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Our Maritime History


MM&P had its origins in a tragic fire that broke out aboard the side paddle-wheeler Seawanhaka on June 28, 1880, following a boiler room explosion that took place as the vessel transited New York Harbor. As the flames spread rapidly through the wooden-hulled ship, Captain Charles P. Smith stayed at the helm, suffering severe burns as he maneuvered to the shallow waters off Hell Gate, a narrow tidal strait in the East River, where the passengers could safely escape. Although Captain Smith was ultimately recognized for heroism, he was first made a scapegoat by local politicians. “Eventually he was cleared of any wrongdoing,” wrote Frank O. Braynard, maritime historian and curator of the American Merchant Marine Museum at Kings Point, “but the treatment he received so outraged his colleagues, other pilots and captains, that they formed a committee. That committee was the genesis of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.”

Officers on the bridge of the ship