The Marine Society of New York is a
charitable and educational organization, the regular membership being composed
entirely of seafarers, all of whom must be, or have been Captains or Officers of
merchant vessels under the United States flag. It was formed in colonial days,
and formally chartered by King George III in 1770 to "...improve maritime
knowledge and relieve indigent and distressed shipmasters, their widows and
orphans..." Among the early honorary members of the Society was President George
From that day to this, the Society has
endeavored to improve maritime knowledge. It has relieved, insofar as it was
able, the needs of over 5,000 distressed shipmasters, their widows and orphans.
It has today a number of masters' widows on a monthly allotment basis, many of
whom require advice, counsel and assistance for their well being.
Among the records of the Society, covering a
span of more than two centuries, many achievements stand out: a respected
member, Captain Robert Richard Randall, in the year 1801 provided the basis for
the founding of The Sailor's Snug Harbor on Staten Island. It is the only
institution in America accepting old or disabled seamen and one of the oldest
charitable organizations in the country. The President and First Vice President
of the Marine Society are, by office, members of the Board of Trustees of The
Sailor's Snug Harbor.
Because the carefully drawn will of Captain
Randall made no provision for wives or relatives of seamen, the Society, in
1854, assisted in the foundation of the Mariner's Family Home on Staten Island.
Recognizing the need for education among our
merchant seamen, the Society, in 1874, together with other interested groups,
prevailed upon the New York State Legislature to pass a law establishing the New
York Schoolship. It assisted in procuring the training vessel "Saint Mary's"
from the Navy Department for such employment. One or more members of the Society
served on the Board of the Schoolship until it became part of the New York State
University in 1949 as one of their colleges.
In the year 1882, because of lack of funds,
the State of New York abandoned the Marine Hospital at Government, Staten
Island, expecting the U.S. Government to accept it. The Federal Government also
could not fund the hospital and the Marine Society was called upon to take over
it, which it did under a rental agreement with the U.S. Public Health Service.
The Society thereafter owned the hospital and maintained it until 1902, when the
Federal Government purchased it. From the proceeds the Society shared equally
the of $68,000 with the Mariners Family Home and the Society for the Relief of
Destitute Seamen's Children.
By and large, the Marine Society of New York
has performed its charitable service through the years quietly and without
fanfare, as becomes an organization of seafarers, and it stands today as the
watchdog of their interests and those of American Merchant Shipping as a whole.
Aside from a donation on election, there are
no yearly dues, and it is believed that all eligible seafarers in good repute
should become members.