Wendy M. Coble
THE S.S. PARAGUAY: THE HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OR EARLY-TWENTIETH CENTURY FREIGHTER.
(Under the direction of Henry Ferrell, Jr.) Department of History, December 1997.
This thesis examines the contribution to historical research made possible by archaeologically and historically analyzing a common artifact. Too often archaeologists and historians believe these artifacts have no potential for instructive value. This thesis analyzes the twenty-seven year history of the bulk cargo steamer S.S. Paraguay. At the turn of the twentieth century ships like the Paraguay were typical. The thesis demonstrates that much can be learned from researchinga vessel of this type. This study discusses the economic and political climate between 1900 and 1927 in which the Paraguay operated. It relates the particulars of ship design and how the vessel changed, owing to the needs of its owners and imperatives from societal forces. This study also examines the lives of those persons who owned the vessel and addresses their symbiotic relationship with the vessel. Lastly, the thesis addresses how the ship's role changed from active participant in trade to a more passive role in the community of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The thesis takes a topical approach rather than a chronological one. The strategy for research required a comprehensive probe for information about the vessel and its time period, resulting in a plethora of material including ship's plans, design specifications, owner business records and numerous wreck reports. Although this collection of documents emphasizes the ubiquitous design of the vessel, this thesis displays how much can be learned through analysis and interpretation of the documents, and demonstrates new relationships and historical insights into maritime practices early in this century. The history of the Paraguay provides an example of many important aspects of twentieth century trade, shipbuilding design and usage, energy changes, needs, and consumption, and proves that study of a common vessel can be instructive.