Hamersen Miniature Ship & Cannon
January 27, 2022 – May 1, 2022
This Spotlight exhibition features a replica of an 1814 ship called the Lark used during the War of 1812 as well as a miniature ship’s cannon crafted from wood salvaged from the Maryland, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor, both meticulously hand-crafted by Clarence Hamersen over the course of several decades.
Built at Baltimore, 1814
Clarence Hamersen began carving this reproduction of The Lark when he was 21 years old, using plans published monthly in Popular Science magazine, from November 1934 through February 1935. Then, life intervened – marriage, the war, a career – and the project was all but forgotten. Decades later, when he was in his 70s, his granddaughter Michelle discovered his silver tackle box with its tiny parts and yellowed plans. She urged him to complete the piece, and so he picked up where he left off, finishing it when he was 77. All the parts are handmade except for the small cannons, belaying pins, backing links, and the name plate.
The original ship was built at Baltimore; it was one of many designed to raid English commerce during the War of 1812. The ships were patterned after the Jamaica-Bermuda sloops, with influence by the French Chassis-Maree type. They were rigged as topsail schooners, and they were the speediest ships then afloat. After the war, some were stolen by pirates; others took on a horrific second life as slave ships and blockade runners during the Civil War, 1861–1865.
Clarence Hamersen was a Chief Petty Officer of the 129th Seabee Battalion, stationed at Pearl Harbor, and he built this model in honor of the crew of the Maryland, a ship that was part of the Pacific Fleet sunk at Pearl Harbor. When the Navy raised the Maryland and repaired the ship for continued service, the wooden decking was stripped off, and heavy-duty metal decking was installed. Chief Hamersen, wanting a souvenir of Pearl Harbor that would remind him of the sacrifice made by the ships’ crew on December 7th, seized the opportunity and requested permission to select a few of the wooden planks from the ship to make this model. He crafted this cannon during “down time” while stationed at Pearl Harbor.
Ship’s Cannon depicts a style of cannon used in the Napoleonic Wars, through the War of 1812, and even in the Civil War. It is on rollers, so that when the gun ports are open, it can be rolled out after being loaded. During battle, the cannon would be loaded, rolled out, shot, and rolled back. Crews spent endless hours practicing timing and speed, so a “broadside” of cannon would fire simultaneously. When wooden battle ships ceased being built, this type of cannon became obsolete.
About the Miniaturist
Clarence Hamersen was born on a Missouri farm in 1916 and loved ships. He made miniatures throughout his life including ships and dollhouse toys for his daughter, among other miniatures. He used the G.I. Bill to become a professional engineer and made a career designing bridges and dams for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After retiring, he used his engineering skills as a volunteer to assist local schools and non-profits to set up exhibitions. For this work, he was named the “Outstanding Engineer of Tucson,” by the American Society of Civil Engineers at their annual meeting in 1998, when he was 82. He continued to make model ships until his passing here in Tucson at the age of 96.
Our 2022 Exhibition Season is supported in part by Sterling Investment Management, LLC, a private, independent, employee owned investment management boutique. For over 25 years, this Tucson-based firm has created sophisticated portfolios of individual securities designed to meet each client’s financial planning objectives. Their long-standing tradition of growing and safeguarding their clients’ wealth on a risk-adjusted basis has defined the success of both their clients and Sterling since 1995.
Our 2022 Exhibition Season is supported in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.