pedro Point. San Mateo County Historical Association by Mitch Postel, pp. 21-23 of first draft:
"A survey completed by researchers for the Works Projects Administration (WPA), in 1941, listed the "James Rolf" as four masted schooner built at Fairhaven in 1894 by H.D. Bendixsen. This sailing ship displaced 586 tons. The one decker was 169.1 feet long. Its owners possessed shares of the vessels counted in 32 fractions:
F.K. Dedrick2/32
James Rolph, Jr.3/32
E.D. Bullard 1/32
Wm. Johnson1/32
James Rolph1/32
Robert R. Hind4/32
C.A. Spreckels8/32
Geo. Boole 2/32
G.R. Gulorsen1/32
Gust Holmes2/32
H.D. Bendixsen2/32
John Joyce 1/32
Clarence D. Corbett1/32
Thus its builder, H.D. Bendixsen, was an owner, as was the ship's original master, F.K. Dedrick. The largest shareholder, C.A. Spreckels, was of the prominent San Francisco family. James Rolph and James Rolph, Jr. are also listed. One might infer that James Rolph is James Rolph, Jr.'s father and that the James Rolph was named in Senior's honor. Junior's wife is reported to have christened the vessel at its launch.
Two years after "James Rolph" was lost at San Pedro Point, James Rolph, Jr. became mayor of San Francisco. He was born in 1869 and entered the shipping business in 1900. As mayor he got the nickname "Sunny Jim." His theme song was "There Are Smiles That Make You Happy." Rolph was one of the most storied of San Francisco's political figures. He served as the City's 30th mayor until becoming governor of California in 1931. He maintains the distinction of being the longest serving mayor in San Francisco history (1912-1931). This Republican politician died in office in 1934, the 27th governor of the state.
The "James Rolph" was built for Pacific trade purposes and had made many voyages before its loss on August 2, 1910. On that day it sailed from San Francisco loaded with 14,000 board feet of lumber (for the sugar plantations of Theo. H. Davis at Hana, Maui, Hawaii) plus lime, hay and general freight.
In many ways the fate of the "James Rolph" paralleled that of the "Drumburton," lost only six years before. Apparently, as had occurred in the "Drumburton" case, "James Rolph" was caught in a current and experienced a lack of wind. In thick fog, the ship's master, Captain Andrew Olson, was practically blinded. About 10 p.m., he heard the sound of breakers and ordered the ship to tack offshore. It was too late, and "James Rolph" smashed into rocks 50 feet from shore, where the "Drumburton" had. When the schooner truck, Olsen was thrown from the top of the deckhouse to the main deck and sprained his ankle.
As was the case with the "Drumburton," "James Rolph's" hull had been pierced by the rocks. She was stuck in place, on the north side of San Pedro Point (divers having found the vessels in 1957). Things became tenser when the lime on board "James Rolph" became soaked with sea water which resulted in a fire. Olsen ordered the hatches battened down and the fire went out. However, the crew, captain and the captain's wife had to wait out the night for help-no attempt being made to get a life boat launched in the darkness along the rocky shore.
As was the case with the "Drumburton," it was the tug "Defiance" that came to the rescue. After a line was secured between the vessels, "Defiance" tried to jerk "James Rolph" off the rocks, but the effort failed. The captain's wife was taken off the "James Rolph" by one of the lifesaving boats that had been towed to the scene by "Defiance." The captain and crew stayed aboard.
In the meantime, James Rolph, Jr. and his wife drove down from San Francisco by automobile to the new Ocean Shore Railroad community of San Pedro Terrace. He somehow got aboard the ship and toured it with the captain. Rolph could see there was 18 feet of water in "James Rolph's" hull. Rolph questioned Olson privately. After having been master of the ship for some 10 years, and having sailed the Pacific Coast for 30, Olsen expressed how strangely the whole episode had unfolded. Rolph later allowed himself to be interviewed by local newspapers and supported the reputation of the captain.
