Abstract: Throughout the nineteenth century, U.S. Navy medical men, believing that airborne filth—miasmata—caused many of the diseases afflicting sailors and that humid air carries more filth than dry, sought to curtail the cleaning of the decks of warships with wet swabs. They met resistance to this reform from line officers who, from a variety of motives, were committed to keeping their ships clean. The medical reform movement attained its greatest intensity in the 1870s but quickly dissipated at the end of the century when steel hulls replaced wooden ones and the germ theory of disease replaced the theory of miasmata
"This article sits neatly at the intersection of naval and military history, the history of science, the history of medicine, and social history. Dr. Crawford wonders why the practice of swabbing warship decks remained in the US Navy even as medical officers long claimed its deleterious miasmatic effects on the health of the ship's crew. Crawford nicely situates this question within larger contexts in history of science and medicine as well as the history of nineteenth-century social reform movements and with an eye toward differences in the Royal Navy's practice. Ultimately, Crawford explains this failed if misapprehended movement to reform sanitary practices in the antagonisms between line and staff officers and, ultimately, in changing technological and scientific advancements. In the end, Crawford urges historians that "we cannot understand why some reforms succeed if all we study are the successes: we need to know why some do not." He is to be applauded for this novel and nuanced examination into the social history of the American navy. "
Crawford, Michael J., 2019. Avast Swabbing! The Medical Campaign to Reform Swabbing the Decks in the U. S. Navy. The Journal of Military History 83: 127-156.
Journal of Military History: https://www.smh-hq.org/jmh.html
Closing date for entries/nominations: February 1, 2021
Send copy and complete citation for the article to: NASOHGibsonaward@gmail.com
Selection: Articles will be evaluated by a three-person committee of NASOH members
Announcement of award recipient: TBD.
The Recipient must be present at the NASOH conference to receive the award.
NASOH presents the Charles Dana Gibson Award annually to the author of the most significant article on any aspect of North American maritime history published in a refereed journal during the previous year.
A longtime and beloved member of NASOH, Gibson was an authority on the history of the American merchant marine and with his wife, Kay, co-author of a unique three-volume history of the U.S. Army’s navy. Mr. Gibson was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, Water Division, and of the U.S. Merchant Marine. After the war, his pro-bono consulting work led to the Department of Defense awarding veteran status and benefits to more than 84,000 civilian seamen who served in the merchant marine between December 7, 1941, and August 15, 1945. He also authored the qualification brief for the civilian seamen of the Army Transportation Corps of World War II, which helped win veteran status for that group as well.
Gibson authored four books, and co-authored four others with his wife, on various aspects of maritime history. Their Assault and Logistics: Union Army Coastal and River Operations, 1861–1866 received the 1996 John Lyman Award for Naval History. Their last book, Over Seas: U.S. Army Maritime Operations, 1898 through the Fall of the Philippines, published in 2002, was selected by the American Library Association as an Outstanding Academic Title. In 2004, Charles Dana Gibson and E. Kay Gibson received the K. Jack Bauer Award for their contributions to maritime history. They are the only husband-and-wife team to have been so honored. For his work on behalf of World War II merchant seamen, Gibson received the Captain K. C. Torrens Award from the Council of American Master Mariners, the Distinguished Service Award from the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, and the Marconi Memorial Gold Medal of Achievement from the Veteran Wireless Operators Association.
Gibson’s professional affiliations included membership in the Council of American Master Mariners, the Marine Society of the City of New York, the North American Society for Oceanic History, Steamship Historical Society, Army Historical Foundation, and the Council on America’s Military Past.
In retirement, Dana and Kay made numerous months-long cruises in the Bahamas, the Great Lakes, and the river system between Chicago and Mobile in the Hannah II, which he designed. They divided their time ashore between homes in Camden, Maine, and North Hutchinson Island, Florida.