Collections Catch of the Week – Discharger Rockets

Schermuly’s grandson (age 8) demonstrating rocket ease of use.

Submitted by M.Lenz, Collections Assistant

“Lost ships can be replaced, but lives lost are gone forever”. –William Schermuly

This week’s artefact sure took off in the early 20th century! We have the discharge rockets from a Schermuly Line Throwing apparatus, dated May 1940. These rockets would have been loaded into a line throwing gun attached to hundreds of feet of rope, like the one you see in the picture (more on that in a second). This device saved countless lives by establishing a life line between a ship and the shore, or a rescue vessel.

William Schermuly, its inventor, went through decades of struggle to convince ship owners to adopt his life-saving device. Other line throwers of the time were used from shore, and it was almost impossible to hit a ship as it tossed around in the waves. His device could be used effectively on a ship in motion. Once they were connected by the line, rescue efforts were much easier and faster. At one demonstration, he had his 8 year-old grandson operate it to prove how simple it was to use, as you can see in the photo above. If you’d like to read more about Schermuly’s line throwing apparatus, check out Schermuly and his Rockets, it’s a fascinating history of a man’s desire to save the lives of sailors.

Posted by m.horita
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