The Los Angeles Herald reported the vessel "in momentary danger of going to pieces." It reported the ship's "bottom gone...her decks broken and her...masts ready to fall." Rolph made contact with Captain Whitelaw of the Whitelaw Wrecking Co. He wanted to have "James Rolph" refloated and saved. They considered dynamiting the rocks the ship was lodged upon if necessary. On August 4, Whitelaw sailed down to the Point aboard the schooner "Greenwood" which was accompanied by the barge "Reliable."
Between the 4th and 8th, "Greenwood" attempted pulling "James Rolph" off the rocks. An organized excursion of Ocean Shore Railroad passengers came down from San Francisco to watch. On the 9th, Whitelaw gave up. On the 10th, he made his last inspection of the "James Rolph." Some of the ship's gear had been saved. Years later, George Lewis, who came to own much of the Point, gave a deadeye from the wreck [SMCHA 60] to the San Mateo County History Museum (in 1940). It was made of lignum vitae, a tropical hardwood. The object served as a fixed pully to tighten rigging. During this scavenging Whitelaw noticed that "James Rolph" was actually sitting on top of the "Drumburton."
The United States Life-Saving Service listed the estimated value of "James Rolph" at the time of its sinking as $20,000 and its cargo $3,500. It showed the ship as a total loss--$23,500. Happily, of the 10 people aboard her, none were lost, the only injury sustained was Captain Olsen's ankle sprain. The ship was insured for just $5,000.
The wreck broke up, but in 1957 was rediscovered. In 1962, the ship's anchor was salvaged by the Pacifica Sea Lions Diving Club. They presented it to the City for display at Pacifica's City Hall."

"A deadeye is an item used in the standing and running rigging of traditional sailing ships. It is a smallish round thick wooden (usually lignum vitae) disc with one or more holes through it, perpendicular to the plane of the disc. Single and triple-hole deadeyes are most commonly seen. The three-holed blocks were called deadeyes because the position of the three holes resemble the eye and nose sockets of a sheep's skull.[1]
A single deadeye (or bull's eye) used to change the direction of a line, in this case a buntline on Prince William 's fore-topgallant.Single deadeyes (or bull's eyes) are used to guide and control a line and, particularly in older vessels, to change its direction. More modern systems would use a block for this purpose but in traditional rigs with many lines to deal with, designed when blocks were relatively expensive to make, a deadeye provided an acceptable compromise. When blocks came into common use for adjusting running rigging, deadeyes continued to be used for tensioning standing rigging.
Triple deadeyes are used in pairs; a line called a lanyard is run back and forth between them, through the holes, so that they function again much as a block and tackle would.[2] This provides a mechanical advantage, pulling harder on whatever the deadeyes are attached to. Pairs of deadeyes are placed in the shrouds (the lines that hold up the mast), where they are used to create greater tension in the shrouds. To set up the lanyards used with dead-eyes, a suitable grease such as tallow is first applied to the holes. After reeving the lanyard through the deadeyes, the end is hooked to a handy purchase in the rig above, such as the throat halyard. By hauling on the halyard the lanyard in the deadeyes is drawn up taut. A small wooden wedge is knocked into the last hole, to prevent the lanyard sliding back, and the end is unhooked from the purchase and made up on the shroud above the upper deadeye. The wedge can then be removed ready for the next shroud.
In recent decades, as steel wire became the prevalent material for sailboat rigging, deadeyes and laynards gave way to metal turnbuckles for tensioning the wires. More recently, however, with the advent of high-strength and low-stretch synthetic fibres, some sailboats are using synthetic rope for standing rigging, and deadeyes and lanyards are coming back into use as tensioning devices.[3]"
Dimensions H-8 W-7 D-4.75 inches
Search Terms Ship
Spreckels, C.A.
Rolph, James
Rolph, James Jr.
Lewis, Captain George J.
James Rolph Schooner
Drumburton Ship
Shipwrecks Coastside
Shipwrecks "James Rolph"
Shipwrecks "Drumburton"
Ship Wreck
Subjects Ships
People Lewis, Captain George J.
Spreckels, C.A.
Rolph, James
Rolph, James Jr.