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Published September 19, 2022
An exhibit featuring a model of the schooner Wyoming that was built by a UW alumnus and former professor is on permanent display in the University of Wyoming’s Coe Library.
The late Francois Dickman, the first UW graduate to reach the rank of ambassador, was a model shipbuilding enthusiast. He built a model of the schooner Wyoming while writing “America’s Largest Wooden Vessel: The Six-Masted Schooner Wyoming” that was published in the 1994 spring/summer issue of Wyoming Annals (now Annals of Wyoming). At the time, he was an adjunct professor in the UW Department of Political Science and president of the Albany County Historical Society.
In early 1993, Dickman began corresponding with the Maine Maritime Museum, which owns the Percy & Small shipyard where the Wyoming was constructed. In his research, he contacted numerous nautical museums, historical agencies, archives and libraries across New England to obtain photographs and blueprints, historical newspaper and journal articles, and the construction survey detailing the Wyoming’s assembling and material makeup. Dickman completed his meticulously detailed scale model in the spring of 1994. Shortly after, he presented his research and model at UW.
About 10 years before Dickman’s research project, Jim Hand, a former assistant registrar at UW, wrote “The Six-Masted Schooner Wyoming,” a poem about the sinking of the ship. Hand’s poem resurfaced after a local newspaper did a piece on the newly built model ship. It also was published in the 1994 spring/summer issue of Wyoming Annals.
In 2021, Dickman’s model and research materials were donated to UW Libraries by the Dickman family. Dickman’s work and Hand’s poem are on permanent display on the main level of Coe Library.
Constructed in 1909 in Bath, Maine, the six-masted schooner was the largest wooden ship ever built. It was made up of 1.5 million feet of Southern pine and Chesapeake Bay white oak, and it measured about 330 feet from bow to stern, or roughly the distance between goal posts on a football field.
Due to a shipping shortage, wooden schooners, including the Wyoming, were bought out by the France and Canada Steamship Co. in 1917. For the remainder of World War I, the Wyoming carried cargo from the U.S. to foreign ports, even managing to outrun a German U-boat during one voyage.
On a routine voyage from Norfolk, Va., to Portland, Maine, in the spring of 1924, the Wyoming got caught in a gale. Snow and waves pounded the ship for nine days, and it never returned to port.
UW Libraries created a research guide that provides more history and background to the schooner, model ship and poem. It also features a 3D image of the model ship produced by UW Libraries’ Digital Collections office. To view the research guide, go to https://uwyo.libguides.com/SchoonerWyoming.