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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Gunboat Philadelphia, 1776Gunboat Philadelphia, 1776

The Philadelphia was one of a fleet of Continental gunboats that stopped the advance of British forces on Lake Champlain during the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776. Sunk during the battle, it was discovered and raised in 1935 by Lorenzo F. Hagglund, a civil engineer who for many years exhibited it as a tourist attraction. In 1939 a Smithsonian curator proposed buying the Philadelphia, citing a naval historian who called it "the most amazing thing of the sort that he has seen." But the idea was rejected by museum officials, who balked at the price and thought the gunboat better off in its "original surroundings." Twenty years later the curator, Frank Taylor, had become the director of the new Museum of History and Technology, and he still wanted the Revolutionary War relic for the collections. In 1961 the Smithsonian acquired the gunboat and brought it to Washington, D.C., where it was displayed along with other naval artifacts salvaged from the lake bottom. In 1991 detailed drawings of the gunboat were used to make a replica, the Philadelphia II.

See also: Revolutionary War, Ships, Transportation

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