Ladies Who Launch - Ship Christening Photographs from Delaware Valley Shipyards - Independence Seaport Museum

Ship launching ceremonies have been recorded as long ago as 3,000 B. C. Although modern ceremonies no longer include such ancient customs as animal sacrifice to the gods, the sentiment behind them is the same as in ages past: to officially name the ship and bless it on its voyages.

In America, women became the preferred sponsors of ships around the 1840s, charged with breaking a bottle of spirits over the bow. Champagne eventually became the libation of choice for its effervescence.

Local shipyards documented their ceremonies with photographs of the participants, leaving us a record not only of the massive machinery they produced, but also of the human ritual that made an appeal to forces beyond mere technology.

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